District Case Study

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Math Solutions has partnered with Buffalo Public Schools, an urban district that serves 36,000 students. Debra Sykes, Director of Mathematics, explains, “Math Solutions has been the cornerstone to the success of our math initiative. Over the last five years, we have presented five-day courses every summer, and more than 80 year-round sessions to our teachers, teacher leaders, and administrators—with success and quantifiable results.”

Improved Test Scores
Debra continues, “Since the work began, our test scores for grades 4 and 8 have steadily increased with every passing year. From 2000 to 2004, the percentage of fourth graders meeting the standards increased 50 percent and the percentage of eighth graders meeting the standards nearly doubled. We expect the upward trend to continue.”

“Since the work began, our test scores for grades 4 and 8 have steadily increased. The percentage of fourth graders meeting the standards increased 50 percent and the percentage of eighth graders meeting the standards nearly doubled.”

Debra Sykes, Director of Mathematics
Buffalo Public School District

“Conversely,” according to Debra, “the percentage of students with serious academic difficulties has declined significantly. So, we are bridging the achievement gap in mathematics.”

Teacher Capacity
“We were excited from the start to work with Math Solutions. We knew other districts had benefited from working with this organization. However, the results far exceeded our expectations,” Debra remarks.How did this happen? Arlene Rosowski, Supervisor for Elementary Mathematics, shares, “The more teachers feel comfortable with mathematics and their understanding of math concepts, the better they are able to teach. Math Solutions has helped our teachers and our leaders increase their content knowledge.

“[Early into our work with Math Solutions,] we noticed an increase in the number of teachers using standards-based instruction in their classrooms. We realized that teachers were understanding more about mathematics concepts and were making connections while enjoying the math they were teaching.”

Debra agrees, adding, “We’ve been able to leverage this momentum by focusing on our Comprehensive School Education Plans [CSEPs]. The CSEP ensures that each school has a designated math leadership team at the building site. These teacher leaders are responsible for creating and implementing action plans for increasing content knowledge among teachers.”

“Teacher leaders who attend the Math Solutions courses bring back important strategies and share these experiences with the teachers in their buildings,” Debra says. “This way, we are able to extend and reinforce the benefits of the inservice program, plus make the most out of our investment in professional development.”

What It Means to Be a Partner
For Arlene Rosowski and Debra Sykes, the increase in student achievement is directly linked to their work with Math Solutions. “From the beginning, Math Solutions designated an Education Specialist, who would be there consistently—throughout the life of the partnership—to oversee and ‘shepherd’ the work along.”

“The Math Solutions team of instructors shares our vision and goals for implementation. They do whatever it takes to make sure our needs are met.”

Debra Sykes, Director of Mathematics
Buffalo Public School District

Debra says, “The Math Solutions team of instructors shares our vision and goals for implementation. They do whatever it takes to make sure our needs are met. And this is what makes the real difference for us—their dedication and support. We trust them implicitly.”

The Full Spectrum of Professional Development
“As our partner in professional development,” Debra continues, “Math Solutions provides more than just instruction. They support the work we do after the courses and sessions—in order to reinforce the experience and sustain learning.“For instance, we conduct assessments along the way and we ask for written feedback for each professional development session. We use this information to keep district administrators engaged and informed.

“We also take this information and use it to reflect and plan for the next year—with the understanding that we will continue to check in periodically, to modify and adjust as we go along. Because implementation is just the first step . . . just one part of what this is about.

“For us, professional development is an ongoing process. Math Solutions Education Specialists are always there to guide us through every phase of the plan. We collaborate, assess, modify, and enhance our plans for the future. Together, we are reshaping mathematics instruction and reshaping the roles of our teachers and leaders.”

“Math Solutions Education Specialists are always there to guide us through every phase of the plan. Together, we are reshaping mathematics instruction and reshaping the roles of our teachers and leaders.”

Debra Sykes, Director of Mathematics
Buffalo Public School District

Setting the Standard for Professional Development
Debra continues, “Math Solutions has set the standards for what professional development should look like. Whenever I meet with other professional development providers, I hold up Math Solutions as an example of what we have come to expect in terms of service and quality.”