Getting Kids Math Help Before They Fall Behind

This story was written by Nichole Dobo of the Hechinger Report, a nonprofit, independent news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. It is reproduced here with permission.

Summer school might bring to mind the dreary punishment of repeating failed courses.

But a California math program uses the summer break to help students before they fall behind. The innovative summer school experience significantly boosted students’ chances of succeeding in eighth-grade algebra in the fall, according to new research. It’s not enough to ensure that they will succeed in algebra — most students were still not completely prepared – but it was better than starting eighth grade in the fall without the intervention.

The 19-day course, known as Elevate [Math], is taught by specially trained, certified teachers who use group projects and online video to enhance lessons. They help students during the summer before they take algebra as eighth graders. Those who fail algebra often don’t catch up.

The students spend three hours a day in teacher-led instruction and small group projects, and an hour doing online work through the Khan Academy. And they get a taste of life on a college campus through a field trip. Students who completed the program were more likely to reach a test score that indicates that they have what it takes to pass algebra, according to the study.

The program, provided by the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, is available this summer in 47 schools, in California and Oregon.

“The amount of students we need to reach is far greater than what we reach today,” said Muhammed Chaudhry, CEO of the foundation. He said the independent research assessment of the program’s effectiveness “gives us the resolve to reach more students outside of Silicon Valley.”

Preparation for eighth grade math has taken on new urgency as many states have transitioned to new academic standards. And a growing body of evidence suggests that taking classes again after failure is costly and ineffective.

The Elevate math program is a possible solution that tries to prepare students before they fail. It’s a holistic approach. It costs about $500 per student.

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