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A Little Extra Help

Long and Levi

Steven Long and Amy Levi, Third Grade Teachers at Ridgeview Elementary School, are overseeing the RVES Math Academy.


Math Academy

After school on Wednesdays and Thursdays, a select group of students are getting extra help at the Ridgeview Elementary School Math Academy. 

“We have an excellent reading intervention program and it shows a lot of growth with our kids. But we started talking about the district incentive to work on math skills,” said Amy Levi, RVES 3rd-grade teacher, and one of the academy’s administrators.  

Principal Corey Defelice said, “We did recognize through last year’s assessment data that some kids were falling through the cracks for math. We wanted to look at how we could help.” 

RVES leadership and staff discussed options since the school doesn’t have a math interventionist. An afterschool program made sense. 

“We were in a staff meeting and people were talking about it,” Levi said. “I think that is when Corey said ‘let’s do this.’”

“Many years ago some of our teachers put together a reading program. What we’ve done here is modeled this math program after that,” said Steven Long, RVES 3rd-grade teacher, and the other academy’s administrator.

“As a new Title I school, we had our budget set up for the year,” DeFelice said. “But when the budget revision window came up after the semester break, we thought this might be a way to better use our funds. We moved money around to put a program together. 

“This idea has been kicked around for many years,” Long said. “Corey presented the vision.” 

With that vision came a desire to let staff manage the tutoring. Defelice selected Levi and Long as the staff leaders. They put the program together, found the teachers to participate. They manage the daily activities including attendance, snacks, communicating with parents and finding substitute teachers when needed, and even stepping in to teach. 

“We had a lot of front loaded conversations,” Defelice said. “They organized it and have done a great job. So when the day came, I didn’t have to be hands on. It didn’t feel like it was the first day of a program. If you walked in, you would feel like it had been running for months.

Levi and Long said their prinical’s support is one reason the program is successful. 

“There are so many times when direction comes down from high above …  a lot of times, teachers just want to teach. I feel like he has let us do that with this program,” Levi said.  


Vannessa Steenbock

Vannessa Steenbock, Third Grade Teacher at RVES, gives a mini lesson at the Math Academy.

Invitation Only 

The Math Academy is by invitation only for those students who just need a little extra help. 

Long said, “We really tried to keep those invitations based on data from the Star 360 testing, those kids that are right there, but not with their peers yet.” 

“Our thinking is, the kids that are really struggling are already getting extra help within the school day,” Levi said. “We wanted to focus on kids that need a little extra boost. A lot of times those kids can get lost in the shuffle.”

Defelice said, “We thought, where can we get the most impact for what we want to accomplish? We want to see an increase in assessment scores. More than anything we want an opportunity to close the foundational gaps, the building blocks that will carry them through math. By closing some of the gaps of the middle kids, we can get them over the hump.” 

After deciding on which students to help, the RVES staff had to come up with a plan and curriculum for the Math Academy. 

“Even teachers that are not directly involved in the Math Academy had a chance to have a say,” Levi said. “We looked at the data and from there we talked to teachers from the grade levels, and said ‘here’s what we are seeing, what are some skills you would like us to present to the students?’”

“They went and hit every one of our grade level Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). For each grade level they discussed what would make the most impact. They asked ‘what are the kids missing,’” Defelice said. “Let’s stop assuming what these kids know, at any grade level, and figure out what they actually do know and how do we fill in what they missed. If we’re going to make an impact, we have to make sure we are hitting the right things. We didn’t go with a scripted program, we looked at it individually to see what these kids actually needed.” 

The teachers working at the academy used that information, kind of needs assessment, as they created the curriculum. The typical academy session includes a mini lesson, a game and then students working with each other as the teacher then can work with individual students if needed. The program is also utilizing the concepts from the math program Mission DNA, as well as 7 Steps to a Language Rich Interactive Classroom. Both are initiatives of the school district. 

“They both work well with our program, they mesh really well. It’s the best combination I’ve ever seen,” Levi said. 

There are about 50 students in the free program, and they are divided up by grade level. Kindergarten through 2nd grade have about four students in each session. For 3rd through 5th grade, there can be up to 12 students. 

“The smaller groups provide a relaxed setting allowing for these kids to get that reinforcement of building confidence, that they can be successful,” Defelice said. 

“We wanted to make sure that the kids we did invite would love the math games we were going to play, and enjoy the activities we were going to do,” Levi said. “We wanted to make it fun, that’s why we are calling it Math Academy and not tutoring.” 

Third-grade teacher and Math Academy instructor, Stephanie Wessel said, “The students were excited from day one. They felt special for being chosen to be in the academy. Giving them support along with positive feedback, has truly changed the way they feel about math and themselves.” 

Wessel went on to say, “We all need a bit more help in one skill or another. When they come in, we 'round circle' so we can get comfortable sharing what we know and what we'd like to know better. They feel good about having the extra attention and the extra time to learn. They also work with partners, which allows them to have a little fun with math. A lot of times, children  learn better when they discuss their learning with a peer their own age.” 

The Math Academy is working according to one parent, Nina Arrieta. 

“Math has always been an area my daughter struggled with, but since being in the Math Academy I’ve noticed such a big change, her confidence,” Arrieta said. “Math homework is not a struggle like it used to be and she started catching up in class with her multiplications. When I asked Luna ‘how did Math Academy help?’ she said it helped her learn more about grouping numbers. She also went through CMAS this week the most prepared and confident I’ve ever seen her.”

Wessel agrees. “We have seen skill results, improved academic achievement, and most important of all, their own self confidence.”

“Before Math academy we were looking to retain tutoring services for our daughter and the delay was finding the money right now to make that happen,” Arrieta said. “We are so thankful for the dedication of Ridgeview’s teachers to wanting to give our kids the best possible future.” 


Stephanie Wessel

Stephanie Wessel, Third Grade Teacher at RVES, reads a math story book to students to entertain as well as to bring language skills into math.

Joel Quevillon