Lessons Learned: A North Harris County Collaborative Works On Math

​The North Harris County Education Alliance (NHCEA) Council has charged its Math Collaborative Action Network (Math CAN) to increase the percentage of students who complete High School with proficiency in Math. 

The Math CAN reviewed its regional data and found that the math needs of its students and their goals for using math vary widely, so that a “one-size-fits-all” solution was out of the question.

Some students on a technical career path needed math that could help them complete a work certificate.  Others aimed for bachelor’s degrees; Algebra would be a minimum for them.

But many students, no matter their goals, struggled in math, so they often took a “College Prep” course in their senior year.  Despite the best efforts of high school teachers, a large number of students who completed the course still didn’t qualify for their targeted math course at the college level.  And members of the Math CAN speculated that the students least well-prepared suffered “learning loss” during the summer before college.

With its extensive research in hand, the NHCEA Math CAN turned to possible remedies.

A logical strategy to match their problem analysis was a “summer bridge” program. They discovered that Lone Star College -North Harris had previously conducted such a program for newly-graduated high school students.  It was an intensive course that employed carefully worked out methods to keep the students’ math skills fresh. And, good news: the program had enjoyed considerable success. However, the original grant to fund the course ended, and so did the course.

In the Spring of 2015, members of the NHCEA Math CAN consulted with the managers of the original Lone Star Summer Bridge Program, and with math instructors from the Alliance’s two school districts, Aldine and Spring. They came up with an adapted version, responsive to the needs the CAN had uncovered, and they put it on a fast track to offer during the upcoming summer 2015 session. The fast ramp-up helped get the program started; however, the short lead time brought its own difficulties. Not only did they have very little set-up time, North Harris County also experienced regional flooding that caused cancellation of major recruiting efforts.

Three different math courses were offered to 23 newly graduated Aldine high school students in an intensive six-week, 64-total hours (non-standard) format. The courses were team-taught by instructors from Lone Star College and Aldine ISD.  Financial support from area businesses and the United Way reduced student fees to $72, which included breakfast each day.

Nine of the students completed the courses with mixed results. Members of the Math CAN have interviewed participants and are now reviewing their new data in detail. CAN members are  analyzing the processes used to design and deliver the courses to determine how to improve student recruitment.  And the CAN will track the 2015 participants, comparing their progress to matched peers who did not have the Summer Bridge.

Lots of lessons learned!  In the spirit of collective impact and continuous improvement, this is just the first cycle on the way to moving the math achievement needle for students in North Harris County!