Improving chemistry pass rates in underachieving algebra students by use of review sessions
Townley, Linda M.
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Mount Vernon High School in Alexandria, Virginia struggles to meet state requirements on test scores and student achievement. With over 50% of our students receiving free or reduced lunch and nearly 20% of our students in the English for Speakers of Other Languages program, teachers face many challenges. Pass rates in chemistry and its associated End-of-Course, Standards of Learning exam have missed state and county targets for many years. For this reason I designed a program to provide extra support to a pre-identified group of at-risk students. Algebra 1 is a pre-requisite to be enrolled in chemistry and the class relies heavily on its use. Any student who has trouble in algebra is likely to struggle in chemistry. At the beginning of the school year I identified all of my students who received a D in algebra or failed the corresponding state exam in algebra. I asked these students to participate in a voluntary program for extra review, practice and remediation. This was accomplished during a non-academic study period and was available for one hour, once a week, for the duration of the school year. Pre- and post-assessment data was collected to analyze the effectiveness of the program. In addition students' attitudes were investigated as being a large part of student's success in the classroom. Surveys, interviews and journals were used to track student changes in attitude over the year. What developed throughout the program was a strong student-teacher relationship in the small number of students who participated. Results indicated that students were able to perform near the level of their peers with a stronger algebra background if they participated in the treatment. More than half of the students who met the criterion for inclusion in the program chose to participate. These students' normalized gains were far above the non-treatment group giving strong support to the success of the program. Students also showed gains in their attitudes about school in general.