Kuumba Academy: Taking Math Seriously in School and at Home

January 18th, 2011

Category: News

In 2007, Kuumba Academy’s leaders took a hard look at the school’s achievement data and learned that students were falling behind in math performance when compared to the rest of the state.  The staff knew something had to be done.  As one of ten schools in the then-new Vision Network, the leadership team at Kuumba decided to use the Network’s training to chart a new path. The staff teamed up with the Network’s training partners to sort through data from the Delaware Student Testing Program (DSTP) and Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) in order to fully understand the root of the school’s math problems.

After a thorough look at the data, Kuumba Academy took action.  The instructional leadership team looked at best practices in math education.  The leadership team worked hard to create a sense of urgency around math, using trend data.  They used this strategy to achieve complete buy-in from the school community, including board members, teachers, parents, and students tied to a math focus.   Kuumba Academy believes that parents are important in the educational process so it also developed strategies to ensure that parents are deeply engaged in this work.  Specifically, school leaders worked closely with the Vision Network’s training partners to design and implement new plans for parent engagement around math education.  

            The first significant change the school made was to adopt a new rigorous math curriculum.  Kuumba Academy was one of three schools in the state to adopt the Singapore Math Curriculum.  In addition, Kuumba Academy provided teachers with intensive on-going professional development to deepen teachers’ understanding of math instruction at the elementary level. The Singapore Math Curriculum includes quick, competitive mental math exercises called “math sprints” to build students’ numbers sense and math fluency.  To familiarize parents with instructional strategies, the school developed several Parent Academy Workshops to teach parents about the Singapore approach and how to support their children at home.  They also invited parents to attend ”Bring your Parent to School Day,” a series of unique learning opportunities in which parents learn alongside their child in the classroom.  This ensures that parents not only are informed, but actively involved. 

Since Kuumba began its partnership with the Vision Network, the school has seen phenomenal growth in math scores.  Not only are students no longer falling behind, they are exceeding state performance in many grades in math.  In just 3 years, Kuumba went from 49% of students meeting the standard school-wide to 87% proficient, as measured by the DSTP.   

“The Vision Network has transformed our school by getting everyone on board and focused around student achievement,” remarked Upper School Dean Sally Maldonado.  “Now that we have had this experience, we have the tools to bring about dramatic improvements across the board.”

This is the last part of a six part series on Vision Network schools.  Click the following links to read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, and part 5.  Stay tuned for our next series starting Tuesday.

Paul Herdman




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