Beth Hensley, Durham Public Schools instructor, teaches Compacted Math from one of NCSSM’s interactive videoconferencing studios.


Studio helps serve advanced middle schoolers

Each day, Durham Public Schools teacher Elizabeth Hensley comes to the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics campus to connect with a group of advanced middle school students at a handful of schools around Durham, thanks to NCSSM’s interactive videoconferencing studios. The partnership between the Durham schools and NCSSM offers a proof-of-concept for serving gifted kids and widening the pipeline of students ready for advanced math offerings through technology. NCSSM works with school districts across the state to provide similar services at no charge to schools, says Ross White, director of distance education at NCSSM.

This is the first year of the Durham middle school program, which aims to “support our highest math ability students transitioning from fifth to sixth grade,” explains Elizabeth Cross, director of advanced academics at Durham Public Schools. “It is a class that compacts math topics which span sixth, seventh, and eighth grades — bringing together students from across the district who are so advanced in math that they need the compacting to continue their advancement at a proper pace.”

To determine how to best serve those “high flyers,” as Cross describes the students, she identified four students who were predicted to do well in Math 1 at the highest level. But those students are enrolled at four different schools. So Durham Public Schools turned to NCSSM’s distance education studios. “The teacher is able to teach the students all at once and provide them with an amazing interactive experience,” says Cross.

The program launched during the first week of classes this fall. So far it has been a big success, says Cross. “This is empowering to the students to be able to do this on their own and connect with other students in the program. Parents are appreciative that we have identified a need and are going to great lengths to ensure that these students’ academic needs are met. The students are able to move through the curriculum at a faster pace than they would be able to do in a regular math class. At the same time, they are collaborating with others across the district. This is real twenty-first-century learning at work.”