News-AZ Republic

Rodel math program big help to elementary AIMS scores

By Mary Beth Faller, Arizona Republic – September 15, 2011

A math-enrichment program offered to high-need elementary schools in the state has been shown to boost the AIMS scores of students who participate.

The Rodel Charitable Foundation of Arizona is kicking off the ninth year of its MAC-RO math program with 50,000 students participating in 188 schools around the state. That’s up from 38,000 students in 2010 and 1,000 students in 2003, the pilot year.

The program, which provides math-enrichment materials for first- through sixth-graders to take home, is offered to schools in which at least 70 percent of the students come from families whose income qualifies them for free or reduced-price lunches.

At a recent kickoff event, Robert Atkinson, an associate professor in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University, presented statistics showing that MAC-RO participants have raised their passing rates in Arizona’s Instrument to Measure Standards exam.

Among schools that participated in MAC-RO for the first time in the 2010-11 school year:

-�Third-graders raised their AIMS math passing rates to 63 percent from 50 percent.

-�Fourth-graders’ math passing rates climbed to 57 percent from 51 percent.

-�For fifth-graders, math passing rates jumped to 57 percent from 45 percent.

Schools that had been participating in MAC-RO for longer than one year showed AIMS passing rates in math that equaled or exceeded the state average.

The initiative, formally called Math Achievement Club by Rodel, requires a high level of family involvement. The booklets contain math problems, puzzles and activities meant to be done together, and parents’ signatures are required on students’ work. New this year are materials for parents, some of whom asked for help brushing up on math skills.

Rodel provides all MAC-RO materials for students and teachers, in addition to incentive prizes and training.

The Scottsdale-based non-profit has hefty goals. It is working to improve Arizona’s public-education system so that it’s among the best in the country by 2020.

Jackie Norton took over as president of the foundation in July, after longtime leader Carol Peck retired.

Norton previously worked as a lobbyist and with the Arizona State University Foundation’s “leadership donors,” individuals who donate more than $1 million. She is seeking funding to expand the MAC-RO program.

“I discovered that there are more than 60 schools that qualify that are on a waiting list, and I said, ‘A waiting list? No.’ There’s somebody out there who wants to partner with us.”

Norton said proving the program’s success with data is crucial. “It’s not just: Is it working year to year? But are the kids taking four years of math in high school? And going to college?”

Rodel’s other programs are the Exemplary Teacher Initiative, in which outstanding teachers from high-need schools mentor student teachers, and the Exemplary Principal Initiative, in which principals from high-achieving, high-need schools mentor potential principals.

The teacher program was recognized for its excellence this summer by the National Council on Teacher Quality.

“You have to incentivize going into a school that is perceived as a harder place to teach,” Norton said.

“Teach for America makes it fashionable, and we want to institutionalize that magic,” she said of the popular program that recruits recent college graduates to teach in poor urban and rural schools.

The program for principals will expand from its current K-8 schools into high schools next year, she said.