Establishing a SERP-MSAN Field Site Focused on Algebra Learning and Academic Youth Development

Successfully educating students in mathematics is critical to the competitiveness of the nation and to the life prospects of individuals. The Minority Student Achievement Network (MSAN) represents a collaboration of 25 school districts across the nation working to improve minority student engagement and achievement in algebra.

Many MSAN districts have witnessed a widening achievement gap as their student populations become more diverse. They have worked collectively to identify approaches to raising the achievement levels of all their students. They have looked to researchers and to the research literature for inspiration, but have found it challenging to match the ideas of scholars to specific approaches to improving practices in their schools.

The Strategic Education Research Partnership (SERP) brings together the leaders of a set of suburban school districts and a group of prominent researchers to take on the twin challenge of providing effective mathematics instruction to the diverse group of students entering ninth grade, and engaging those students in academic life.

SERP school districts aim to broaden and deepen MSAN work by expanding the investment in research and development. Field site school districts enter into well structured, long-term partnerships with accomplished researchers to tackle urgent problems of practice. SERP-MSAN school districts, including Madison Metropolitan, test whether a collaboration that shapes the research questions around the needs of the school districts can produce work that is useful to schools and to the accumulation of research knowledge for improving educational practice more broadly.

SERP brings together experts from around the country to collaborate on solving problems that teachers confront regardless of the curriculum. How do teachers know which prerequisite pieces are weak when students are lost in ninth grade math? How can teachers get students back on track without banishing them to a lower track from which few ever return? How do they identify the student’s mathematics strengths so they can build on them? How can they monitor student progress to identify problems early, before the experience of failure becomes a familiar companion?

Field site teams include university participants with mathematics expertise, some of whom have developed nationally-recognized mathematics programs, including WCER’s Thomas Romberg.

Besides the Madison School District, participating districts include Arlington, Va.; Evanston, Ill.; and Shaker Heights, Ohio.