Team of the Year: The PCHS Math Department
Congratulations to The Math Department, Pine Creek's Team of the Year, for their success in launching the PAL Lab!
Launching Something Extraordinary
In the fall of 2017 PCHS teachers April Pierce, Ty Clark, Chris Kintz, and Melony Black began looking at creative ways schools and districts were supporting students in math learning. "We did (already) have several Lab-type classes kids could sign up for, but we noticed that the students in those classes weren't benefitting - there wasn’t an improvement in their scores," said math teacher, Ty Clark.
Clark said there were a couple schools the team found that had already started tutoring centers for students, not just in math but other subjects as well. "We wanted to be able to target individual students for what they needed," said Clark. After investigating several models, the team elected to implement one that used peer-assisted learning. The PCHS PAL (Peer Assisted Learning) Lab opened for students in the fall of 2018.
Who can use the PAL Lab?
Algebra 1 students who do not find success during regular class time or at home, get a pass to go to the PAL Lab during their Study Hall to receive tutoring. "The thought was that if we had a dedicated place in the building (to do ongoing tutoring) and then coordinated with Study Hall and Guided Study Hall classes, we would be able to pull struggling students during the school day and give them targeted help,“ said Clark.
Algebra 1 has been the primary focus of the PAL Lab during its inaugural year given that Algebra is often described as the "gateway" into college mathematics. However, students seeking to clarify questions about homework or receive guidance when completing missing work for math classes at any level -- Algebra 1 through Calculus -- have been able to "drop in" to the Lab. Students can also make up missed assessments during the school day by using the PAL Lab.
"I love that that my students can get help at lunch and that they don’t have to try to hunt me down so they can make up a test they've missed," said Geometry teacher, Jeff Keller. "And my geometry test averages are higher than they were last year! I’m REALLY excited to see what my geometry students will be like next year since students have received so much additional support in Algebra this year."
How does the tutoring work?
The PAL Lab is staffed each period by the PAL Lab Coordinator as well as another math teacher from the department. The tutoring itself, however, is led by a group of trained students with the support of math faculty.
At the start of each Algebra 1 unit, the PAL Lab Coordinators, Chris Kintz and Brooke Sargent-Stanley review the content and methods for understanding upcoming material with student tutors, training the tutors on how to support students. The tutors then spend their time in the Lab providing support on course material and homework for their peers, as needed.
Much of the success of the PAL Lab is due to the hard work and dedication of Mr. Kintz and Ms. Sargent-Stanley. In addition to training 50+ tutors, they identify students who need help, arrange test makeups, coordinate with interventionists and classroom teachers, and manage the day-to-day operations of the PAL Lab.
What has the impact of PAL Lab been thus far?
With more than four thousand visits to the Lab since the start of the school year, it is clear that the Pine Creek High School Math Department has created a resource that students feel comfortable accessing.
Teachers have observed that the program not only benefits the tutees, but benefits the tutors as well. "Calculus students who have helped in the Lab have become much stronger," observed Ty Clark. In addition to improving tutors' skills, assisting in the PAL Lab has also increased tutors' confidence "The thing I've enjoyed most," said department member Sandra Sparrow, "is watching former students become the tutors and to see them come out out of their shell. That's been reall cool to see!"
Aside from continuing to improve the math skills and confidence of tutees and tutors, the PAL Lab also continues to empower students to take charge of their own learning; to identify concepts they don't understand and proactively seek out help. "We want to teach them the word 'yet,' " said Jeff Keller. "When they (students) say, 'I don’t get it… ,' we want them to replace that with, 'I don’t get it - yet.' "
What do students think?
Students who have received tutoring in the PAL Lab have said, "They (the tutors and teachers) are nice, funny, and helpful," that, "it helps to learn when taught by a student," and that they appreciate that there are, "always people there to help!"
Please join us in honoring The Pine Creek High School Math Department, educators with a devotion to helping students succeed in math so that they have the skills to succeed in life:
Pine Creek High School Math Department | #ThereIsNoSubstitute