'Optimal Match' Methods Help New York City Kids Excel By Christine Rowett A group of seventh- and eighth-grade students in Brooklyn, N.Y., will receive high school credit in mathematics as a result of an affiliation with the Center for Talented Youth's Optimal Match program. Last month 57 of the students passed the Regents I exam, which is normally taken in high school. And in an unprecedented move by the New York City Board of Education, Chancellor Ramon Cortines agreed to award high school credit to those who qualified. Under the Optimal Match program, which has been in place in Brooklyn's school district 22 for the past three years, students are taught math at their individual abilities, paces and levels of learning, said Luciano Corazza, CTY director of academic programs. The teachers were initially instructed in Optimal Match teaching methods during training sessions at Hopkins. The program is currently in place in all five elementary schools in district 22 and serves more than 800 students. Using Optimal Match methods, teachers involve both students who excel in math and those who are learning at their current grade level, said Lila Edelkind, director of gifted and talented programs for district 22. "The program was designed to allow each student to find a comfortable pace at which he or she learns mathematics," she said. Many students, Edelkind said, are working with materials designed for classes two and three years ahead of them. One sixth-grade student in district 22 is currently studying ninth-grade math, she said. District 22 superintendent John Comer is a strong supporter of Optimal Match teaching and was instrumental in getting the board of education to allow the students to earn Regents credit. "It was extremely important for the children that we identified their work," Comer said. "They were saying, 'I'm breaking my neck doing all this work and what's the sense?'" Comer hopes to implement Optimal Match methods in other subjects throughout the schools in district 22. "Educators talk about individualizing education, and teaching children one-on-one is a great discussion," he said. "The Optimal Match is taking that discussion and putting it in action. "It tells this educator what I've always believed, and that is that children can accomplish so much more than we give them credit for," he added. Edelkind said both Optimal Match teachers and students were happy with the outcome of the Regents exam. "We were really very pleased with the demonstrated ability," she said. "This was really the opportunity for them to show what they knew." In June, many of the students will take the Regents II exam, which includes some high school geometry, she said. Dr. Corazza said the Optimal Match project has been expanded to include learning disabled students. It may be implemented in Maryland schools soon, he said. "We have had some discussion with some of the schools in Baltimore County," Dr. Corazza said. "We'll see what happens next."
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