Local program shows promise in improving state test scores
by Special to the Banner
Feb 03, 2013 | 992 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
OCOEE MIDDLE SCHOOL students surround teacher Renee Brown, left center, standing with state Rep. Kevin Brooks and Eddie Brown. Together the Browns, a husband and wife team, developed a quiz system to help students learn basic facts.
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A locally developed software program is helping students move basic information from short-term to long-term memory and is increasing TCAP scores. State Rep. Kevin Brooks (District 24) recently observed students using the Chem21 program at Ocoee Middle School and was impressed.

“It was a thrill to visit Mrs. Brown’s classroom to see firsthand how her students were eager to learn math. That’s correct. The word eager is not a typo,” says Brooks with enthusiasm. “I saw with my own eyes great students energized to learn, and eager take the math quizzes they had prepared for in class. The sign on Mrs. Brown’s wall says it best: ‘Timed, repetitive quizzes transform Learning into Knowledge.’ “

The Chem21 System created by local educators Dr. Eddie Brown and his wife, Renee, delivers two products via the Internet: an online lab submission program and timed/repetitive quizzes. Dr. Brown developed the Chem21 online lab submission program in 2005 to automatically grade submitted lab reports. It is currently being used by over 9,000 students in 15 colleges and universities, including John Hopkins University, Auburn University, University of Kentucky, and Lee University.

However, it is their timed/repetitive quizzes (TRQs) that promise exciting results in educating students on the primary and secondary levels. These quizzes are part of an online flashcard system that can be assigned by the teacher and customized for the students with the purpose of creating and building knowledge. Dr. Brown created the TRQ’s that have been used in chemistry courses at Lee University since 2005 with remarkable outcomes, and they were recently introduced in Renee Brown’s sixth-grade math class with outstanding results.

For her 2011-12 math class, Brown created over 4,000 sixth-grade questions about math vocabulary and basic math concepts. Chem21 donated 25 classroom computers to provide online access to the program. Throughout the school year, the students devoted 20 percent of their class time to taking the TRQs, and the results were significant. The percentage of students in this class performing at the proficient/advanced level increased 19.7 percent from their grade 5-6 year, and since some of the students were already performing at the proficient/advanced level, the increase was actually 35 percent. In addition, the percentage of students in Brown’s class achieving a proficient/advanced level are notably higher than that of the sixth-grade average in the state and county.

Through repetitive quizzing, a student is forced to retrieve and apply information, and eventually that information is stored in his long-term memory and can be used to process other new information and enable him to think critically. The TRQ imitates one-on-one tutoring, provides immediate feedback, and uses time as a motivator for students.The repeated exposure to the material and multiple assignments of the same TRQs over the course of days, weeks, and months cause the information to move from the short-term into the long-term memory.

The future looks bright. To continue the development of the program two things are needed: the creation of more content and the delivery of the quizzes to the students via the Internet. Chem21 is seeking both public and private grants to fund the building of TRQ content in a wide array of subjects from kindergarten to medical school. Additionally, in order to offer the content free of charge to the students, they are considering displaying advertisements on the multiple Web pages each student uses daily in the form of non-click-thru impression logos. The possibilities are endless, and the Browns intend to move forward to achieve excellence for students through an approach that is full of potential. As for Brooks, he is solidly behind the program: “I saw it folks; it’s really working in this class!”

The TRQ program offers inviting benefits to the teacher as well as the student. It grades the quizzes, maintains records, and generates reports. The teacher has the freedom to choose the quizzes, select the questions, customize the assignments, and create the perimeters of time and scoring.

In Mrs. Brown’s sixth-grade class during the 2011-12 school year, the TRQ program graded more than 5 million questions. During the first semester of this year, TRQ has graded 175,000 quizzes of the 140 math enrichment students.

Renee Brown now teaches a 50-minute math enrichment class. Every Monday, students file into her class, sit down, and begin taking a series of 8-10 quizzes that she has designated for the week. Some of the quizzes are review quizzes, and some of them cover new material. After the students view their assignment and click on a quiz, they may study the information on the screen prior to testing. They then click to take the timed quiz of 10 questions randomly chosen from a large pool of questions.

There are three options available for the student to complete each quiz. Ideally, he or she will get 10/10 answers correct within the time limit, illustrating he knows the material. If a student cannot answer all of the questions correctly within the time limit, he must answer 10/10 of the questions correctly on 10 quizzes with no time limit. This gives him time to look up the information as he needs to, and he is learning the material throughout the process. His final option is to take the quiz an unlimited number of times in order to accumulate a certain number of correct points (for example, 150). Once he reaches that number, he is done.

This process is repeated for each quiz that is assigned for the day. Since a student places great value on his time, this is the currency with which he is rewarded: the better he knows the material, the less time he must spend on it. This is a great motivator because each progressive option costs him more time. Enough questions are stored in the quiz bank that the students are learning the material, not memorizing answers. However, questions that are answered incorrectly are weighted so they appear more frequently until they are mastered.