Principal’s Message: What We’re Doing About Math

Math equations on a whiteboard at BHHS
With Oregon's 2017-18 school report card release, I want to share with you what we are doing at Brookings Harbor High School to address the deficiencies our students demonstrate when it comes to their performance on the Smarter Balanced mathematics exam.
Current Issue: Last year, 86 percent of BHHS juniors failed to show proficiency in mathematics, as measured by the Smarter Balanced exam. This trend has been ongoing since the students have been taking the Smarter Balanced exam.
Background: From 2015 to 2018, math teachers at BHHS participated in professional development focused on increasing their effectiveness in teaching mathematics. The rationale behind this strategy was that if our teachers are using effective teaching strategies, then our students would naturally be better prepared to pass the Smarter Balanced exam and, therefore, meet their essential skills.
What became clear, however, was that students needed to prepare specifically for taking the Smarter Balanced exam, rather than relying on course content alone to prepare them. Successfully using the testing platform itself is something for which the students needed to be able to practice and prepare.
Steps taking place to shift this trend:
We have shifted for the 2018-19 school year from placing the emphasis on instructional practices to one that focuses on providing our students with training on how to prepare to take the Smarter Balanced test.
In order to help our students prepare for the Smarter Balanced exam and successfully demonstrate their essential skills in mathematics, we purchased and have launched Study Island. Study Island is a learning tool that adapts its content to Oregon's standards, and then provides students with benchmark assessments, practice, lessons, and building block topics to help them move forward in their attainment of skills in mathematics.
The teaching staff is currently being trained in how to use Study Island. There is loads of data that gets compiled every time students log into the program and complete various tasks. Students can see their progress as they work through the practice tests and lessons. The practice tests are aligned with Smarter Balanced exam. This means that our students will not only get practice taking the Smarter Balanced exam, but they will also be filling in the academic gaps they need to pass the exam.
We are also going to change the way we administer the Smarter Balanced exam. The Smarter Balanced exam is an untimed test. This means that students can take as much time as they need to finish the test. There are expected timelines for the test, however: English Language Arts should take about three hours, and the mathematics portion should take about four fours. In previous years, we have scheduled students into the testing lab that spanned three to four class periods over the course of a week or so.
This year, we are going to create a game-day mentality for the Smarter Balanced test. This means that all of our juniors will take both the English Language Arts and Mathematics portions on one day. The ELA portion will be administered on a morning in April, and the mathematics portion will be administered on one morning in May. For any student who needs more time on either portion of the test, they will be able to finish on the following day. It is our hope that by creating a game-day mentality for our students by creating a testing day as we have done with SAT, our students will take the test with more determination, confidence, and buy-in than they have had in the past.
Principal Lisa Dion
(Nov. 6, 2018)