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Montana Digital Academy and University of Montana

This case study was created by EdReady by NROC. EdReady by NROC retains sole editorial control and responsibility for the content in this case study.

Montana Digital Academy and University of Montana: EdReady Increases Incoming Student Performance

Details

  • Who was served: Incoming freshmen who underperformed on the ALEKS placement exam
  • When: Six weeks during summer 2013
  • How: Remote access for students before they arrived on campus
  • Number of Students: 63
  • Implementation: Self-paced online with academic coaching available.
  • Results: 60% of the students who reached the EdReady target score and re-took the ALEKS exam were able to skip one developmental math class; 25% were able to skip two classes; and one student (2.5%) was able to skip three classes

Instructional Application

  • ALEKS Exam Placement Prep for post-secondary students prior to their first college term

The University of Montana wanted to offer math skill-building support to incoming students who underperformed in the school’s placement exam (ALEKS). In 2013, they invited these students to participate in a pilot program using EdReady online during the summer months before arriving on campus. The results were encouraging: Thirty-five of 40 students (87.5%) who reached the EdReady target score of 90 (out of 100) and re-took the ALEKS exam raised their ALEKS scores. Twenty-four students increased by one point (on ALEKS’s five-point scale), which allowed them to skip one developmental math class. Ten students skipped two developmental math classes, and one student was able to skip three classes. Those 35 students who raised their ALEKS scores (plus two others who did not reach the EdReady target but still managed to increase their ALEKS scores) skipped a total of 49 developmental math courses and therefore saved an estimated $31,000 in tuition and fees.

In addition, after their first math courses at UMT, the EdReady pilot students averaged higher final course grades (average B-) than the incoming freshmen who did not use EdReady (average C+).

INSTITUTIONAL PROFILE

The Montana Digital Academy (MTDA) is Montana’s public state virtual school, located on the campus of the University of Montana. It provides educational opportunities to Montana students. MTDA offers many core classes, AP classes, and electives not available in the local schools. MTDA also offers credit recovery and remediation programs so that more students can graduate on time and college ready.

The University of Montana (UMT) hosts a population of roughly 15,000 students on four campuses, with a broad range of subjects that include the trades, liberal arts, graduate and postdoctoral studies and professional training.

IMPLEMENTATION

All incoming students without AP or college math credit must take a placement exam called ALEKS before registering for a math course at UMT. In Summer 2013, MTDA and UMT collaborated on a pilot program designed to help students who had underperformed on the placement exam get into the college math course they needed for their major of interest. The Office for Student Success and the Math Department at UMT offered EdReady, a free, personalized, skill-strengthening program to those students. Students were asked to dedicate at least two hours a week to study in EdReady. Holly Wright, Director of UMT’s Math and STUDY JAM Tutoring Programs, served as an Academic Coach for the pilot and was available to answer student questions and provide them with additional help.

The program ran for six weeks. Students accessed EdReady remotely, usually from home. Their progress was entirely self-paced. The pilot offered students a choice of five EdReady pathways (with custom assessments) corresponding to five introductory math courses for different major tracks at UMT. For all students, the EdReady target score was preset to 90 (out of 100). If a student reached the target score, that student had the option to retake the ALEKS placement exam. A student who mastered a lower-level track also had the option to continue studying with EdReady to pursue a more advanced track to try to get an even higher ALEKS score.

RESULTS

Sixty-three (63) students participated in the pilot, and 41 (65%) reached the EdReady target score of 90. Of the 41 students, 40 went on to re-take the ALEKS exam and 35 (87.5%) of those raised their ALEKS score by 1 point or more (on a 5-point scale), which allowed them to enroll in a higher-level math course at UMT. Twenty-four of the 40 students (60%) increased their scores by one ALEKS point, 10 students (25%) increased by two ALEKS points, and one person (2.5%) increased by three ALEKS points.

In addition, two students did not reach the EdReady target score, but re-took the ALEKS exam anyway and raised their scores by 1 point each. Those two students each logged over 10 hours of study time with the EdReady resources and raised their EdReady scores substantially, just not to the target.

ALEKS score change

Figure 1: Chart of the breakdown of student performances for the pilot period on both the EdReady program and the ALEKS placement test. The x-axis groups students according to their performance on the ALEKS test. 0 = no change in ALEKS score, 1 = improved ALEKS score by one point, etc. DNF = did not re-take the ALEKS placement test. Note that ALEKS is scored on a 5-point scale, with 1 being the lowest possible score. Each ALEKS group is further subdivided according to the performance on the EdReady pilot: Yes = the student reached the target score (of 90 out of 100) in EdReady, and No = the student did not reach the target score. They y-axis is the count of the number of students in each category.

In the fall, 37 of the pilot participants enrolled in a math course for the Fall 2014 term. Ninety-one percent (91%) successfully completed their math course, with an average grade of B-, exceeding the UMT freshman overall average math grade of C+.

WHAT’S NEXT?

The results of the Summer 2013 pilot were sufficiently promising for the state of Montana to win a $2.4 million, three-year grant from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to enable them to expand EdReady over the next three years to offer it to all Montana students in grades 7-12 and higher education.

Reference article: Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation Grant for EdReady Expansion Throughout Montana http://news.umt.edu/2014/03/030614edrd.aspx

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