With School Network, SREB Will Seek Math Solutions
Birmingham-area schools focus on 8th and 9th grade math

News SREB News Release

Twelve schools in Jefferson County, Alabama, are working together to improve 8th and 9th grade math through a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation grant to the Southern Regional Education Board.

The grant is one of 19 announced today by the foundation to develop networks for school improvement in 13 states. The $3.3 million, three-year grant to SREB will also fund a second, rural improvement network, in schools to be announced in late 2018, and help build continuous improvement cycles into SREB’s school improvement work across 30 states.

In Birmingham, the goal of the Jefferson County network is to improve proficiency rates in 8th grade math and 9th grade Algebra 1 for black, Latino and low-income students.

“A poor start in high school math derails far too many students, but we can change that course if we find what works to prepare them,” said SREB President Stephen L. Pruitt. “By managing two networks — one urban and one rural — we will be able to learn and share critical lessons about improvement cycles within and across schools with similar challenges.”

As the intermediary organization managing the networks, SREB’s role is to provide convening and technical assistance to build the schools’ capacity to solve chronic problems through continuous improvement processes.

Local, Focused and Always Improving

The Gates Foundation’s Networks for School Improvement grants aim to improve specific indicators of academic success for Black, Latino and low-income students. Networks for school improvement identify a shared problem they want to work on, then analyze data to deeply understand the problem and set a specific improvement goal. Teams learn from one another as they identify promising strategies, test them, and refine in a cycle of continuous improvement.

This summer, to understand the underlying causes of poor math performance, SREB began working with Jefferson County educators to collect data and conduct focus groups with students and teachers. Teams within and across schools are harnessing the power of the network to investigate problems and share solutions. Some have begun plan-do-study-act cycles to test strategies. Over time, promising solutions will be shared across the network to gather more data and further improve them.

“We’re peeling the onion, figuring out why we’re not making progress, so teachers can find strategies for these individual students in these specific schools,” said Lauri Johnson, SREB organizational improvement director. “This is a singular opportunity to develop a continuous improvement mindset that focuses deeply on the needs of each student.”

SREB and Jefferson County have partnered since 2015 on school improvement strategies across the district’s middle and high schools.

Urban and Rural Networks for School Improvement in the SREB Region

Urban network
Jefferson County Schools
Corner High School
Corner Middle School
Minor Middle School
Minor High School
Bragg Middle School
Erwin Middle School
Gardendale High School
Oak Grove High School
Irondale Middle School
Shades Valley High School
Hueytown High School
Center Point High School

Rural network
10 schools
to be announced in late 2018

Media Contact: Beth Day
(404) 879-5544 office