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Self-Directed Summer Math Piloting

Providing students with review content over the summer to prepare for algebra

Overview

Valor has created a self-directed, summer math curriculum to help students prepare for algebra. As a growing charter school, Valor is expanding by grade level and recently began offering algebra to its eighth grade students. An area of concern that grew out of this offering was a lack of algebra readiness for their students. Valor educators compared benchmark data from the end of the school year to the beginning of the next one and noticed a pre-algebra skills gap for many of their students.

Valor decided to address this challenge by providing students with a self-directed summer curriculum they call “Algebra 1 Foundations.” Students assigned the Foundations course were those taking algebra the following year. The Foundations course consists of eleven playlists, each of which consists of approximately three modules focused on a particular learning objective. Each module contains content delivery, practice, and checks for understanding. Algebra students were expected to do the best they could to complete the curriculum over the summer and often emailed educators when stuck. Students were tested on the material at the beginning of the school year, and the data from this assessment helped determine big gaps that teachers needed to address in the Algebra 1 class or the math focus class.

The Algebra 1 Foundations summer self-paced program proved to be a successful pilot. Students were shown performance data after they completed the course, which was overwhelmingly positive. In addition to filling knowledge gaps, this also provided students with additional confidence as they began the challenging Algebra 1 class. The pilot was not without its challenges as well though, as students sent emails throughout the summer, raising concerns about working through challenging content by themselves. For example, Valor provided estimated completion dates but some students struggled to complete playlists by the recommended deadline. Valor addressed these concerns with virtual support by stressing that completion times would vary, emphasizing a focus on doing their best, and answering students’ content-related questions. Valor also recognizes that it needs to provide access beyond its algebra students and is currently exploring options to expand summer content access to a broader range of students.