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Wells Middle School Launches Parent Math Nights to Help Address Achievement Gaps

January 6, 2012

Research has demonstrated the critical role parents play in the successful education of their children (read more…). With mathematics achievement scores (according to STAR testing data, details available here) “flatlined” at Wells Middle School over the past three years, it was clear more acute attention was needed for this subject group for every student. Thanks to some foresight and a bit of small luck, things are moving in the right direction at Wells.

Looking at the data more closely, there was a growing trend of students that were not achieving in the subject of mathematics according to statewide testing data. Furthermore, there were some demographic subgroups that were falling further behind. In July, 2011, Wells Middle School welcomed their new Principal, Dr. Kevin Grier. Kevin joined the Dublin Unified School District after nine successful years as Principal at El Roble Intermediate School. Dr. Grier recognized that immediate action was necessary to reverse these recent trends. In the process, a legacy mathematics grant from the Oracle Corporation was uncovered and Wells Middle School’s Parent Math Nights program was launched. recently had the opportunity to visit with the architects of this program and to discuss its long-term goals. Principal Kevin Grier and Mathematics Department Chairwoman Andrea Theisen contributed to this article. What was the genesis of this program for Wells?

Wells Middle School Principal Kevin Grier

Kevin Grier: “I had been thinking about ways that Wells could help the students in the area of math since that was an area in which the recent STAR reports showed some issues. I thought what could we do to get kids help when they were at home and not at school? The parent math nights are designed to be given just before the start of each new chapter so that the parents get the necessary information.” Prior to moving into administration, you were a classroom teacher. Please describe your passion for mathematics.

Grier: “I was a math teacher when I began my teaching career. I also struggled with trying to get parents to stop say that “they didn’t do math”. It was frustrating because it always seemed to give their child an excuse not to try. I enjoy going into the Wells Math Center to help out and watching other the other volunteers work until the light bulb clicks on in each kid’s head.” What feedback have you received from families/students that have participated in the math nights?

Grier: “The parents have been appreciative of these nights as it has helped to jog some of those repressed learnings so that they feel they can help when asked. One concept that I might explore is having the parents bring their child to sit with them and to work together on the material. I think that the kids will feel more confident being able to help mom or dad with the material. I also think that the students will benefit from hearing the material again.”

To complete this story, we visited with the Wells Mathematics Department Chairwoman, Andrea Theisen. Andrea achieved a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Loyola Marymount University and then obtained a single-subject credential in Mathematics from California State University, Hayward (now CSU East Bay). She became an instructor at DUSD in 1995 and has been the Mathematics Department Chairperson at Wells Middle School for over a decade.

Wells Middle School Math Dept Chairperson Andrea Theisen Describe your role at Wells.

Andrea Theisen: “I represent our group of our six members of staff to the administration and the District. We do collaborate with other colleagues within and outside of our staff.” Tell us about the articulation of the Parent Math Nights at Wells.

Theisen: “The idea clearly came from Dr. Grier. As a group, we had some concerns with the progress of some of our students and discussed strategies on how we could improve their performance.” How did you help design the program and how were you directed?

Theisen: “We discussed it one-on-one and then as a staff. Essentially, we were able to develop the program as a group. My colleagues and I were able to design an after-hours program that would aim to deliver an experience that would benefit most families. Thus far, the feedback from our staff has been very positive. They have enjoyed the experience. If I could change anything, it would be to increase the level of parental participation.” Would you like to communicate anything else to families that have not taken the opportunity to participate?

Theisen: “Math can be scary. We want to provide some tools to aid your child through this process. These nights are really for the parents – especially if you may not be comfortable with the concepts. However, we’re doing all of this to help your child succeed. Our staff is here to fully support your child to make math a subject that they can embrace!”

The subject of mathematics will continue to be a priority at Wells Middle School. We would encourage all families to take advantage of this sustaining program. Contact your child’s counselor or the school should you wish to discuss further.

Wells Middle School Teacher Jaimie Dewitt Leads Math Tutorial for Parents


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