Des Moines Public Schools (DMPS) aims to increase the number of students (and males of color, in particular) who complete Algebra 1 in ninth grade.
The partnership between ISU and DMPS will focus on factors that contribute to students' achievement in Algebra 1 – students' course-taking pathways in mathematics starting in sixth grade, and implementation of Student-Centered, Equity-Focused Education (SCEFE) to enhance classroom instruction and increase pass rates in Algebra 1 classrooms.
The SCEFE program focuses on:
(1) ensuring engagement for all students at the level intended by grade-level standards;
(2) providing teachers with resources aligned with the program; and
(3) assisting teachers in embedding culturally inclusive practices in their classrooms.
In Year 1, the team will form a Coordinating Council (five ISU and five DMPS representatives) with responsibility for direction and decision-making within the project. Across both years of the project, ISU faculty will engage with teachers and instructional leaders around SCEFE to establish trusting, collaborative relationships. By partnering with DMPS, instructional leaders, and teachers, ISU researchers will gain a deeper understanding of the complexities of implementing mathematics curriculum, instruction, and assessment in a district, and DMPS leaders and practitioners will gain access to additional data about their students and programs, as well as a greater understanding of the research process.
During Year 1, the team will analyze existing district data to create a profile of secondary mathematics course-taking pathways and explore how student achievement is associated with demographic characteristics, attendance, and course-taking pathways. The team will conduct interviews and surveys with SCEFE students, teachers, and instructional leaders.
In Year 2, the team will explore the effects of SCEFE by comparing perceptions, instruction, and achievement in SCEFE and non-SCEFE classrooms by gathering observation, survey, and focus group data. The team will work at the district level to translate the pathways report into actionable steps and to support school leaders and teachers in organizing, analyzing, and interpreting existing data already available within the district.
This project will take place in the Des Moines Public Schools, the largest school district in Iowa.
Des Moines Public Schools serves a diverse student population of over 34,000 students, with 39% of students identified as White, 21% as English Learners, and over 73% as eligible for free or reduced-price meals. The sample will include all currently enrolled middle and high school students in DMPS (approximately 16,000 students) and their secondary mathematics teachers (approximately 75 teachers), and 16 school buildings (5 high schools and 11 middle schools).
The team will use descriptive statistics, correlation, and multilevel modeling to create the district profile and examine achievement data. The team will also use qualitative methods, including thematic coding, member checking, and triangulation to analyze focus groups, classroom observation, and interview data.
At the end of the project, the partnership will supply information for refining and enhancing the SCEFE as it expands to more classrooms. Course-taking pathway data will provide the district with a baseline against which to measure the impact of their work to increase successful Algebra 1 completion by the end of ninth grade, as well as engaging teachers and staff in discussions about equitable student outcomes.