SRI International and Educational Research Collaborators to Expand Innovative Digital Math Curriculum in Florida

Posted on: February 25, 2014

SRI International, together with its research collaborators, has been awarded a $12 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement to expand and validate an innovative middle school digital mathematics program in Florida schools. SRI Education researchers developed the SunBay Digital Math program to help teach challenging middle school math concepts by integrating technology, standards-aligned curriculum and teacher professional development into a powerful package that boosts student learning.

Based on two decades of research on how students learn key mathematical ideas with technology, SunBay uses visual dynamic representations to foster reasoning and support collaboration that increases student achievement in mathematics. The program has shown learning gains through studies in Florida, Texas and England.

“Florida's middle schools—and middle schools nationwide—are at a critical juncture as they strive to increase student achievement in mathematics that meets college- and career-readiness standards,” said Jeremy Roschelle, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International. “As a top-rated proposal for i3 funding by the U.S. Department of Education, this project will demonstrate that SunBay is effective with today's standards that focus on deep, conceptual understanding and skills in mathematics that help prepare students for future success. We are particularly encouraged by past results showing that SunBay can enable high-need students to learn important advanced mathematics concepts, leading to algebra and beyond.”

SRI is partnering in this program with school districts in Broward and Palm Beach counties, where the curriculum will be validated; the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning, which will provide professional development and support for teachers in Broward and Palm Beach counties; the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, which will investigate innovative approaches to professional development; and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania, which will lead the evaluation efforts.

“We are honored to be a part of this ambitious effort to prepare our middle school students for success in high school, college and the increasingly competitive global marketplace,” said Donald Pemberton, Ph.D., who directs the University of Florida Lastinger Center. “SRI International and the other partners in this project are leaders in their fields and we welcome the opportunity to use our expertise to help make a difference for the future of our state.”

SRI and its partners will conduct a multi-year randomized control trial across schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties to determine SunBay's effectiveness as measured by new college- and career-readiness assessments. A second, concurrent study will include volunteer teachers from another school district, or “innovation district,” in which variations of the SunBay materials will be used to decrease costs, as well as determine which teacher professional development practices are most effective. Ultimately, upon favorable results of the study, SRI and its partners will provide training and toolkits schools can use to implement SunBay programs, with the ability to scale throughout Florida and the nation.

"As a SunBay partner since 2009, we have learned that professional development is the key to supporting and engaging middle grade teachers in implementing innovative, dynamic technologies,'' said Vivian Fueyo, Ph.D., Interim Regional Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at USF St. Petersburg and principal investigator of the i3 project at USFSP. "The i3 grant provides the opportunity for us to investigate innovative approaches to professional development."

Helios Education Foundation, a key funding partner, is providing 50 percent of the required matching funds for the i3 grant. The funding will be used to make SunBay Digital Math as cost effective as possible, to improve instructional and teacher development processes, to recruit school districts to contribute to the scale and sustainability of the effort, and to identify and enable broad adoption of effective practices to introduce digital technologies into the classroom.

"As technology continues to become more infused in today's classroom setting, digital learning is gaining momentum and is a critical teaching and learning tool,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “We know that the understanding of algebraic concepts is a gateway to future academic achievement, and the Sun Bay digital math curriculum increases student achievement and prepares students for college and career success. Helios is proud to have provided the seed funding to innovate a promising idea like SunBay Digital Math, and this i3 grant is an opportunity to take this effective initiative to scale.”

Previously, Helios funded the pilot test of SunBay Digital Math in Florida. The pilot test was the basis of the validation study being pursued in the i3 grant. SunBay is located within SRI's Center for Digital Learning, located at SRI's St. Petersburg campus, and was funded through a $1 million Helios investment from which a portion of the i3 match is being drawn. The Duke Energy Foundation, an early and consistent supporter of SunBay Digital Math, is providing additional matching funding for the i3 project.

Category: College and Career Readiness

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