Fort Bend County Math Collaborative Moves into Action

​When we last reported on the Fort Bend County 5th Grade Math Collaborative, we described the ongoing work of the dozen specialists--school district professionals, university and college faculty, out-of-school educators, nonprofit representatives, community activists, two CPA's and an engineer--all convened by the Fort Bend P-16 Regional Council to work with All Kids Alliance in improving the math scores of fifth graders in the four school districts across the county.  The data had been showing a slowdown in math success in the middle grades that has caused significant problems for high school and eventually college math.

To tackle this problem, the Fort Bend Math Collaborative has met for two hours, twice monthly, since September, 2012.  It is using data-driven decision making and a continuous improvement process to devise a strategy to help Fort Bend County kids master middle-grades math and be prepared for more advanced math learning as they move forward.  With facilitation by All Kids Alliance, the group looked deeply at their community data and discovered that more than half of the county's kids are considered “economically disadvantaged" because they qualify for free or reduced-price lunch and that only a quarter of these students were testing at a "readiness" level to move forward with their math skills.
Next, the Collaborative used their data to identify "bright spots" in the Fort Bend County Schools:  those schools in the various districts that serve populations characterized as economically disadvantaged but whose fifth-grade math test results exceed those of comparable schools across the county.  The Collaborative identified seven schools to study, both as examples of success and as controls for comparison.  With the considerable help of district math coordinators (who are members of the Collaborative), as well as district superintendents (who are members of the Fort Bend P-16 Regional Council), the group received permission from school principals to come into their schools to investigate school and classroom resources and practices related to math.
The Collaborative designed a brief set of questions that were sent to the principals, math specialists, and fifth-grade math teachers in advance of the school visits.  Based on responses, Collaborative members organized themselves in teams to visit the schools.  On site, these teams interviewed the principals, resident math specialists, and fifth-grade math teachers, and team members observed math classrooms in operation.  The resulting collection of data was analyzed to see if there were patterns of resources and practices in the “high performing” schools vs. the comparison schools.
The Collaborative identified six specific strategies used consistently by the most successful schools.  The Collaborative then used these findings to create an Action Plan:  starting with the current school year, nine schools in the four districts (Lamar Consolidated ISD, Fort Bend ISD, Needville ISD, and Stafford Municipal SD) are implementing the Collaborative's Action Plan. The districts' Superintendents and the schools' principals, teachers and math facilitator/specialists are fully supportive, and the Collaborative is monitoring the implementation and checking its progress.
In the late Spring, the Collaborative will get its first official results:  the year's scores on the fifth-grade STAAR exams.  If the Collaborative doesn't see significant improvement, the plan will be revised or completely reconsidered; if there is significant improvement, the plan will be scaled up to other schools in the county.
Continuous improvement is a long, slow, careful process.....and as these patient, hard-working Fort Bend County volunteers know:  it's the most effective way to leverage community resources and expertise to achieve collective impact to benefit our kids.
Stay tuned!