Math Collaboration Quickly Adds Up

Published: May 10, 2019, 10:48 a.m.

Two 6th-grade math teachers want to spread the word about USATestprep

With more than 138,000 assessments completed and close to 800,000 activities logged, Pickens County schools recently ranked among the top 5% of Georgia schools for their successful use of the USATestprep platform.

Two teachers have been instrumental in the county’s utilization of the standards-aligned platform. Tammy Duncan and Tom Kleinberg, both 6th grade math teachers at Jasper Middle School have been teaching for 21 years and six years, respectively. While the two closely collaborate on creating quizzes and assessments for their 6th grade math students, they also “teach the teachers,” offering training sessions on the USATestprep platform to county teachers.

We recently interviewed Tammy and Tom to gain insight into how they’re using the platform, what they think teachers should appreciate the most about the USATestprep, and tips for collaboration.

USATP: How were you introduced to the USATestprep platform?

TD: Tom and I attended a math conference in 2017 and sat in on a session about personalized user learning that really resonated with both of us. We loved the idea of combining that with standards-based grading. At the time, we were creating our own quizzes using a Google form, which was time-consuming. I knew a teacher at our high school was using USATestprep so we decided to look into it.

TK: We started playing around with it to see what it was all about and we were both very excited about the standards-based grading. The rigor is incredible.

TD: The rigor is my favorite part of the platform. It makes the kids think on a higher level.

USATP: And Tom--what’s your favorite part?

TK: I love the built-in remediation. We use your Green Dot Challenge a lot. We give the kids a quiz, then they take a test on each standard. They know they need to keep working until they  earn an 85 on any particular standard. It makes remediation so much easier as the kids know what they have to do and they can work on it on their own time--they don’t have to be sitting in front of their teacher.

USATP: Can you explain what your collaboration process look like for creating assessments?

TK: We started off sitting down in the same room together to create them but--due to time--now one of us will create the assessment, and the other will tweak.

TD: We’ve worked together for so long that we’ve built-up a trust. That’s key.

TK: We also tweak our joint assessments. I teach an honors class and Tammy teaches both an accelerated class and an RTI class. We’ll add or reduce the number of questions and change the rigor based on which group we’re teaching.

USATP: How do you use the data provided by the platform?

TK: One quick way I use it is to check myself as a teacher. I’ll compare quiz averages by class and if there’s a gap, I’ll look at what I did differently in one class to the next. Or if I see that the school average on a quiz is 85 and I have a class that scored 70, what did I do wrong? I like that it gives me insight so that I can go back in and teach to areas that were missed.

TD: We also use the data for some friendly class competition. We’ll show the kids charts and I’ll say, “Okay, first squad scored this on the quiz. Can you beat it”? Or--”We need to beat Mr. Kleinberg’s class!” (Laughter.)

USATP: Let’s talk about the training you offer other teachers. What’s involved with that?

TK: We offered a USATestprep training course over the summer and 20-25 teachers showed up. The fact that they’re willing to give up their time to learn about the platform indicates they’re paying attention to the results we’re showing, and they’re interested.

TD: It’s gratifying, too. One of the other schools came to our training and started using USATestprep. At the end of the year they were so excited because their milestone scores went up. And I know an algebra I teacher at the high school is using the platform to incorporate personalized learning. I’ve been told she’s seeing good results.

USATP: Final question. What do you want teachers to know about USATestprep?

TD: I would be devastated if my county didn’t purchase it. DEVASTATED. It’s so accessible and easy for us and the students. It’s just amazing.

TK: Teachers don’t have time to put in on assessments. Having a platform like this allows us to use our time to teach.

Tammy and Tom--thank you for sharing your story and congratulations on a job well done! Keep up the great work.