Earlier this week, LEV staff members visited Totem Middle School, and it’s safe to say we were blown away. With half of the students receiving free or reduced lunch, Totem has been able to do something remarkable – turn around their math scores dramatically in just three years.

Just take a look at these statistics:

– 2009-2010: 12% of their students took Algebra I in 8th grade

– 2010-2011: 45% of their students took Algebra I in 8th grade

– 2011-2012: 83% of their students are taking Algebra I in 8th grade.

Algebra I by 8th grade is an educational gatekeeper that directly (and positively) correlates with college and career preparedness, which makes the above data all the better. Not only are more students taking algebra, they are also passing at higher rates. The increase in the number of Totem 8th graders taking Algebra 1 has also led to a a higher pass rate in math when they went on to high school. When the 12% of 8th graders taking algebra went on to 9th grade, the math pass rate was 40%. The following year, when the 45% of 8th graders taking algebra went on to 9th grade, the pass rate went up to 90%. That’s an incredible 50% increase!

With the funding they were awarded through a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG), Totem was able to enact some key changes:

– Extended school day by half an hour.

– Extra support for students through an increase in staff and academic intervention during and after school.

– Extra support and flexibility for teachers through professional development

– Using data in all decisions.

We were able to speak to the Superintendent, Principal, teachers and students and the one thing (among many) that stuck with us was this: Both the teachers AND the principal thought was the most important thing done was changing the belief system of the teachers. The kids COULD do it…and they have.

When it comes to the big changes at Totem, these were three biggest lessons learned:

1) If something is not working, change it now.

2) Weekly progress monitoring is an important aspect of encouraging students to try harder

3) All students can learn at high levels.

We love this message, and yes, we are fans. Keep up the great work Totem Middle School. We look forward to the amazing things in your future!


3 comments on “Totem Middle School has the solution for math success

  1. So what happened to all the comments that were here shortly after the time of this article’s publication?

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