Monday, July 18, 2011

Innovative application this fall to help students prepare for the new Algebra I end-of-course exam.

Following a successful pilot program, Plano schools plan to roll out an innovative iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch application this fall to help students prepare for the new Algebra I end-of-course exam.We've had very positive results in the pilot program,said Julie Merrill, high school math specialist for the Plano Independent School District.Three-quarters of the students who used the application said it prepared them better than paper-and-pencil worksheets. Seventy percent said they would recommend it to other students. As with our other uses of technology, we find that our students are more engaged in the learning, with positive results.The end-of-course exam preparation has heightened significance to future graduating classes, as next year's 9th grade class will be the first cohort of students whose diploma will no longer be contingent on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, but rather on a series of end-of-course exams, including the one for Algebra I.

Walch Education, a Maine-based instructional materials and applications developer that specializes in purpose-built resources deeply aligned to state standards, local curricula, and state and local testing formats, worked closely with Plano educators to develop the application.The beauty of this is that we are nimble and cost effective enough to work on a targeted basis for a district like Plano. We give them exactly what they want and feedback is quickly reflected in revisions and enhancements,said Al Noyes, president of Walch Education.The age of the generic one size fits all textbook or software application is over.

Walch was able to customize the Algebra I application to reflect the way Texas teaches Algebra I and tests it, even down to mimicking the formats, fonts and typography of the state tests, according to Walch.The Algebra 1 Help Texas EOC application gives students a sequence of interactive assessment items and follow-up instruction to ensure that they have the concepts and skills necessary for success on the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam and in future math courses.The app includes questions in the five Objectives of the Test Blueprint: functional relationships, properties and attributes of functions, linear functions, linear equations and inequalities; and quadratic and other nonlinear functions. The five Objectives also serve as the reporting categories. The application responds to each student, providing additional questions and follow-up instruction or explanation, based on their specific answers to each item.

The questions are closely modeled on the content, style, and format of the end-of-course exam, with multiple choice questions and answer choices designed to represent typical errors, gaps in prior knowledge, and common misconceptions associated with the concept or skill. The app provides immediate feedback, reinforcing correct answers and allowing students to move on, or offering targeted instruction to address identified issues.Students and teachers can use the program with an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. Teachers with an iPad and adapter can employ a projector to use the app with groups of students. Teachers are notified by email of progress and results, allowing them to tailor instruction and support individual students appropriately.

Walch will formally release the application at the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching which starts July 18 in Grapevine, Texas. The application is available for school districts and also for individual teachers, home school students and others through the Apple App Store. Walch is developing a web-based version of the same application.

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