Boosting the academic achievement for children living in poverty has been a goal of schools and districts for many years. The issue is particularly urgent for Title I schools, schools with a high percentage (over 40%) of students on free or reduced lunch. Despite the money allocated by the federal government to help close the achievement gaps in Title I programs, many students still struggle. And, according to national test results, the gaps based on family income remain wide.
The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) in math measures how students across the country are doing. Comparing 2013 test scores for 4th graders eligible for free or reduced lunch versus students that are not, only 72% scored above basic versus 92% of those ineligible. And about 28% of the students scored below basic versus less than 10% of the students from higher incomes.
The test scores of low-income students don’t improve in high school. The National Center for
Fair & Open Testing looked at 2014 Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) data provided by the College Board and divided the students by the combined parental income of each student.
Looking at the test data, it’s easy for educators to get discouraged. But Reflex, a math fact fluency solution, actually works. The program helps all students succeed when it’s used effectively in the classroom. And data shows that it is helping to close the achievement gap for Title I students.
Math fact fluency helps all students succeed
Reflex uses an advanced math fact fluency system to progressively develop students’ ability to recall facts from memory. Math facts are important because students need to know them in order to progress in math classes, and many of the new state standards require a familiarity with math facts beginning in 2nd grade.
Students who are math fact fluent are more confident in class and so they feel (and are) more successful in math. When students start at the beginning of the year and use Reflex effectively, three times a week and get the Green Light in every session, they can easily become fluent in their math facts by winter break.
Title I programs using Reflex
A large number of Title I eligible schools used Reflex during the 2014-2015 school year. From the general testing data examined earlier, the assumption would be that these students did not become as fluent with their math facts on Reflex as more affluent children. But the Reflex fluency data tells a different story.
In this graph, we compare average fluency in Reflex (the y-axis) to the percentage of students on free or reduced lunch (the x-axis) over the school year. Each dot represents a Title I eligible school with at least 100 students with recommended Reflex usage. The size represents the number of kids at the school who used Reflex.
Play the video to see what happens when the students at Title I schools use Reflex for 60 days.
At the beginning of the school year, the students at the schools with Title I programs start out at more or less an even playing field. Students continued to improve after 60 days. By the end of the year, the average fluency reached 91%.
No matter what their percentage of students on free and reduced lunch, the students at each of the schools improved. Our data shows that students at eligible Title I schools using Reflex can perform just as well as students at schools not eligible.
Reflex actually works for all children. It engages students at every level and gives them fundamental skills. Reflex gives them confidence to tackle higher mathematics and makes them believe that they can learn. And so they do.
Standardized test score improvement and long term gains
Once Reflex has helped students of every income level become math fact fluent, they also show significant improvement on standardized tests. Research was done in conjunction with Charlottesville City Schools in Virginia to see what the long-term results were for students on independent nationally standardized tests. The seven elementary schools in Charlottesville are about 57% free and reduced lunch, and only one of the schools is not eligible for Title I funding.
After using Reflex regularly, MAP test scores increased for Charlottesville students in the lower quartile. And, in the next two years that followed, the students who were no longer in the lower quartile remained either at the same level or improved further, bucking the trend seen in other nationally normed tests.