Anthony Holland, Principal
Carolina High School & Academy
Greenville, South Carolina
TPN: The Pitsco Network
AH: Anthony Holland
TPN: What is your background in education?
AH: I have been in education for 20 years, serving first and
always as a teacher. I have had the opportunity to work in
North Carolina, Georgia, and now in South Carolina. I have also
served as a district-level employee and a secondary school
assistant principal and am currently serving Greenville County
Schools as a high school principal (third year).
TPN: When and why was the Pitsco Algebra program
implemented at Carolina High School & Academy?
AH: The Pitsco Algebra program was implemented at Carolina
High School at the beginning of the 2008-2009 school year
because of its ability to bring a kinesthetic, hands-on approach
in learning mathematics to our students. Furthermore, it allows
our students to see the everyday uses and relevance of the
mathematics being learned in school. Our students do not ever
have to ask, “When will I ever need this?” or “Why do I have to
learn this?”, because they see it every day.
TPN: How well is the Pitsco
preparing students for the
math courses that follow in
AH: One of the best things
about this program is that it
not only prepares students
for other math classes but
for all of their courses. There
is so much cross-curricular
material involved in these
classes that the students really
get an opportunity to see how
other classes relate to each
other. Unfortunately, this is
something that some students
do not usually figure out until
their college days. However,
when specifically looking at other math classes, this program
is building a solid mathematics foundation. It meets students
where they are and then brings them all to the same point
through individualized lesson plans.
TPN: What are you and other school/district officials doing
to monitor progress with the Pitsco Algebra program?
AH: We are always collecting data. We are looking at Algebra
I end-of-course exam passing rates, class passing and failure
rates (including gender-specific rates), attendance rates,
referral/discipline rates, and many other areas also. After our
first year, we looked at the makeup of the classes and how
students were selected for these classes, even how we as a
school scheduled these classes and the setup of the lab itself.
We are continually in communication with the students and
teacher to monitor how these classes are going.
TPN: What evidence (quantitative data/results; anecdotal
info) can you point to that shows the program is effective?
AH: The evidence we have includes passing rates of the
students in these classes compared to those in our traditional
algebra classes, as well as quarterly grade reports and end-of-course exam results. Although these results were not where
we wanted them to be at the end of last year, we had to make
some adjustments to better prepare our students for this type
of learning environment. Because we have had only one full
year so far with a total of 42 students, there is more time
and data needed to make better conclusions; however, we
are excited in what we are seeing so far.
TPN: Based on your knowledge, why
do so many students struggle to
AH: Because of how abstract it is. Students
at this age level are used to things being
concrete, and now they are being
challenged to think abstractly. This is
really the students’ first look at the
properties and principles behind the
math. It is moving students from how
things work to why they work.
TPN: Why is it important
for all students to
AH: Algebra is the basic
foundation to so many
other avenues of mathematics and other
curriculums. I say this because the ability to go from thinking
concretely to thinking abstractly is a skill that can benefit any
content area. This so-called “gateway” course paves the road
to all the other branches of mathematics, and in today’s high-tech
world, these skills are needed more than ever.
TPN: How have CHS&A students performed on state
math testing the past few years?
AH: Over the past few years, our passing rate on the Algebra
I end-of-course exam has fluctuated between 57% and
64%, whereas the district and state averages have been
approximately at 79%. Thus, in this area, our students have
been performing below average. This is why we are so excited
about the Pitsco Algebra lab. Our students have far-reaching
capabilities, and we are continuing to search for and utilize the
tools they need to allow them to get there.
TPN: What are your school’s goals/strategies for
improving student performance on state math tests?
AH: Our goals and strategies generally include being
aggressive in seeking out new programs and technology that
will make our students successful; however, it always comes
down to that teacher in front of the classroom, and we are
investing a lot of time and energy into developing our math
teachers as well as providing current and relevant professional
development. More specifically, we have developed and
established an Introduction to Algebra course for those
students that are not yet prepared to enter the abstract world
of Algebra I. We look at the test scores, grades, and previous-teacher
recommendations for every freshman entering our
school to make sure that they are properly placed into a class
that will afford them the opportunity to be successful.
TPN: What factors make Pitsco’s Algebra solution an
effective teaching tool?
AH: Hands-on, relevance, and teamwork. The hands-on
experience keeps students engaged in their learning process
while the relevance of what they are learning helps them relate
it to various situations, and they have the ability to accomplish
this all through a cooperative learning experience. This
classroom is a model of most environments throughout the
business world outside of school.
TPN: Would you recommend the Pitsco Algebra program
to other administrators?
AH: Yes, I would, and matter of fact I already have. We have
had some other administrators come and visit our school and
our Pitsco lab to see what it is all about, and we told them
what it has done for us. The key is how this program models
real-world experiences while meeting students where they are
mathematically and then developing their skills and knowledge.