Alabama students participating in the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative (AMSTI) are showing “statistically significant” progress in math, science and reading, according to a recent report from the U.S. Department of Education (USDOE).
Commissioned by the USDOE, the report summarizes the results of a study conducted by the SERVE Center at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, research firm Empirical Education Inc., and the Academy for Education Development.
Data showed that after one year, AMSTI students outperformed their peers in traditional classrooms by two points on the SAT-10 math assessment, amounting to about 28 days of “extra” instruction. After two years, the SAT scores for AMSTI students showed a gain of four points, or 50 extra days of math instruction.
Wendy Cornelius, a fifth-grade teacher in Mobile County said it’s been “amazing” to watch students “talking about math, solving problems together and listening to other’s opinions. I don’t think I’d ever go back to teaching another way,” she said in a Mobile Press-Register article Feb. 23rd by Rena Havner Philips.
While science scores were not as significant the first year, by year two scores of AMSTI students increased by 5 percentage points as compared to students in non-AMSTI schools. Reading scores also increased significantly, even though AMSTI does not include reading instruction.
Alabama State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice responded to the study’s results by crediting Alabama’s investment in AMSTI. “Alabama’s future is bright as these young minds are challenged to think critically and solve complex problems … 21st –century skills business and industry are asking of our graduates.”
The state is spending about $26 million annually to support AMSTI, and educators are seeking double that amount to expand this markedly effective program for more Alabama students.
AMSTI was selected in 2006 to be included in the $3 million study, which was one of the largest math and science studies in the country including about 30,000 students and 780 teachers in 82 schools. The study analyzed student achievement, teacher practice, demographic data, professional training logs, classroom observations, professional development surveys, and interviews with teachers and principals. (Information from ALSDE)
There are 621 Alabama schools involved in AMSTI, including St. Elmo Middle School in Mobile County. Its principal, Deborah Fletcher, said that AMSTI has been one of the most significant educational journeys of her lifetime, according to the Press-Register article.
“I’ve never before had children ask for more math problems” Ms. Fletcher said, explaining that AMSTI is benefiting students from all economic and racial backgrounds, as well as special-education students.
AMSTI teachers go through two years of comprehensive training, including 20 days of summer institutes and follow-up training during the school year. The program gives them access to all materials, manipulatives and technology needed to effectively raise the bar of instruction for students.
And the students love it. Allison, a sixth-grader at Alba Middle School states in the article, “Instead of just learning, I have fun. In science, I do experiments; in math, I do problems. And I really want to do problems. I really want to learn new things.”