SRI International and Educational Research Collaborators To Expand Innovative Digital Math Curriculum in Florida

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children in a computer class roomMENLO PARK, Calif. – February 24, 2014 – SRI International, together with its research collaborators, has been awarded a $12 million Investing in Innovation (i3) grant by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation and Improvement to expand and validate an innovative middle school digital mathematics program in Florida schools. SRI Education researchers developed the SunBay Digital Math program to help teach challenging middle school math concepts by integrating technology, standards-aligned curriculum and teacher professional development into a powerful package that boosts student learning.

Based on two decades of research on how students learn key mathematical ideas with technology, SunBay uses visual dynamic representations to foster reasoning and support collaboration that increases student achievement in mathematics. The program has shown learning gains through studies in Florida, Texas and England.

“Florida's middle schools—and middle schools nationwide—are at a critical juncture as they strive to increase student achievement in mathematics that meets college- and career-readiness standards,” said Jeremy Roschelle, Ph.D., co-director of the Center for Technology in Learning at SRI International. “As a top-rated proposal for i3 funding by the U.S. Department of Education, this project will demonstrate that SunBay is effective with today's standards that focus on deep, conceptual understanding and skills in mathematics that help prepare students for future success. We are particularly encouraged by past results showing that SunBay can enable high-need students to learn important advanced mathematics concepts, leading to algebra and beyond.” 

SRI is partnering in this program with school districts in Broward and Palm Beach counties, where the curriculum will be validated; the University of Florida Lastinger Center for Learning, which will provide professional development and support for teachers in Broward and Palm Beach counties; the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, which will investigate innovative approaches to professional development; and the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) at the University of Pennsylvania, which will lead the evaluation efforts.

“We are honored to be a part of this ambitious effort to prepare our middle school students for success in high school, college and the increasingly competitive global marketplace,” said Donald Pemberton, Ph.D., who directs the University of Florida Lastinger Center. “SRI International and the other partners in this project are leaders in their fields and we welcome the opportunity to use our expertise to help make a difference for the future of our state.”

SRI and its partners will conduct a multi-year randomized control trial across schools in Broward and Palm Beach counties to determine SunBay's effectiveness as measured by new college- and career-readiness assessments. A second, concurrent study will include volunteer teachers from another school district, or “innovation district,” in which variations of the SunBay materials will be used to decrease costs, as well as determine which teacher professional development practices are most effective. Ultimately, upon favorable results of the study, SRI and its partners will provide training and toolkits schools can use to implement SunBay programs, with the ability to scale throughout Florida and the nation.

"As a SunBay partner since 2009, we have learned that professional development is the key to supporting and engaging middle grade teachers in implementing innovative, dynamic technologies,'' said Vivian Fueyo, Ph.D., Interim Regional Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs at USF St. Petersburg and principal investigator of the i3 project at USFSP. "The i3 grant provides the opportunity for us to investigate innovative approaches to professional development."

Helios Education Foundation, a key funding partner, is providing 50 percent of the required matching funds for the i3 grant. The funding will be used to make SunBay Digital Math as cost effective as possible, to improve instructional and teacher development processes, to recruit school districts to contribute to the scale and sustainability of the effort, and to identify and enable broad adoption of effective practices to introduce digital technologies into the classroom.

"As technology continues to become more infused in today's classroom setting, digital learning is gaining momentum and is a critical teaching and learning tool,” said Helios Education Foundation President and CEO Paul Luna. “We know that the understanding of algebraic concepts is a gateway to future academic achievement, and the Sun Bay digital math curriculum increases student achievement and prepares students for college and career success. Helios is proud to have provided the seed funding to innovate a promising idea like SunBay Digital Math, and this i3 grant is an opportunity to take this effective initiative to scale.”

Previously, Helios funded the pilot test of SunBay Digital Math in Florida. The pilot test was the basis of the validation study being pursued in the i3 grant.  SunBay is located within SRI's Center for Digital Learning, located at SRI's St. Petersburg campus, and was funded through a $1 million Helios investment from which a portion of the i3 match is being drawn.

The Duke Energy Foundation, an early and consistent supporter of SunBay Digital Math, is providing additional matching funding for the i3 project.

For information on how interested school districts can join the program: education(at)sri(dot)com

The contents of this press release were developed under a grant from the Department of Education. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government. The Department of Education grant is financed with 90% Federal money ($12 Million) and 10% non-Federal money ($1.2 Million).

About the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE)

The Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) brings together education experts from renowned research institutions to contribute new knowledge that informs K-12 education policy and practice. Their work is available for free to education policymakers, practitioners, and researchers at cpre.org.

About Helios Education Foundation

Helios Education Foundation is focused on creating opportunities for individuals to succeed in postsecondary education by advancing the academic preparedness of all students and fostering a high-expectations, college-going culture in Arizona and Florida. The Foundation focuses its investments across the education continuum in three key impact areas:  Early Grade Success, College and Career Readiness and Postsecondary Education Success. As an engaged foundation, embedded in communities across both states, the Foundation is contributing its leadership, expertise and financial resources to better prepare students for college and career and to compete successfully in a globally-competitive economy. Since 2006, Helios has invested over $138 million in education-related programs and initiatives in Arizona and Florida. For more information about the Foundation, visit www.helios.org, or join us on facebook, twitter and youtube.

About the UF Lastinger Center for Learning

An education innovation incubator, the Lastinger Center for Learning harnesses the University of Florida's intellectual resources to partner with school districts, philanthropies, governmental entities and the private sector to research, design, build and field-test models that transform teaching, improve learning and promote healthy child development. Housed at the UF College of Education, the Lastinger Center blends the latest research with best practices to build award-winning learning systems. It won the US Department of Education's 2011 Investing in Innovation (i3) grant, the 2011 Florida Association for Staff Development's award for the state's top professional development program, and the Association of Teacher Educators' 2011 award for the country's top teacher education partnership program. For more information, please visit lastingercenter.com, call 352-273-4103 or email dpemberton(at)coe(dot)ufl(dot)edu.

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