When High-Quality Instruction Meets a High-Quality Math Curriculum

Donthan, Alabama


Houston County Public Schools had always prided itself on its students’ consistently strong math scores on the statewide assessments. But a change in the way Alabama administered its state assessment tests in 2021 — switching from pencil and paper to a computer-based format — had the district questioning its instructional approach after learning it received its lowest proficiency scores in many years.

“When we got our test scores back that year, we were shocked,” said Brandi Paramore, instructional programs coordinator. “It was not what we were wanting to see. We realized very quickly that perhaps we were not instructing our students throughout the year the way that they were going to be assessed at the end of the year.”

Houston county schools

In order to address the lower test scores, district administrators conducted a search for a new, high-quality curriculum that would complement the expertise of its staff and provide students with what they would need to develop higher proficiency in their math skills. In the end, they selected Savvas Learning Company’s enVision® Mathematics.

After just one year of implementing this new Savvas curriculum, along with strong teacher support and professional development, Houston County was ranked the number one county district in 2022 based on Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program (ACAP) results.

A Need for Change

What prompted the need for a new, blended, standards-aligned K-12 math curriculum arose in April of 2021 when the state of Alabama released its annual ACAP summative assessment using the new computer-based format. And while the state had offered a portal for students to practice the new format well in advance of the test, Houston County leadership believed that it wasn’t enough practice, and the new testing format led to lower scores, particularly in math.

That year was also the first year the state resumed testing students after the pandemic. While district leaders like Joshua Robertson recognized that learning loss from years of disrupted education contributed to lower test scores, they also believed that students could be better prepared — not just for the new state test but also for a technology-focused future — if they had the right digital instructional resources.

Houston county schools

“The things that are worth doing are hard, and it's a lot easier to blame other things than to look at what we're doing and how we're doing it and if there are better ways that we can do it to meet the needs of our students,” Robertson said. “At this point, we're moving on from COVID and the effects of that, and we're focusing on what our future is and providing the best opportunity for our students.”

In that same year, Houston County was due to adopt a new math curriculum, so they looked into resources that would help them teach the state standards using a more technology-based approach. enVision was already being used with success by neighboring districts, so, after a thorough curriculum process, they decided to adopt the award-winning K-12 math series, which has earned all-green ratings from EdReports.

enVision not only included many tech-based features they were looking for, which would give students the practice they needed to take the new state assessment, but they also found its lessons to be engaging, rigorous, interactive, and very closely aligned to the Alabama state standards.

“With enVision, it blends in the rigor with step-by-step ways on how to learn,” said Houston County high school math teacher Kevin Collins. “We go into deeper conversations, especially with the homework and the word problems. It's harder on the kids, but if you're a teacher who knows what you're doing, you work your way into it.”

Learn more about enVision Mathematics.


Implementing enVision Mathematics

In order to maximize their investment in this new program, district leaders designed a strategic and intentional plan for implementation that included a lot of teacher support.

They kicked off year one of implementation with a full day of training from Savvas consultants who came into the district and did an in-person, detailed walkthrough of the various features in enVision. Both Brandi, the district’s instructional programs coordinator, and Joshua the secondary curriculum and instruction director did not want to overwhelm their teachers with trying to use each and every feature in the program all at once, so they chose the pieces that they felt matched their most-urgent needs and focused on those first.

“We said, ‘Hey guys, let's bring your attention to some of the things that we think are going to bring you the most bang for your buck, the most beneficial lessons. Let's start slow And once we get these under our belt, let's start adding in more,’” said Brandi.

After the initial training with Savvas, Brandi partnered with the district’s instructional programs department, as well as its secondary and elementary curriculum directors to provide smaller, more-targeted training for teachers.

Houston county schools

Brandi and her team also held meetings with classroom teachers, by grade level, where they went through the lessons in enVision to decide which ones matched their state standards best. They then built a pacing guide according to the skills that were most matched with what would be covered on their state assessment.

Aside from the planning meetings and trainings, Brandi continues to provide support on an individual level for teachers seeking guidance. Math teachers like Kevin say that whenever they has a question, Brandi will immediately respond and provide the help they need.

“It's a lot easier when you have a good curriculum and good personnel helping you,” Kevin said.

Seeing Growth

enVision was implemented throughout the district at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year, and by the end of that school year, ACAP math scores increased in percentage points across grades 3 through 12 — in some grades the scores increased by double digits. Houston County Schools was also ranked the highest county system in the state in 2022 and the second highest in 2023.

Houston county schools

“We're matching high-quality materials with the already high-quality instruction that's taking place. And I think that's why we've seen improvements in our test scores,” said Joshua. “All of that is directly related to the quality of instruction that our students are receiving day to day, but then simultaneously the program comes in and empowers those already great teachers to be even better.”

Joshua is looking forward to watching the students continue on this path of growth over the next few years. He’s also looking forward to continuing to support teachers like Kevin, who says he gets “excited” and “pumped up” about the work they’re doing with the students and enVision.

“I want my students to know I got their back. If they believe in that, I think they'll try their best for me,” said Kevin, noting that he wants to give his students the best chances to be successful and that involves giving them the best “equipment,” or instructional materials. “And I do think enVision is one of those pieces of equipment (each student) needs.”

Houston County School District


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