For decades, the process to improve math test scores continues to evade many public schools. Public schools are scrambling to meet the demands of local tax payers along with improvement goals with minimal progress. In order to improve math test scores, schools must first evaluate the school system that contributes to poor math test scores by utilizing Systems Thinking.

Systems Thinking is the study of a system’s structure and behavior (Senge et al., 2000). Senge et al. (2000) recommends analyzing a system by evaluating events, patterns and trends, developing a systemic structure, and developing mental models. According to Senge et al. (2000):

Behind each pattern of behavior is a systemic structure – a set of unrelated factors that interact, even though they may be widely separated in time and place, and even though their relationships may be difficult to recognize. When studied, these structures reveal points of greatest leverage: the places where the lest amount of effort provides the greatest influence for change. These are not necessarily the points of highest authority; they are the places where the ingrained channels of cause and effect are most susceptible to influence (p. 82).

Dr. Campbell took the opportunity to evaluate a lower performing New Jersey School District in need of improvement of math test scores (see the full report).  Information regarding mental models were not available. The following systemic diagram was developed after evaluating the patterns and trends of this school.

 

 

According to the Systemic Diagram, improving math test scores has three phases. The first phase is classroom instruction. The second phase is PARCC preparation. The final result is a gradual decline in math test scores per grade level. The classroom instruction phase is impacted by non consistent standards objectives and assessments. The PARCC phase is impacted by the prep start day and the specific days on intense test preparation. The prep start day is impacted by the exclusion of several math content areas. The gradual Grade Level Decline is impacted by the passing percentage of the initial testing grade. 

What is the Systemic Diagram Evaluation that will improve test scores for this New Jersey Public School?

According to the available documentation, there exist several leverage points that will help to transition the public school math scores to a higher level. The three leverage points are associated with classroom instruction, Partnership of Assessment of Readiness for College and Career (PARCC) preparation, and the gradual grade level decline.

According to reviewed curriculum guides many of the objectives for math and science need enhancement to represent the present New Jersey State Standards. Even more important, the assessments are not consistent with the standards and represent a “canned’ approach to assessment of learning. This realignment will help to better equip students to successfully negotiate the PARCC assessment.

The next leverage point is the annual PARCC assessment preparation. In many of the math curriculum guides, seven days are allotted for the preparation. The challenge is that the curriculum guides revel that several math content areas are not completed before the PARCC target date. The content areas not completed are found in Table 19. In order to help with this challenge, teachers should have at their disposal PARCC preparation materials. However, instead of the traditional process of covering the content areas that teachers have implemented according to the curriculum guide, principals will need to ensure that teachers expose their students to the content areas not covered during the year. Once they have accomplished this process, then the preparation materials need to be transferred to the next grade level and those teachers need to begin teaching standards related to the next grade level. This will help to shift curriculum pace and ensure in the next year that teachers will have a head start at completing the entire curriculum before the next PARCC preparation time frame.

Table 19. Content Areas Not Covered Before PARCC Target Date

Grade Level Content Area(s)
1 Represent Data, Three Dimensional Geometry
2 Length in Metrics, Data, Geometry & Fraction Concepts
5 Measurement & Data
8 Expressions & Equations, Geometry
8 Algebra 1 Expressions & Equations, Geometry
Algebra 1 Expressions & Equations, Geometry
Geometry Congruence, Similarity, Rights Triangles, & Trigonometry, Circles, Expressing Geometric Properties with Equations, Geometric Measurement & Dimension, Modeling with Geometry,
Algebra 2 Interpreting Functions, Analyze Functions Using Different Representations, Seeing Structure in Expression, building Functions, Reasoning with Equations and Inequalities, Solve Systems of Equations, and The real Number System

The final leverage point involves the starting point for grade level 3.  Grade level 3 for all students begins with 18% of the students successfully meeting or exceeding the requirements for the PARCC assessment. There are 6% of Algebra 2 students who successfully meet or exceed the requirements for the PARCC exam. This is a drop of 15 percentage points. Grade level 3 for African American students begins with 13% of the students successfully meeting or exceeding the requirements for the PARCC assessment. There are 2% of the African American Algebra 2 students who successfully meet or exceed the requirements for the PARCC exam. This is a drop of 11 percentage points. Grade level 3 for Hispanic students begins with 18% of the students successfully meeting or exceeding the requirements for the PARCC assessment. There are 8% of Algebra 2 Hispanic students who successfully meet or exceed the requirements for the PARCC exam. This is a drop of 10 percentage points.

The state average for grade 3 students who meet or exceed the PARCC assessment requirements is 53 percent. Since the greatest decline for grade 3 students is 15 percentage points, it will help to ensure that at least 68% of the local school district grade 3 students meet or exceed the PARCC assessment.

The systemic analysis provides a better picture of the present status of the school district. Many school districts will fail to improve math test scores without utilizing the Systemic Thinking process. 

Related Articles  

The One Simple Way to Help Poor Kids Stay in School

Test scores show city students struggle in math

Paterson school board candidates weigh in on ways to improve low student test scores

 

All the best,

 

Dr. Derrick L. Campbell, Ed.D.

www.positiveracialrelationships.com

PO Box 4707 Cherry Hill, NJ 08034

          Author of:

 

  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships
  • Promoting Positive Racial Teacher Student Classroom Relationships: Methodology
  • The Raccelerate Formula App
  • Treasures of Hidden Racism in Education
  • The Ultimate Guide to Classroom Racism Management

 

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“Dr. Campbell did his part and now all we have to do is run with it.”  

~ Tom Coleman ~

Woodstown-Pilesgrove Public Schools Superintendent of Schools


“The model that you use to analyze teacher-student relationships is a good one for most school districts”.

~ Joe Vas ~

Perth Amboy Mayor


“Dr. Campbell’s Cultural Relationship Training Program is comprehensive, informative, and should be required training for all schools”

~ Darrell Pope ~ 

Hutchinson Kansas NAACP President


 

 

 

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