A Visionary Plan for Los Angeles Unified School District

If its $11 billion annual operating budget was instead corporate income, the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) would rank in the middle of Fortune Magazine's list of the top 500 U.S. public companies.

The second largest school district in the nation (after New York City), its 1,190 schools and 83,000 employees serve over 649,000 students, 82,000 of whom are in special education.

And like most organizations of this size and scope, LAUSD has many dedicated and visionary leaders, including the professionals in the Special Education Department. Each year these educators administer the California Standards Test, the state's accountability measurement system and determine strategies that will maximize the potential of every student.

In 2006, the district's Division of Special Education received approval for a district-wide intervention plan for special education students scoring below basic level or far below basic level in math. The supplementary curriculum selection process then began.

History of achievement influences decision
TouchMath materials had been available in LAUSD schools for many years. Individual teachers identified students who might benefit from the unique touching/counting system and incorporated TouchMath into their curriculum. In 2006, when surveyed about which supplementary math materials they would like to use districtwide, an overwhelming majority of teachers requested TouchMath.

With a history of success in the classroom, Executive Officer, Educational Services Donnalyn Jaque-Antón; Director of Instructional Initiatives/LRE Gloria Lopez; Professional Development/LRE Specialist Sharyn Howell and Specialist in Elementary Instruction/Design Meredith Adams met with TouchMath Founder and CEO Jan Bullock and the TouchMath team to consider the use of TouchMath in an overarching strategy to improve math competency.

Determined leaders have a clear vision
LAUSD Special Education administrators had a clear vision and established guidelines for what they required in a supplementary math program. Comprehensive teacher training, research-based strategy, proven classroom track record and age-appropriate materials topped the list of criteria.

In a sweeping move to close the gap in math proficiency, the Division of Special Education equipped 435 elementary schools with TouchMath materials for grades 2–5 and instituted a comprehensive plan through which 2,000 teachers were trained onsite to implement the TouchMath program during the regular school year.

"I love TouchMath. I've seen my students' math skills improve with it. Finally, something really works," commented 4th–6th grade teacher Beatriz Sanchez.

A custom summer school program
Inspired by positive results of the TouchMath intervention program now in place, district special education specialists wanted more for their students. They wanted to "ensure that the end product for each student is success."

TouchMath was commissioned to create a customized district-wide Extended School Year (ESY) pilot program that focused on retention, intervention and acceleration for both upper and lower grade levels. The program was designed to be fast for teachers and students to learn within the context of the four-week session and portable for use in different learning settings. A software program was developed for pre- and post-testing.

During the summer of 2007, 500 teachers and 5,000 students participated in the ESY program. Students were assessed at the beginning and end of the four-week session.

Improvement in test scores
When pre- and post-program test scores were finally compared, students in lower grades showed a significant increase in computational skills.

"TouchMath empowered our students not only to maintain what they were able to do but also to grow and show significant progress," commented Meredith Adams. "It heartens me to no end that what we've chosen to do for our students has had that kind of impact in such a short period."

When asked if her expectations for the TouchMath EYS program had been met, she replied emphatically, "Absolutely."

Educators praise multisensory program
Thanks to the success of the 2007 ESY program, LAUSD will continue to use TouchMath during the regular school year and in their summer school programs.Teachers' comments on evaluation forms reflect tangible outcomes.

"One of my first-graders with autism was able to add for the first time using TouchMath." — Cara Zollinger, Kindergarten, First-Grade Teacher

"My students now LOVE math and don't want to stop. Yahoo!" — Stacey R. Honowitz

"We love doing something constructive for our kids. That's the bottom line." — Gloria Lopez, Director, Instructional Initiatives/LRE in the Division of Special Education

For an urban school district larger than almost half the nation's Fortune 500 companies, the bottom line is student success.

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