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High Schools Battle the “9th Grade Bulge;” High Schools are turning to Destination Math® to Prevent Math-Related Failures and Drop-Outs, Riverdeep Says

April 8, 2005 -- NCTM Booth #613, April 6, 2005 – More high schools are turning to Destination Math® to help battle the growing tendency of 9th graders to repeat the grade or drop out after it, according to Riverdeep, which publishes the award-winning courseware. The phenomenon, called “9th-grade bulge,” is at an all-time high nationwide, and is partly attributed to students failing math.

 “  Very definitely, Destination Math is a motivating force  
The company released the information at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Meeting in Anaheim, CA.

“A Real National Emergency”
The issue of ballooning 9th grade enrollment came to national attention earlier this year in a report from the National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy. The report showed that the “bulge” – 9th grade enrollment numbers that are larger than the previous year’s 8th grade enrollment – had more than tripled in size since the late 1960s. Calling the bulge a “real national emergency,” the researchers blamed the problem on tougher graduation requirements and high-stakes testing in areas like math and science. The stiffer requirements were causing many high-schools to retain students in 9th grade rather than pass them on to the 10th grade, where graduation tests are often administered.

As a result, 9th grade enrollments in some states are as much as 32% higher than the previous year’s 8th grade enrollments. Even worse, frustrated 9th graders are increasingly dropping out before reaching 10th grade. And a soon-to-be-published study by the United Negro College Fund points to math as the single biggest reason students drop out.

“As more states require Algebra for high-school
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 graduation, the need to help struggling math students becomes even more critical,” said Gail Elizabeth Pierson, Riverdeep’s Chief Education
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 Officer. “Suddenly you’re not just talking about a grade – you’re talking about a diploma, and a student’s entire future. And unfortunately many students are coming to high school unprepared for Algebra,” Pierson said. “Some districts are addressing the problem by starting to teach Algebra in middle school; others are offering intensive remediation for 9th graders.”

High Schools Seeking a Solution
According to Pierson, Riverdeep has seen a growing number of high schools adopt its Destination Math solution to help provide a more engaging Algebra curriculum for at-risk students. Destination Math has recently been adopted by a number of major school districts, including Florida’s Miami-Dade, Pinellas and Palm Beach Counties, as well as six independent school districts in the San Antionio area.

“Obviously, traditional math instruction has failed many of these students,” Pierson said. “High schools are urgently seeking new ways to meet the individual learning needs of a diverse student body. We’re seeing a lot of them working Destination Math into the curriculum.”

One example is Pat Taepke, an algebra teacher at South Hills High School in Covina, CA, who teaches what she calls her “Daily Double.” It’s an intensive two-hour class specifically designed for students who have been identified as at-risk for failing Algebra I. Now that Algebra is a graduation requirement in California high schools, the 32 students in Taepke’s Daily Double know their diplomas are on the line.

“These are kids who are used to getting Ds,” says Taepke, a veteran math teacher. “We say that students are slow learners – but we never give them more time.” She says that the two-hour format gives her students the time they need to master concepts. But she relies on Destination Math to keep students engaged for the extended time period.

“Very definitely, Destination Math is a motivating force,” Taepke says. “These students can’t sit and do the same thing for two hours. They like to have something visual. They don’t like to be talked at for long periods of time. This is a challenge to keep it creative. I don’t think I would have volunteered to teach this class if I didn’t have Destination Math to use.”

Another educator using Destination Math is Jack O’Keefe, a senior instructor at Cambridge College who shows aspiring teachers how to prepare students for the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) test in Mathematics. O’Keefe advocates an approach that uses high-tech presentation tools to get at-risk students discussing math strategies and developing their own problem-solving skills. He projects interactive tutorials from Destination Success on a white board and has students debate how best to solve the problem.

“It’s tough to keep a roomful of math-challenged teenagers engaged in discourse about Algebra,” O’Keefe said. “To keep things moving, I rely heavily on technology. I like Destination Math because it’s highly visual. In addition to its own interactive manipulatives, Destination Math goes through the curriculum with step-by-step tutorials that are richly illustrated. The program’s content is correlated with the Massachusetts algebra standards, so it’s ideal for our MCAS-based explorations,” O’Keefe said.

About Destination Math®
Destination Math is a complete, supplemental mathematics program that teaches basic skills, math reasoning, conceptual understanding, and problem solving. The comprehensive courses move from assessments based on state standards to sequenced, prescriptive, step-by-step instruction in math skills. Validation studies from around the nation have proven Destination Math’s ability to rapidly boost student achievement in math.

Destination Math is a part of Riverdeep’s Destination Success™ program. Destination Success is a new approach to reading and math instruction that lets teachers effectively individualize instruction in a real-world classroom. The program combines standards-based assessment, learning management, award-winning courseware and professional development to help schools raise test scores, even for at-risk students.

About Riverdeep
Riverdeep Inc., A Limited Liability Company, with offices in San Francisco, California, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Dublin (Ireland) and Manchester (United Kingdom) is a leading publisher of interactive products focusing on education
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 and personal productivity for the consumer and school markets. Riverdeep's rich portfolio of interactive award-winning products feature such well-known brands as the Destination Success™ solution, which includes Destination Math® and Destination Reading®; The Print Shop®; Reader Rabbit® and Kid Pix®. For more information, call toll free 888-242-6747 or visit www.riverdeep.net. The company will be exhibiting at NCTM at booth #613.


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