Lorenz C. List Elementary School in Frankenmuth is home to approximately 520 K-4th grade students. The teachers are dedicated to providing the best possible learning opportunities for their students. In the winter of 2018, List teachers received training on IEE’s Focused Instructional Model (FIM) for math. Teachers were active and engaged throughout the PD and implemented FIM for a few months at the end of the school year in order to get the program up and running in classrooms. The 2018-2019 school year was the first full year of FIM implementation for List Elementary, and their M-STEP scores skyrocketed! Jill Waliczek, principal at List, said, “The Focused Instructional Model in Math has provided us with not only a focus on the power standards that our students need most, but also data to support curricular decision making. We have never experienced such purposeful focus on math, based on solid data, to drive our instructional practices.” Let’s celebrate the persistence and determination of the teachers and students at List by examining some of the academic growth made by 3rd and 4th grade students.
The Frankenmuth class of 2027 (current 5th graders) were 50.7% proficient in 2018 as 3rd graders, and jumped up to 76.4% proficient as 4th graders (after 1 year of FIM implementation). This cohort of students gained 25.7 points while the state average for the same grade level dropped 3.2 and the Saginaw County average dropped 3.9. This group of students was only 5% above the state average in 3rd grade, and ended at 34.6% above the state average in 4th grade.
Jan Zimba, 4th grade teacher, said, “Initially, I was a little skeptical about the effectiveness of using FIM to supplement our math instruction. The implementation and buy-in wasn’t without its challenges. Our coach continued to encourage us to stick with it and use FIM with fidelity. Well, it certainly was a win-win for our students and our fourth grade team.”
Jan’s 4th grade teammate, Angie Zimmerman, shared, “Because of being exposed repeatedly over time to the main fourth grade standards, the students are inquisitive to figure out and understand their new expectations. When it comes time to spend a lot of time on the exact standard, the students have a strong desire to understand what we are learning. Then, they come to the topic with some background which prepares them for their new learning.”
Looking at grade level growth for both 3rd and 4th grade at List tell a similar story. 3rd graders in 2018 were 50.7% proficient on the M-STEP (5.0 points above the state of Michigan average for 3rd grade and 9.7 points above the Saginaw County average). 3rd graders in 2019 were 66.3% proficient (19.6 points above the state average and 26.5 points above the Saginaw County average).
Gary Karney, 3rd grade teacher at List, feels as though FIM has been beneficial for his students. “The FIM program and Math Simulations positively impacted our students’ math thinking and growth.” he said.
4th graders in 2018 were 62.2% proficient on the M-STEP (20.2 points above the state of Michigan average and 25.4 points above the Saginaw County average). 4th graders in 2019 were 75.4% proficient (34.6 points above the state average and 38.6 points above the Saginaw County average).
The teachers at List Elementary have commented that their students are excited to take risks and tackle difficult problems with an open mind. Students understand that they need to work hard and have a growth mindset when it comes to learning difficult math concepts. The FIM helps students cycle through key grade level content. Previewing upcoming topics provides the scaffolding necessary to get students ready to learn a new topic. Reviewing important concepts from the past helps solidify those concepts in the minds of the students.
In 2019-2020, teachers and students at List have implemented “Math Simulations” – a program developed by IEE to help eliminate test taking anxiety felt by so many students. The Simulations provide a safe arena where students can practice the skills and expectations needed to help them reach their fullest potential on testing day. Once per month, teachers mimic the testing environment for students and focus on different social-emotional skills (“perfect effort,” student identity, reflection, stamina, etc.). Student effort is celebrated – “perfect effort” outweighs “perfection.” Principal Waliczek commented, “Math Simulations have given our students leverage when it comes to taking high stakes tests. Our number one goal for our students is putting forth perfect effort in a carefully thought out testing environment. Students are taught how to effectively use scrap paper to demonstrate perfect effort and often walk away feeling good about their testing session based on effort alone rather than their score. Our experience has been that focusing on effort during testing simulations, in combination with FIM, has resulted in increased test scores.”
The Institute for Excellence in Education is proud of the dedicated teachers and students at List Elementary in Frankenmuth. Hopefully the “Math Simulations” will bring in continued growth on M-STEP scores for 3rd and 4th grade. IEE is excited that the FIM initiative is rolling out with fidelity and look forward to continued success for teachers and students.