“A difference that adds up – Trinity Christian math scores nearly double in new program”

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Williston Herald – Thursday, January 12, 2017

By Melissa Krause mkrause@willistonherald.com

Williston Herald jan. 12

WTCS 6th Grader Aleki Ayon tries her hand at a multiplication game in teacher Angela Nible’s classroom, where students worked a new mathematics program implemented this school year.

 

Math scores have increased 43 percent at Williston Trinity Christian School, but the students have been improving unknowingly.

Vice principal LaLynda Blotsky observed a large gap between students who quickly moved through their textbooks while others struggled to catch up. If each student were to thrive academically, she understood the math program would have to undergo some restructuring.

“No child should should be punished because they are higher in academia or lower because they are in a certain class,” Blotsky said. “How to we keep them growing?”

That question prompted diligent research to find the core of what was working for students. When she compiled her findings into a workable program, the school’s principal, Cory Fleck, and the school board gave their blessing — then she needed the teachers’ approval.

She was ultimately met without obstacle. Trinity’s educators quickly embraced the fresh ideas, partly because it gave them the autonomy to explore new methods and creativity.

“We have phenomenal teachers who are dedicated to what they do every single day,” she said. “One of the things we struggle with is we have to do more with less…We do not receive federal or state funding, so one of the challenges we have is to get creative when reaching our students that can’t be done with federal dollars. This math enhancement plan is that.”

Trinity Christian is no longer blanketing what students should know by grade level, but instead breaks students into individual groups based on proficiency.

In addition to their standard classes, for 30 minutes a day, kindergarten through fourth grade breaks into groups which focus on mathematics by using kinetics, technology, projects, games and hands-on learning activities.

Students are tested every month, which allows them to switch levels constantly, regardless of age. The flexible nature has instilled a new level of camaraderie among students and brings new faces to teachers.

“We are not leveling students based on their age, but we are leveling them based on ability,” Blotsky said. “You could potentially have a first-grader with a third-grader if that’s the level they’re at.”

Fifth through eighth-grade has been adjusted differently. Through trial and error, the school found the greatest response when math was conveyed as “how is math applicable to my life?”

Real world scenarios like field trips to the grocery store to create meals with monetary limitations clicked.

“What really worked for them was being able to do something other than pencil and paper,” Blotsky.

Upperclassmen are also participating in the IXL program which give parents the opportunity to track their progress online.

The results throughout the school have been staggering.

Based on the NWEA MAPS testing, the school tested at 38 percent at or above proficiency last year, but students in grades K-10 have already surpassed the 65 percent goal educators hoped to meet by the end of the 2016-17 school year. By their mid-year testing, the school has risen to 67 percent at or above proficiency.

“It’s so rewarding,” Blotsky said. “Our teachers are top notch.”

The math enhancement programs was initiated for a two-year period to meet benchmark goals. Trinity Christian will now have to adjust and set the bar higher come the end of the school year, one Blotsky hopes to see breach 90

percent someday.


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