Impact Florida recently held two online Lunch-and-Learn sessions to share strategies two Florida districts are using to increase participation of students of color and low-income students in advanced mathematics courses, with a particular focus on increasing the number of students taking Algebra I in 8th grade. Both Pasco County Schools and the School District of Indian River County participated in recent Districts for Impact Learning Cadres, and spoke about their commitment to eliminating the inequitable access that exists for students in higher-level mathematics courses.
In Pasco County, Tracy Miller, a Senior Instructional Specialist in PreK-6 Mathematics, spoke about how district practices around assessment had inhibited some students from entering advanced mathematics courses.
“They held back students that would have benefitted from that opportunity, and led to underrepresented subgroups,” Miller said. “Many times, the demographics of our students who were in our advanced mathematics courses didn’t represent the demographics of the students in our schools.”
In Pasco, leaders focused on universal screening for 6th graders, using multiple measures beyond FSA scores–from course grades to interim assessments to attendance–to identify students who may otherwise have fallen through the proverbial cracks. District mathematics leaders then provided a “Second Look” review to school level recommendations to ensure equitable demographic distribution. “Our biggest message this year was ‘we want to open those mathematics pathways to as many learners as possible’,” Miller said. “It’s better to over recommend students and to have processes in place like monitoring and off-ramps when necessary.”
Rick Mhyre, Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction in Indian River County Schools, said in the second Lunch and Learn that his district had similar challenges. In Indian River, officials instituted a stricter formal policy, eliminating teacher recommendations and automatically placing all students with a 3 or higher on their prior FSA into Algebra I. Those actions alone nearly doubled the number of students of color taking 8th grade Algebra, while simultaneously increasing the number of white students in the course by one-third.
“Having the policy we had, where we weren’t even giving everyone that ‘at bat’ wasn’t right,” Mhyre said. “If we’re ever going to achieve equity, we have to have policies that speak to that.”
Recordings of the Pasco County and Indian River County Lunch-and-Learn sessions are available online from Impact Florida. As Impact Florida continues to expand its Lunch-and-Learn offerings, please take a moment to share your thoughts about what topics may be of interest.