Wednesday, October 23, 2013

ESTAR and MSTAR Universal Screener Window Extended for Eligible Districts

Research in Mathematics Education partners with the Texas Education Agency and Education Service Center Region 13 on the development of the ESTAR and MSTAR Universal Screeners and soon-to-be launched Diagnostic Assessments. The Universal Screeners are designed to be an efficient method for helping to determine 1) if students are at risk , and 2) the level of support a student may require to be successful in a pre-algebra domain. The end of the fall assessment window is rapidly approaching. Participating schools are encouraged to complete the assessment by October 31. The following message was provided by the state:

"The ESTAR/MSTAR Universal Screener will remain accessible to any district that was in process of uploading students and/or administering the screener before the fall window closed on October 18. All eligible districts are encouraged to complete the testing by Oct. 31. If circumstances prevent your school district from meeting this targeted end-date, then please . Technical assistance will be provided upon request.

Also, please note that growth that is expected between fall and winter will likely be less for those tested at the end of the window. For example, if a student completes the fall screener on October 26 and then begins the winter screener on January 15, the observed growth will likely be less than for a student who completed the fall screener when the window opened on August 26."

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Mastering Explicit Instruction - Part 1

By Deni Basaraba, RME Assessment Coordinator

Research (Baker, Gersten, & Lee, 2002; Carnine, 1997; Doabler et al., 2012; Witzel, Mercer, & Miller, 2003) indicates that all students, but particularly struggling learners, benefit from the provision of explicit instruction, which can be defined as a direct an unambiguous approach to instruction that incorporates instructional design and instructional delivery procedures (Archer & Hughes, 2011).

Moreover, students benefit from having strategies for learning content made conspicuous for them but only when these strategies are designed to support the transfer of knowledge from the specific content being taught (i.e., the mathematics problems that are the focus of instruction during a particular class period) to a broader, more generalizable context (e.g., similar mathematics problems with similar or more complex types of numbers, similar mathematics problems presented during whole group instruction to be solved collaboratively, in pairs, or independently as part of homework) (Kame’enui, Carnine, Dixon, & Burns, 2011).
What is explicit instruction?

As noted previously, the idea of explicit instruction includes both instructional design and instructional delivery features, and requires that we carefully consider not only the content we plan to teach and the order in which that content is sequenced but also the methods we used to deliver that instruction to our students. In this series of blogs, we will provide you with elements of explicit instruction as well as examples and/or steps to carrying out these recommendations.

Focusing instruction on critical content (e.g., skills, strategies, concepts, vocabulary) that is essential for promoting student understanding of the target content as well as future, related content.
  • The amount of time designated each day to explicit vocabulary instruction will depend upon the vocabulary load of the text to be read as well as the students’ general prior knowledge of the new vocabulary. 
  • Computer-assisted instruction can be another effective way to provide practice on newly-introduced vocabulary words. 
  • Other methods include using graphic organizers and semantic maps to teach the relationships among words and concepts.
Organizing instruction around “big ideas” that can help students see how particular skills and concepts fit together. This will provide students with a clearer understanding of how content, skills, and strategies are related and can help students organize that information in their minds, making it easier for them to retrieve that information and integrate it with new material.

Example: Fractions are numbers that can be represented in different ways.
  • Modeling part/whole relationship
  • Writing fraction numbers
  • Comparing fractions
  • Measuring fractions on a number line
Sequencing skills in a logical fashion so that (a) students learn all prerequisite skills before being asked to perform the target skill, (b) high-frequency skills are taught before those needed less frequently, (c) skills and strategies that are similar and may be confusing to students are not taught in close proximity within the scope and sequence, and (d) easier skills are taught before more difficult skills.
Breaking down complex skills and strategies into smaller units in an effort to minimize cognitive overload and the demands placed on students’ working memory. Teach skills in small, discrete steps that can be added to one another to form the target skill.
  • Present new information in small steps will give students enough to have success on the topic. 
  • Once students have mastered that step, reinforce the topic and add to it.

Archer, A. L, & Hughes, C. A. (2011). Explicit instruction: Effective and efficient teaching. New York NY: Guilford.

Baker, S. K., Gersten, R., & Lee, D. (2002). A synthesis of empirical research on teaching mathematics to low-achieving students. The Elementary School Journal, 103, 51-73.

Carnine, D. W. (1997). Instructional design in mathematics for students with learning disabilities. Journal of Learning Disabilities, 30, 130-141.

Doabler, C. T., Cary, M. S., Jungjohann, K., Clarke, B., Fien, H., Baker, S., Smolkowski, K., & Chard, D. (2012). Enhancing core mathematics instruction for students at risk for mathematics disabilities. Teaching Exceptional Children, 44, 48-57.

Kame’enui, E. J., Carnine, D. W., Dixon, R. C., & Burns, D. (2011). Introduction. In M. D. Coyne, E. J. Kame’enui, & D. W. Carnine (Eds.) Effective teaching strategies that accommodate diverse learners (4th ed.) (pp. 7-23).

Witzel, B. S., Mercer, C. D., & Miller, M. D. (2003). Teaching algebra to students with learning difficulties: An investigation of an explicit instruction model. Learning Disabilities Research & Practice, 18, 121-131.