Michigan Uses ST Math to Help Turn around Detroit Schools: MIND Research Institute Program Is a Key Part of State-Run District's Strategy

District Administration, March 2014 | Go to article overview

Michigan Uses ST Math to Help Turn around Detroit Schools: MIND Research Institute Program Is a Key Part of State-Run District's Strategy


At Phoenix Academy located in southwest Detroit, children in Ms. Tanner's Level 3 class are busy learning math. In one corner of the room, a half dozen students are sitting at computers. Over on the right, a small group of students are sitting on the floor with the teacher at the center. In the middle of the room, some students work in pairs, while others work independently.

This is a typical classroom for the Education Achievement Authority of Michigan (EAAM), a state-run recovery district which takes over persistently failing schools, and which is currently managing 15 schools in Detroit. The mission of the new public system is to disrupt traditional public schooling and provide a prototype for 21st-century learning. When the administrators in this urban district heard about ST Math, a unique software program developed by the nonprofit MIND Research Institute, they knew it would fit right in with their model.

EAAM uses a student-centered system of teaching and learning, designed to meet each child where they are, explains Mary Esselman, deputy chancellor for instructional support and educational accountability. As a year-round district, students in EAAM--who are 99 percent African-American with a vast majority eligible for free or reduced-price lunch--are grouped by readiness rather than grades.

Students go through an individualized learning path, using a blended delivery model that includes information acquired from the teacher, technology, their peers and their own inquiries. Rather than being promoted to the next grade at the end of the school year like at a typical K12 school, students here must demonstrate mastery to move on to the next level.

Math plus critical thinking

The district is just two years old, but is already making strides, particularly in math."We have nine K8 schools where, previously, only 2 percent of the students were proficient in math, and most were three, four and five years below grade level," Esselman recalls. "We needed to provide a way to accelerate student learning and bridge those gaps. ST Math is one of the digital assets we are using, and it's contributing to our success."

John Covington, chancellor of EAAM, first saw a MIND Research Institute presentation at the District Administration Leadership Institute Superintendents Summit in La Jolla, Calif., in the Spring of 2013. "John was attracted to the program and how it develops critical thinking along with key math skills" says Esselman. "We thought it was a good fit because it focused on a 21st-century approach to math with an emphasis on mastery, so we asked the MIND Research Institute to come and present to our principals. …

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