SPRINGDALE — An estimated 1,800 secondary students or more, all English language learners, in Rogers and Springdale will get additional help in math because of a new partnership between the two school districts and the Walton Family Foundation.
The Bentonville foundation has given the two school districts $100,000 to purchase new classroom computers for an online curriculum designed to remove the language barrier in mathematics. The new curriculum also shows promise as a tutorial for English-speaking students who are behind in math, school officials said.
The two school districts purchased the software, “Help with English Language Proficiency-Math,” from Digital Directions International, a Colorado-based company.
“Math involves a lot of words,” said Tricia Todd, director of migrant and English language learning programs in the Rogers School District. For example, the word “table” in math has a different meaning than the piece of furniture.
“You don’t talk in mathematics the way you talk in daily life,” she added. She estimates about 600 students in eighth through 12th grades would participate in the program.
Also, Todd noted, Arkansas Benchmark exams in math require problem-solving skills, not just the computation to arrive at an answer.
“Problem-solving means students must be able to read,” Todd said.
The program will be implemented in 14 schools, eight in Springdale and six in Rogers, according to Barbara Freeman, chief operating officer for Digital Directions. The program is aligned to national standards and some state standards in mathematics and was developed with a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
Freeman said the program has been tested by the University of Colorado in New York, Texas, Colorado, California and Oregon. In the first phase of testing, a group of sixth- and seventh-graders increased their knowledge of math by 70 percent based on the pre- and post-tests that were conducted.
Judy Hobson, director of English language learning programs in the Springdale School District, said the new curriculum will be used as a supplemental tutorial in which students can work independently. She estimates about 1,200 students or more will use the program.
The district hopes to start seeing positive results from students showing an improvement in their math skills by the middle of the next school year, Hobson said. The additional classroom computers purchased by the grant will provide greater classroom access to the program.
“We’re hoping to get kids in the mainstream classroom more quickly,” she noted.