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Project Title:Developing Resources and Engaging Activities to Motivate Students (DREAMS) ProjectInstitution Name:California State University, Northridge Innovation Category:Research and Regional Stewardship Project Director:Ivan Cheng, Professor & Project Director Contact Information:(818) 677-6791, ivan.cheng@csun.eduWebsite:
Project Description:An ongoing collaboration between five partners (Local District 2 of Los Angeles Unified School District; California State University, Northridge; Los Angeles Mission College; Project GRAD Los Angeles; and the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley) to address a common concern with high attrition rates among high school students due, in part, to failure in first year algebra. The initial work of the collaborative focused on decreasing high school attrition by promoting student success in algebra. The students who participated in DREAMS consisted of a representative sample of eighth grade algebra students who were not proficient in mathematics as sixth and seventh graders.
  • Provide rigorous mathematics instruction that focuses on student learning rather than content coverage
  • Provide instruction in study skills and leadership skills to math teachers
  • Engage teachers in collaborative lesson design using a model of professional learning called the Responsive Teaching Cycle (RTC).
  • Increase student success in algebra
  • Strengthen ties between the university and local public schools

•    In the implementation phase of the Project, measurable student outcomes consisted of improved course grades in algebra and standardized test scores. The first indicator of student success was based on grade comparisons between those students who participated in DREAMS and those who did not. A second measure of student outcomes was improved scores in LAUSD’s quarterly benchmark assessments. 

•    Students who participated in the DREAMS Project scored significantly higher than their pre-algebra classmates who did not participate in DREAMS.  At the same time, the DREAMS students’ scores were brought much closer to that of the algebra students who were already proficient or advanced upon entering the eighth grade.

Challenges/Problems Encountered:The success of the program made it clear that the future scaling up of the DREAMS Project requires well trained facilitators who possess strong leadership skills. Such skills are essential in providing guidance to participants without stifling the creative energy of teachers. Second, senior administrators are essential in the operations of such a project, from conceptualization to preparation to implementation. Without their active support, many essential tasks would have received lower priority and resulted in poor implementation. 
Evaluation Approach:Following the implementation of the DREAMS Project, a diagnostic assessment was given to representative eighth grade students at three middle schools. The assessment consisted of 20 items selected from the released questions of the California High School Exit Examination. In addition, pre- and post-tests were administered to participating students using the Mathematics Diagnostic Testing Project (MDTP) Algebra Readiness test.
Potential for Replication:A key implication of these lessons learned is that a collaborative project such as DREAMS must gain the unequivocal support of senior administrators from each partner institution. Their confidence in the project design provides the necessary motivation for personnel to carry out all of the essential tasks of this project. Another key implication from the lessons learned is that reallocation of resources must be made in order to carry out an effective project implementation. A final key implication is that creative approaches for improving student achievement are possible when partners are empowered to do so.
AASCU Resources:An additional contact is Jolene Koester, president of CSU Northridge from 2000 to 2011, and who led the institution during the time in which this initiative was implemented. She can be reached at jolene.koester@csun.edu. 
CEO-to-CEO Contact:Dianne F. Harrison , Presidentdianne.harrison@csun.edu
(818) 677-2121
Date Published: Tuesday, November 15, 2011Date Revised: Friday, January 13, 2012