Million-dollar math program implemented in some schools to help catch kids back up

Updated: Mar. 4, 2021 at 1:00 AM EST
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina education leaders are starting to implement initiatives to help students who have not caught up with their learning because of the pandemic.

Education leaders say if there’s anything we’ve learned from the pandemic, it’s that there are a lack of resources in our state for addressing some of the academic needs South Carolina students have.

Teachers and education leaders are keeping their eye on hundreds of kids at risk of being held back. But, to try and keep that number lower, new programs are being put in place to help. One of the main ones is the Learning Object Repository.

“I think the best way to describe it is like a huge digital library with multiple wings where teachers will be able to go into that repository and pull out resources that they may not have had access to in the past,” David Mathis, the Deputy Superintendent for College and Career Readiness at SC’s Department of Education, says. “Especially in some of our underserved areas.”

Mathis says the goal of that repository is to load it with the most robust, up-to-date, current resources that mirror our state standards.

“Every student that comes into the classroom is not at the same level, there are different ability levels,” Mathis says. “So how do you provide that annual growth instruction for everybody? But then how do you tier it for those who need more help?”

They’re hoping the answer, on the math side, is a multi-million dollar solution called DreamBox.

“When you look at the data, those who use it with fidelity, when done well, those students are making more than a year’s growth in math,” Mathis says.

According to Education Analytics, a company the state hired to compile data together to see where kids are right now, fall learning loss was especially pronounced for 4th through 8th grade students in Math. A reason Mathis says programs like DreamBox are so important.

“DreamBox is like a personal tutor for every student,” Mathis explains. “So then when the student logs on to DreamBox, it adapts to their skill set. And so it is real-time data. And so as the students work through the platform, it challenges them with the lessons they’re capable of handling. And then it adjusts as students make mistakes, or as they get things right.”

Mathis says DreamBox isn’t a substitute, it’s a supplement to their normal math curriculum. And, he says, it’s an asset to teachers as well.

“They can look at individual students and how to make sure those needs are met,” Mathis says.

Mathis says teachers can also look at responses from the class and see which areas need the most focus.

“They can plan their whole group lessons around that real-time data rather than looking back at a test that was taken several months ago,” Mathis says.

According to SCDE, as it stands right now, DreamBox is being used in 21 of South Carolina’s school districts and 77 schools overall. The districts in the Lowcountry include Charleston, Colleton, Beaufort and Orangeburg.

“If we get positive results from that, then we know we have a method that works,” Mathis says. “And then we can take that project larger.”

The contract between DreamBox and the state is for two years and cost $1.2 million dollars.

Below is a list from SCDE of the districts currently using DreamBox:

  • Allendale
  • Allendale
  • Bamberg 2
  • Beaufort
  • Charleston
  • Cherokee
  • Chester
  • Clarendon 1
  • Colleton
  • Darlington
  • Fairfield
  • Florence 3
  • Florence 4
  • Hampton 1
  • Lancaster
  • Marion 10
  • Marlboro
  • Orangeburg
  • Richland 1
  • SC Public Charter School District
  • Sumter
  • Union

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