Letter from John Bridgeo, Math Chair at Kettering Middle School, outlining score increases with 6 weeks of Test Factory usage.

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Dear Brian,

I just wanted to thank your company/enterprise for producing such a fine product, that we here at Kettering Middle School have found so useful.During the last 6 weeks the following events occurred.I had been told by a colleague about tool factory and the site. I let the information slide for a week or so, and then realized the possible implications, so I called you to learn how to begin implementing a free trial program for our students here at Kettering Middle School.I then approached the principal for his permission to pull students out of gym and Creative Arts classes for a few weeks to try to get them to pass the Maryland Functional Math Test.†† Then for four weeks students came to me in the computer lab for 90 minutes every other day in groups of 12 to 16.

Our results were better than we could have hoped for, 42/55 students involved in our program passed the test, the other 13 missed by one or two questions.This is an impressive result because it happens near the end of the school year when the students are peering out the window, ready to go for the summer. Usually our best results come in the summer, when the place is nearly empty and there are no other distractions.Then we sit kids down for 4 to 6 hours per day for all day math and after much more intensive time weíve had at best 60% of the students pass the test.

I think the testing package is so effective because it does few things.It allows a teacher to come up beside a student and find their weaknesses and then show them how to correct them right on the spot.The students get immediate feedback, on what they do and do not know.The MFMT has some peculiarly phrased questions that almost require a lesson to teach to the students who are in between spoon-feeding in elementary and responsible study habits in high school.Kids who fail the test initially are still more likely to want spoon-fed pedagogy.Scaffolding is a better term for what actually happens.With fifteen kids taking the practice tests at their own pace I had ample time to assess each studentís weaknesses, point them in the direction they should be pursuing and keep tabs on their progress.With the aid of some PowerPoint tutorials and some online sites that proved helpful I could accomplish a good deal of instruction in a few minutes and then move on to the next student.

Another aspect of the test package is the regularity of the questions.Since question 16 will always be the same type question it affords the teacher familiar with the package instant insight into the students needs.†† It also shortens the overall written test to something that students without concentration or staying power can manage, for the sake of practice and because it prepares them to take the test electronically.Because students can go back to a test and complete it a second or third time they can gain confidence by beating back old dragons.Once they have gotten a 100% on a test the third time out, they seem to be able to take an entirely new test and only require two tries to perfect the second test, and soon they are doing tests getting perfect or near perfect scores and self diagnosing their own problems.I should add at this point, that I lie to the children.I tell them that we expect 100% of them to pass the test and the way to pass the test is to get 100% on it.I tell them I donít tolerate errors from them and they shouldnít from themselves.There are always kids bringing up the computerís calculator program to solve arithmetic problems or do conversions from fractions to decimals.I tell them anyone lazy enough to use a calculator is lazy enough to fail the test ( I do have to careful around students with IEPís that allow them to use calculators.)

Our experience in the first six weeks with has been nothing short of a phenomenon.It has raised our overall scores in the school 10%. From 45% to 55%.We hope to reproduce the effect this summer and get scores to the 65% level.When we begin to use this program in the fall I know we will take the 7th gradeís typical 25% passing rate and raise it to 50%.This will cascade through those overall test sores for the school hopefully raising our scores in the school to the 90% level over the course of the next couple years.As I was telling you on the way out our door, I am uncomfortable with some of the quirky questions on the MFMT, but happy that we force students to pass it so that they can conduct the purchase of a home or car, run a retail business or understand the statistics on the front page of a newspaper. This minimum level is great preparation for high school Algebra and beyond to boot, but serves as a math citizenship test so that they canít be preyed upon or duped by people more facile with numbers.

Thanks again,

John Bridgeo: Kettering Middle School, Technology Coordinator/Math Chairperson

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