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Geneva Middle Schools' Innovative Math, Reading Intervention Programs Boost ISAT Scores

Students and teachers work during study halls and after school to catch up on basic skills.

The reading and math intervention classes at Geneva Middle Schools and are starting to pay off, both middle school principals told the School District 304 Board of Education Monday.

“Last year we expanded the math intervention program, and the ISAT scores of the students who participated in it increased an average of 19.8 percentage points,” Geneva Middle School North principal Larry Bidlack said.

The 2-year-old math intervention programs started with a weekly math lab class, run by school administrators and guidance counselors, for students who were struggling with fundamental math skills coming into sixth grade.

“Some students were spending so much time on basic computation that they couldn’t keep up with the class,” Bidlack said. “The math lab takes place Fridays during study hall. Students start in the math facts (study group), then graduate from that into the math computation group. When they graduate from that, they no longer have to go to math lab.”

Last year seventh- and eighth-grade math teachers volunteered to run separate math lab sessions for seventh- and eighth-grade students, giving all math lab students more individual instruction. “That has made a big difference in students’ progress,” Bidlack said.

The reading intervention program started in 2008 with a tutoring lab held every other day during students’ study hall or band/orchestra/choir class, said Geneva Middle School South Principal Terrance Bleau. Reading lab students work on improving comprehension and building their vocabularies. Last year, GMS North and South added after-school lab sessions so that musicians wouldn’t have to skip rehearsals and special education students wouldn’t have to skip their study hall tutoring sessions to participate.

The two school buildings are mirror images, located next to each other on Viking Drive. South was built in 1994 and North in 2006.

“It’s nice that we have the campus philosophy,” Bleau said. “Even though some reading lab students attend South, they can come to North’s after-school reading lab.”

Students who need more help than the lab can give them also attend a second reading class during their exploratory class time, when most students take home economics, technical education or foreign language.

“Sometimes that’s a tough choice, because students don’t want to give up those exploratory classes, but they can see the benefit in the long run in working on their reading,” Bleau said.

The summer reading camp has helped many students retain reading skills between school years, Bleau noted.

“In past years, we offered it two days a week for 90 minutes each day. Last summer we expanded it to three days, which gave students who participated 270 hours a week of reading that most of them would not otherwise have done,” he stated. “While those students still saw a decrease in their AIMSWEB scores (a standardized test that tracks how much students forget over the summer), the students in the summer reading camp dropped much less than the students who weren’t in the camp.”

For more statistics on the intervention programs’ impact on student performance, visit District 304’s website at www.geneva304.org, click on the Board of Education link, then click on the Board Book link, then on the link for Nov. 28. The presentation can be found on the Agenda Packet page.

Jackqueline November 29, 2011 at 05:43 PM
This is really encouraging. Our kids are very smart. Still most of them may fail Math tests conducted in Europe or in Asian countries. This is because of easy curriculum they are offered at school here. Parents need to take Math education in their hand, and offer curriculum like Saxon or Tutorteddy at an early age. Spread the word, and save America.

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