ISMS math program geared toward student skill development

COLUMBIA CITY — The Whitley County Consolidated School Corporation’s Board of School Trustees was introduced last week to a comprehensive math program being conducted at Indian Springs Middle School.Hollie Parker and Beth Beckner, seventh-grade math teachers at ISMS, told the board Jan. 17 that students at the middle school were advancing past their grade levels and added that those who were falling behind were being given a boost.“We have approximately one half of our eighth graders taking Algebra I, half of our seventh graders taking pre-algebra, and half of our sixth graders taking seventh-grade math,” said Parker.Parker told the board students are placed with other students of equal or similar skill levels, a technique called “ability grouping.”“Studies show that children need to be ability grouped,” she said.“This way, we’re meeting all of our students’ needs.”For those falling behind, a “remediation class” is created.Parker said the classes are for students who didn’t pass ISTEP (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress) from the year before.“Through this remediation class, we are able to meet with students an extra 30 minutes a day,” Parker said.“We work on skills that have not yet been mastered and the skills and standards that they are currently working on in regular math class.”Parker told the board the special classes were showing results.“I can’t even tell you how much it helps the students,” she said. “The confidence it builds, just within that 30 minutes is awesome.”The teachers told the board students are given real-world scenarios to help put their studies into a tangible perspective.Another part of the program, according to Parker and Beckner, is the grading technique called a “common assessment.”“We determine, ‘what core standards do our students need?’ Then we build a common assessment,” said Parker.“We’re trying to give our kids the opportunity to be their very best.”The program is not without its challenges, according to Beckner who said students need strong attendance in order for retention to occur.“One of our biggest problems is students moving in and moving out,” said Beckner, referring to a trend in recent years for students to be migratory, sometimes spending parts of the school year in several different school systems.“That is a big transition, especially for middle school students,” she said.“When students aren’t in the classroom, this creates problems.”