Thanks to $2 million from the Florida Legislature, about 1,000 Duval County rising 10th-graders who failed the high-stakes Algebra 1 end-of-course exam have a chance to pass it this summer.
The University of Florida is piloting its Algebra Nation summer program in Jacksonville starting Monday through July 26. The Legislature's $2 million allocation will also fund the new program in 2015, when UF plans to fully roll it out.
For Florida's high school students, the Algebra 1 end-of-course exam is as high stakes as it gets -- it determines their future. They must pass it to graduate.
Built by the UF Lastinger Center in partnership with the Florida Legislature, Governor's Office and Department of Education, as well as Gainesville-based Study Edge, Algebra Nation offers students, teachers and parents a free, effective, interactive, 24/7 online resource aligned with the latest state standards.
"The new summer program draws heavily on Algebra Nation's interactive video lessons, study guides and statewide Algebra Wall," said Don Pemberton, director of UF's Lastinger Center, which develops and runs Algebra Nation. "These are available on desktops, laptops, iPhones, Android phones and iPads through the Algebra Nation web app and Facebook app."
More than 250,000 students and 3,300 teachers in all 67 Florida schools districts used Algebra Nation this past school year.
Of the 1,000 Jacksonville students participating in the new summer program, 350 will attend an Algebra Nation Summer Camp, where they will receive iPads. Successful completers will keep them.
Besides the iPads, which allow students to watch Algebra Nation videos and ask questions on the Algebra Nation app, the camp will feature other math-based apps and the highly effective Algebra Nation curriculum.
The technology-infused learning will encompass about a quarter of the four-hour program each day. "The rest of the time," said Study Edge President Ethan Fieldman, "will be spent on activities and games that encourage student collaboration, with the teachers in each classroom guiding students to master the concepts and boosting their confidence."
Duval County algebra teachers welcome this opportunity for some of their struggling students to catch up.
"Algebra Nation Summer Camp provides remarkable educational opportunities by creating exciting new ways to implement curriculum in the classroom," said Paula Haigis, an algebra teacher at Atlantic Coast High School. "Students will use the latest technology to prepare for the Algebra I end-of-course exam. I know my fellow teachers and I are incredibly excited because Algebra Nation changes the very mindset of how students learn algebra."
Based at the UF College of Education, the Lastinger Center is an educational innovation incubator. It harnesses the university's intellectual resources to design, build, field-test and scale models that advance teaching, learning and healthy child development. The center continuously evaluates and refines its work, widely disseminates its findings and roots its initiatives in a growing network of partner sites around the state and country.
Study Edge is a Gainesville-based enterprise that helps high school and college students improve their learning outcomes through technology. Its founder, Fieldman, was the first winner of the Cade Museum Prize for Innovation.