How Engagement Initiatives Are Leading to Math Growth at Port Byron Central School District

Port Byron, NY


Educators know that when students are engaged, learning becomes more meaningful and memorable. And when families are also engaged with their child’s learning at home, the benefits can greatly impact that child’s growth. But knowing the most effective ways to engage students and families can be difficult. The staff members at Port Byron Central School District in Upstate New York, however, have a few strategies that are clearly working for them.

“We are making strides in motivating, not just the students, but also the parents and the guardians,” said Port Byron fifth grade teacher Laurie Mosley. “We have teachers here who truly care about students understanding what they're learning, and understanding the worth of an education.”

Port Byron Schools

Those strategies are now leading to positive results. From 2022 to 2023, the percentage of the district's students showing proficiency in math increased by 29 percent in grade 5; 26 percent in grade 7; and 29 percent in grade 8 — all of which exceeded the state average, according to data released by the New York State Education Department.

These large increases can be attributed to the combination of teacher support, the adoption of a high-interest math program from Savvas Learning Company, and increased communication to families. With these key elements working together, the leadership at Port Byron has seen an uptick in engagement from students, parents, and teachers that has now also led to academic growth.

Teacher Engagement and Support

In fall of 2022, Port Byron adopted Savvas Learning Company’s supplemental math program, SuccessMaker, as a way to close learning gaps through personalized differentiated instruction. Administrators knew that this adaptive program was full of features that would help students catch up, but the teachers would need time and guidance to get familiar with all the components.

SuccessMaker® Math is an adaptive personalized learning experience for all students in grades K-8 that adjusts to student performance in real time. Students work on content from multiple math strands in each session so they build math confidence in working on areas of strength and instructional needs. Teachers receive up-to-the-minute instructional insights on student mastery and growth so they know exactly where students need more support.

Curriculum Director Katie Naples, who was in charge of leading that task, said, “If you just throw everything at them all at once, they’re not going to learn anything well … so I helped them slowly ease into SuccessMaker.

To get her teachers familiar with the program, Katie, over the summer, introduced them to My Savvas Training, a one-stop training website with tutorials, videos, user guides, and more that comes with the purchase of SuccessMaker. She then scheduled a SuccessMaker professional development training with a Savvas consultant right before the school year started, which she said was very helpful because it was fresh on teachers’ minds going into the new year with a new program.

Port Byron Schools

Recognizing that for any program implementation to be successful it is important for district leaders to support their teachers, Katie also took time to fully explore SuccessMaker on her own. Knowing that some teachers might not have time to discover its many different features, she then created step-by-step documents and infographics that highlighted those features. She also developed several short videos that addressed questions she got from her teachers as they used more of the program.

“Just giving them little bite-sized nuggets along the way, these little videos — or little ‘tips and tricks’ is what I called them — that was huge. So it didn’t feel like the weight of the world was on their shoulders,” she said.

Learn More About Successmaker® Math


Engaging Students and Seeing Growth

As an administrator, Katie believes that by supporting her teachers and helping them become engaged, there would be a better chance that their students would also become more engaged.

Now, she said, “The teachers are really taking it to the next level.”

One example is Laurie Mosley. While making math engaging can be a challenge, she goes above and beyond to make it exciting for her students because she knows that if they’re engaged, they’re learning.

Port Byron Schools

“I like to make sure that they have lots of time for getting up and out of their seats and doing activities or working with a partner,” she said. “So I make every effort to make sure that math is as fun as it can be, because if you can get their buy-in, it's so much easier to get them motivated.”

Laurie feels that SuccessMaker is helping her engage her students who are struggling in math and get them excited about it. Not only does she like that the program is designed to meet students where they are and then provide that targeted, personalized, adaptive instruction to help move them forward, but it does it in a way that is fun and interesting for them. Students work on automaticity with Speed Games, develop conceptual understanding with real-world multi step performance tasks, and build problem-solving skills with Technology Enhanced Items (TEIs), such as drag-and-drop and graphing.

SuccessMaker and the way that it's presented to students is very engaging. It's bright, it's colorful, it's interesting. So it does catch more students than maybe some other programs I've used,” she said.

In fact, all of the nineteen students in Laurie’s class have shown at least one year’s worth of growth since working with SuccessMaker, with the exception of one student who was just shy of a year’s worth at .77.

“Those reports from SuccessMaker are super important because it helps us to see, ‘Okay, yeah, that did work. Oh my gosh, look how much this kid grew,’” she said. “And it's just exciting. It's really exciting to see how SuccessMaker has motivated the kids to make these incredible gains.”

Katie, the curriculum director, came up with the idea to hand out awards to students who use SuccessMaker to help encourage them and get them excited about their work. She looks at the reports she gets from the program and prints out certificates for students who, for example, spent the most time on SuccessMaker, or got the most correct answers that month.

“I go to classrooms and pull out students and say, ‘Hey, you won the SuccessMaker award for this month!’ And they're so excited,” she said. “And we put their picture up on our digital display board because I want them to know that the work that they're doing matters and that we see that and we're acknowledging it.”

Port Byron Schools

Engaging Families and Relieving Stress

Another important initiative at Port Byron is ensuring that families are informed about and engaged in their child’s learning. They believe that when students feel supported at school and at home, there can be many benefits to their academic success.

Katie hears a lot from parents, however, that they don’t know how to help their child with math because they aren’t confident in their own knowledge of the subject. But SuccessMaker has many built-in support features that can assist students when they use it at home, so it relieves that anxiety parents might feel about not being able to help.

“When students go home, I want them to have something that they can sit down at the table with next to their family and say, ‘I'm working on this. It's at my level. Look at all the great things I can do,’” said Katie. “And this parent doesn't have the stress of having to teach that concept to their child because that's what SuccessMaker is made for, for them to have an adaptive experience and be able to do it with or without help from their parents.”

Port Byron Schools

Teacher Laurie makes sure to send out messages to families often about what their children are working on through SuccessMaker and how often. She really tries to stress the importance of using it at home, as well. She recalled one student’s grandmother really taking that message to heart.

“Her grandchild was struggling in math and having a difficult time,” she said. “I really felt like it was going to be a great resource for not only me, but at home for kids. So I shared that with the grandmother and she said, ‘Well, I'm going to have him on that every week.’ And I said, ‘Well, that's just great. I'm going to have him on [SuccessMaker] here too. So we'll see what happens.’ [The student ended up making] two and a half years of progress. That's just astounding.”

The educators at Port Byron are seeing real results, both through their own initiatives and with the strategic, intentional use of SuccessMaker. Katie said the district wants to keep momentum going and looks forward to seeing how SuccessMaker can continue to help Port Byron's teachers further increase students’ math gains.

“It's not a magic wand,” she said. “It's going to take time to really see a change in percentages for test scores. And that's okay. We're ready to keep going and keep moving and giving kids what they need.”

Port Byron Central School District


Savvas Solutions at Port Byron Central School District: