March Mathness: Using assessments to support student numeracy

March Mathness: Using assessments to support student numeracy

By Dale Chu

This month, the Collaborative For Student Success announced a March Mathness tournament, which aims to shine a spotlight on promising practices to improve upon America’s dismal performance in mathematics. Yours truly was tasked, along with my estimable colleagues Chad Aldeman and Jocelyn Pickford, to wade through an assortment of initiatives—ranging from statewide legislative efforts to innovative tech-enabled solutions—in order to sort the wheat from the chaff. 

For this first round, sixteen leading efforts had to be winnowed down to eight. Because there are three judges, each match will require at least two to advance. You can head to CurriculumHQ and EduProgress to see how my fellow judges voted, but here are the matchups as I see ‘em:

Match 1: Alabama Numeracy Act vs. Kentucky HB 162

I like Alabama’s use of its state assessment to identify schools for tiered support, but I’m less enamored with some of the political posturing that came with the law’s passage. Kentucky’s bill requires intervention for students who are not proficient on the state test as well as the use of universal math screeners. It’s a close call, but Alabama’s requirement for a math coach in every elementary schools gives the Heart of Dixie a slight edge. MY PICK: Alabama


Match 2: Delaware Math Coalition vs. Arkansas LEARNS Act

I’m sure Delaware’s coalition is a swell group, but I’m generally skeptical of the durability of these types of consortiums, and how much sway they really hold over schools and districts. Math wasn’t the primary focus of Arkansas’ legislation—part of an omnibus package that tackled a slew of reforms—but insofar as the subject is concerned, there’s a lot to like. Notably, the state is requiring the use of state tests to drive interventions, including tutoring and assignment of low performing students to higher performing teachers. MY PICK: Arkansas


Match 3: Colorado’s HB 23-1231 vs. West Virginia’s Third Grade Success Act

This is a close one. West Virginia’s legislation isn’t targeted towards math per se (it includes literacy too), but Colorado’s law focuses more on transparency than on compelling districts to move in any direction (e.g., free training is optional; no requirements for curriculum adoption). I’ll give it to my home state (by a hair), but they may have trouble in the next round. MY PICK: Colorado


Match 4: Statewide Adoption of Zearn (NE, LA, CO, OH) vs. Alabama’s Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL)

By all accounts, Zearn is great for students who use it, but it seems as if there’s the challenge of getting more students to use the program consistently. In fairness, this is an issue for interventions broadly speaking, but it’s still worth flagging. Alabama’s SAIL has also achieved some impressive results. A tough call, but it’s hard to argue with states taking the initiative to make a high-quality program free for all students. MY PICK: Zearn


Match 5: Kentucky’s Math Achievement Fund vs. The AI-Powered Khanmigo

Out with the old and in with the new? Kentucky’s state-level program has been around for nearly twenty years, while Khanmigo is at the leading edge of AI-enabled tutoring. Evidence and experience—plus Khanmigo’s math hiccups—means Kentucky gets the nod, but don’t sleep on AI’s potential to democratize access to better, individualized math support. MY PICK: Kentucky


Match 6: Massachusetts’ Math Acceleration Academies vs. New Jersey Tutoring Corps/Rekindle Education

Massachusetts’ effort leverages school vacation weeks/intersessions to address learning loss. New Jersey’s tutoring corps is one of the more promising outfits that has been highlighted amid today’s high-dosage tutoring craze. Both raise questions in mind as they are attempting to make up for shortcomings with tier one instruction. MY PICK: New Jersey


Match 7: Automatic Enrollment in Math vs. Louisiana’s “Back to Basics in Math” (see “Play-In Round” below)

I’m a big fan of what North Carolina and Texas are doing to expand access to advanced mathematics. It will be hard to stop these guys from advancing to the finals. MY PICK: Automatic Enrollment


Match 8: Performance-Based Tutoring Contracts vs. Texas Math Solution

Highly rated by EdReports, there’s a lot to like about Texas Math Solution. But they got a tough draw in being put head-to-head against what is arguably the closest thing to a money-back guarantee in education. Hello, outcomes-based contracting? You had me at “hello.” MY PICK: Performance-Based Tutoring Contracts


Play-In Round: California Math Framework vs. Louisiana’s “Back to Basics in Math”

Yes, California got tons of national play on their questionable and controversial framework, but it smacks to me of more sizzle than steak. Louisiana’s effort focuses on math professional development, but as far as I can tell, little to no attention to efficacy or outcomes. Plenty of room for improvement in both efforts, but the land of Cajun and Creole comes out ahead in this matchup by a nose. MY PICK: Louisiana

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