UMBC’s comprehensive partnership with Lakeland School boosts math performance

UMBC’s partnership with Lakeland Elementary and Middle School in Baltimore has grown steadily over the last five years, and it bore measurable results this spring: Lakeland performed much above the Baltimore City average, and slightly better than the state average, on the math portion of the PARCC, Maryland’s state test. While less than 20 percent of students in Baltimore passed, almost 50 percent of Lakeland students did, and Lakeland saw big improvements from the previous year. Everyone involved agrees the partnership with UMBC played a major role in the achievements.

“This is not your average partnership,” Carly Harkins, Lakeland math teacher, shared with The Baltimore Sun in a feature story that appeared on the front page. “This is my 16th year teaching, and I’ve never seen anything where the schools are so connected in so many ways.”

The relationship includes professional development for Lakeland teachers, especially around how to use testing data to guide instruction to more effectively address students’ learning gaps. In collaboration with Northrop Grumman, a $1.6 million STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) center is currently under construction, and STEAM activities, like family nights at the school, are already taking place. Lakeland students attend UMBC basketball games and special events like the “Hour of Code,” which focuses on computer science, and there are summer and after-school enrichment programs for students and parents. Last year, the partnership expanded to include a math coaching program, where UMBC students travel to Lakeland and work with small groups of students during the school day.

“We love the term math coaching, because not only are we there to help build the skills and help students develop their math processing, but it’s a lot about building a culture of math and STEM at Lakeland,” Josh Michael ’10, political science and education, and assistant director of UMBC’s Sherman STEM Teachers Scholars Program, told Sheilah Kast on WYPR’s On the Record. “A coach may pump you up or help motivate you, and that’s the way we approach math and STEM in our partnership.”

Many of the 26 coaches this year are Sherman scholars, while others are STEM or education majors who have an interest in giving back to the community. Michael says the goal of the scholars program is to develop “culturally responsive and compassionate” teachers. Several are Spanish speakers, which is helpful at Lakeland, where 48 percent of students are Hispanic and one-third of students are English language learners.

A few former coaches are now teachers at Lakeland, such as Jasper Barnes ’17, interdisciplinary studies, whom the students refer to simply as “Coach.” Whether a math coach pursues a career at Lakeland or not, they’re “having an awesome experience in a community school, and they’re contributing to the learning needs and learning engagement of the young people at Lakeland,” Michael told WYPR.

The benefits radiate in every direction. “Some of these children one day should be able to come to UMBC and then go on to work at Northrop Grumman,” President Freeman Hrabowski told the Sun. “It’s almost like an ecosystem that goes all the way from early education through a career.”

“It’s an incredible program and an incredible partnership with UMBC,” shared Lakeland principal Najib Jammal with CBS Baltimore. “It’s the difference of the students getting that extra support and building that confidence to feel like they can be successful in the classroom and in life.”

Learn more in the complete coverage:
UMBC students coach Lakeland Elementary/Middle School students with positive results (Baltimore Sun)
A partnership ignites a STEM spark (WYPR’s On the Record)
UMBC partnering with Baltimore school to improve students’ math skills (CBS Baltimore)

Image: UMBC students volunteer at Lakeland. Photo by Marlayna Demond ’11 for UMBC.