MAC-Ro, short for “Math Achievement Club by Rodel” was developed to confront a growing body of alarming research showing that:
- Students who lack high-quality math instruction in the early years are often caught in a trajectory of failure.
- Children in poverty need math interventions the most – – there is as much as a three-year difference in math skills for students in low-income vs. high-income communities.
- Early knowledge of math not only predicts later success in math but also predicts reading achievement and overall academic success even better than early reading skills.
While leading the Alhambra Elementary School District, Dr. Carol Peck moved to address these grim facts with a program focused on narrowing the achievement gap for math students in grades 2-5. The primary components of that program became MAC-Ro, which began as a pilot program in ten high-poverty schools and eventually expanded to serve over 65,000 students in low-income districts all over the state. The goal was to enhance learning, but the approach was to make it fun.
MAC-Ro included standards-based materials for students, professional development for teachers and administrators and ongoing involvement for families. Participating schools began the school year with a much-anticipated MAC-Ro kick-off assembly where superintendents, principals, teachers and students all joined in a celebration of the fun of mastering math. Students were incentivized by the prospect of monthly visits from MAC-Ro coaches who reinforced current math topics and rewarded successful completion of assigned tasks with prizes and encouragement.
MAC-Ro concentrated not only on improving the effectiveness of individual teachers but also on transforming the entire system within which teachers operate. To be sustainable, the changes sought in the teacher must be valued and supported by the entire education network: superintendent, principal, curriculum director, instructional coaches, fellow teachers and parents. This comprehensive approach was a critical component that differentiated MAC-Ro from other programs and established it as a unique model for systems change.
MAC-Ro was made available to schools without cost because of generous underwriting by numerous community partners. Corporations, foundations and individuals who shared Rodel’s commitment to improving elementary school math competency invested financial resources and made in-kind contributions. Students were thrilled when mascots showed up at school to reinforce the idea that math can be fun. MAC-Ro teachers and their families were treated to sporting events where they were recognized on the field and applauded by the fans. Emphasizing the important and often underappreciated work educators do was an underlying theme behind MAC-Ro and all Rodel initiatives.