With math leading in losses, why is it so hard to address the learning gaps? So often in the media learning losses and gaps are focused on reading. The latest data suggests that math has bigger learning gaps than reading and is even more difficult for middle and high school students.
The gaps are bigger and there are more of them by the time a student is in later middle school! This makes higher level math even more unattainable and college and career ready even more difficult. Unfortunately, many people are fearful of math, especially algebra and higher. “I’m not a math person” or “I just don’t get the”new” math!” are common statements made by many adults. Parents tend to be more comfortable helping their children with reading over math. Math is a progression of foundational concepts. As students have gaps in their learning, parents may have similar gaps. If parents do not have those skills they are reluctant to help their children fearing that they would be hindering their children’s understanding of mathematics.
Often teachers ask “What chapter are you in?”, not “What skill are you working on?” Textbooks often drive what is being taught versus what standards are being met. Standards, regardless of state or national standards, focus on the skills necessary to master content. If 55% of the class passed the test, that means that 45% did not master the skill. If the teacher moves on without a quality focus on the skills not mastered, 45% of the students now have new gaps. Regardless of the materials a teacher is using, the gap exists until it is identified, upskilled, and mastered.
As administrators, addressing these issues addresses learning loss!
It’s time to flip the switch
We need to flip the switch on mathematics education. It really isn’t about grades or grading, it is about mastery. How do we ensure that students are learning the foundational concepts well beyond memorizing multiplication facts? Let’s face it, the purpose of grading is to communicate learning, ensuring that students and parents understand what skills a student needs to be successful. We understand that grading is not going away, but if students master content, they are mastering standards and skills and their grades will reflect that.
How does a teacher identify learning gaps, move onto the concepts that need to be mastered, and provide extensions to those who have mastered the material?
When we look at schools and classes, time is constant yet achievement is variable. This is backwards, we need to flip achievement and time. Achievement, ensuring that all students learn, must be constant, and time, regardless of how much, needs to be variable. This is not going to happen overnight. There is a need to transition, allowing students time to master the content while continuing to move ahead. We need to find more time (yup, within our current structures), provide the right conditions, ensure that each student is working on the skills and content they need to master, and do it at the rigorous levels that are required.
It’s important to recognize that seat time does not determine performance. Nor does grading behaviors. We do not need to assign 35 questions around a skill to know if a student understands the material. Do we really want students practicing the wrong way to answer a question? Now they have to relearn what they thought they knew. If they can do 4 -5 questions correctly, they can do 35. If they can’t do 4- 5 questions, we are not undoing incorrect practices. This is also easier for a teacher to grade. Quickly they know which students got it and which students did not!
How do we fill in the gaps with mastery learning?
The traditional way we have been teaching does not lead to mastery. Students are left behind with gaps. If we truly believe that all students are capable, that at the very least they can be proficient, we need to rethink what we are doing. We must create learner centered opportunities for students to learn the concepts, allow for more time targeted intervention through formative assessments that then target specifically what students know and what they do not. We need to purposefully target each student’s learning needs.
All you need is 30 minutes a week
What if you could do this in 30 minutes a week? What if that 30 minutes could lead to 2 skill levels gained per week?
Utilizing Khan Academy’s resources, students can practice a single concept at a time, move from not-started, familiar, proficient then mastery filling in the gaps while on grade level. Teachers can monitor data quickly and easily, sharing with students and parents, focusing on the standards and not just the chapter in the book. Khan’s resources provide feedback to students and teachers about the skills they have not yet mastered. Students and teachers know what gaps there are and have ways to fill those gaps in each standard or skill, individualized for each student.
The 30 minutes can be 5 – 7 minutes a day during bellringer time, at the end of class, as part of homework, the possibilities can all be in your school day. This is an opportunity for school wide intervention and extension. As an entire staff comes together, is there time before or after the school day? Does this start in an individual classroom or through a professional learning community?
Khan Academy Districts’s resources are set up for targeted intervention. Students and parents can quickly identify which concepts they are missing and have the tools to master each skill and concept.
Looking at the chart below, teachers are in charge of the content. Their instructional focus is featured for all students. As students practice the content, build for their learning level, filling in the gaps they need to access the grade level content.
Driving Content in Practice
Teacher directed planning: Current instruction aligned to Khan Academy practice
Teachers, at a glance, can look at the reports and know
- The time each student spent learning the concept;
- The number of activities they participated in;
- How many times they repeated an exercise with different questions;
- If they reached mastery;
- The exact activities they need to assign to each student…
All in about 5 minutes……
How students can fill learning gaps easily?
In 30 minutes per week students can fill in the gaps in learning while working on grade level material.
It is as easy as 1, 2, 3!
- Teachers log into Khan academy and place students in the appropriate courses. Algebra 1 teachers can assign students into one of 3 courses. Algebra 1 is for students who are keeping up in the traditional Algebra 1 course. If a student has minor gaps that are keeping them from working on level the teacher can assign Algebra Basics. If a student is several grade levels behind, they can assign Get Ready for Algebra 1.
- Students take the mastery test for their course. Based upon a student’s gaps, s/he can work on target skills filling in the gaps that they have in content. Teachers can easily monitor and coach students. They can also assign specific content based upon what they are learning in class or as extra support for unmastered skills. Teachers have the ability to assign targeted individual assignments to each student or small groups of students with 4 clicks of a mouse. They truly can target specific skills, fill learning gaps, and provide extension opportunities at the same time.
- Monitor and support! Administrators can support teachers and students! By examining the data, teachers and administrators can discuss student performance, gaps that have been filled, and what next steps need to be to get students to mastery. Administrators can help teachers find more time for students who have more skills to master and talk with students in other settings including the lunchroom and hallway. When administrators and teachers meet with parents whether during academic or behavioral conferences this information can help build a bridge to support student learning.
- Teachers log into Khan academy and place students in the appropriate courses.
- Algebra 1 teachers can assign students into one of 3 courses.
- Algebra 1 is for students who are keeping up in the traditional Algebra 1 course.
- If a student has minor gaps that are keeping them from working on level the teacher can assign Algebra Basics. If a student is several grade levels behind, they can assign Get Ready for Algebra 1.
- Students take the mastery test for their course.
- Based upon a student’s gaps, s/he can work on target skills filling in the gaps that they have in content.
- Teachers can easily monitor and coach students.
- They can also assign specific content based upon what they are learning in class or as extra support for unmastered skills.
- Teachers have the ability to assign targeted individual assignments to each student or small groups of students with 4 clicks of a mouse.
- Teachers truly can target specific skills, fill learning gaps, and provide extension opportunities at the same time.
- Monitor and support!
- Administrators can support teachers and students!
- By examining the data, teachers and administrators can discuss student performance, gaps that have been filled, and what next steps need to be to get students to mastery.
- Administrators can help teachers find more time for students who have more skills to master and talk with students in other settings including the lunchroom and hallway.
- When administrators and teachers meet with parents whether during academic or behavioral conferences this information can help build a bridge to support student learning.
So how can Khan Academy Districts helps address learning gaps effectively
Using course mastery and individual assignments makes success happen! Students move at their own pace and see their learning progress. If it takes a student 2 or three times to fill a gap, only the teacher knows. There is no embarrassment or shaming. Students are learning and being successful in math. Teachers are able to meet the needs of their students without extra work. Administrators are able to celebrate success with teachers and students. It is a win win for all!
Khan Academy Districts helps teachers and students by automating the rostering process. By partnering up with Khan Academy Districts, district leaders can enhance student achievement by prioritizing grade-level skills progress, tackling learning gaps, and boosting overall performance. Contact our sales team to find out more.
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Author: Bernadette Bennett
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