Week 9 (March 15-21) Chapter 7: Changing the System-Assuring Quality of Program Components

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  • 15 Mar 2013 8:44 AM
    Message # 1243357
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Reading:   page 86-92  (first half of chapter 7)

    In this chapter, Steve identifies 15 program components that he argues are critical elements that support a high-performance mathematics program.  This week, our focus is on the first 7 on the list.

    Which one causes you and your colleagues the greatest challenge?  Is there one that you feel that you would say is your greatest success?   Tell us about these.
  • 15 Mar 2013 12:40 PM
    Reply # 1243541 on 1243357
    Ruth Neagle
    Of the first 7 components, clearly the one that is extremely challenging is that of instructional time.  Leinwand states that a minimum of one hour per day of formal instruction is required for a successful high quality math program (interdisciplinary work and homework / practice would be additional time).  When I began teaching in 1995 I saw students 4 times a week for 50 minutes -- not the 300 minutes recommended, but not bad considering where we are now.  Slowly that time has been cut back over the years by schedule changes and additions.  I now see students for 1 80-minute block and 2 50-minute periods, a total of 180 minutes, and only 3 times a week.  That is little more than half the time and schedule recommended.  Every year it seems I cut something out of the curriculum in order to maintain depth and comprehension in the remaining topics. 
  • 16 Mar 2013 4:44 PM
    Reply # 1244370 on 1243357
    Robyn Graziano
    Block #1: When I read Leinwald's description of a curriculum, ours pales in comparison. It is basically a listing of the topics covered, MLR (not yet CCSS) and Student Expectations for Learning, maybe strategies for instruction and how assessed. I just came from very interesting workshop hosted by Diane Briars about implementing the Common Core and it is very apparent that my department needs to really get our act together. Which will get me to the Leadership part in a moment.

    Block #2: Instructional time. I was really surprised by the 300 minutes/week suggestion. I see most of my classes twice a week for 80 minutes and then once a week for forty minutes (total 200 minutes). My lower level freshmen I see five days a for forty minutes (200 minutes).

    Leadership: We need more time as a department. We used to have Common Prep time for our department. Leadership didn't really enforce it, so often it became another prep. When we did use it (usually just some out of the department) we did curriculum topic studies, lesson studies and classroom visits. I really enjoyed this. A co-worker and I (we have a common prep period) would also look at SAT scores to see where are students were not successful. This was very interesting work, but we could only do it when our prep time wasn't taken up by something else. Now we really need this Common Prep to get together as a department to start revamping our curriculum.
  • 16 Mar 2013 8:54 PM
    Reply # 1244474 on 1243357
    Kate St.Denis
    We have a viable curriculum, we have fabulous programs (Investigations and Mathscape), and plenty of technology. What we fail to agree on in our school is that math needs one hour of instructional time daily. What gets sacrificed with less time is exploration or activity time. Instead, lessons are delivered and then practiced. When I push for 1 hour of math daily, I am accused of believing that math is more important than other subjects, including recess. Uggh.

  • 17 Mar 2013 12:14 PM
    Reply # 1244708 on 1243357
    Tracey H.
    Of the 15 program components that he argues are critical elements that support a high-performance mathematics program...is there one that you feel that you would say is your greatest success? 

    I am pleased to say that, in my building, the majority of classes meet Steve's technological tools recommendations.  It was recommended that K-6 buildings devote 75 to 90 minutes to math, each day, last year.  I believe I heard that the time allotted for teaching math will be increased again next year. (That's two successes.)
    Which one causes you and your colleagues the greatest challenge? 

    While multiple components could be viewed as challenges,  I've decided that that of "professional development" deserves the most attention.  Because on-going professional development tends to take place outside of the school day and on a volunteer-basis, teachers (and principals) do not share a common vision of what quality mathematics instruction looks like.  A lack of shared professional development impacts most of the other components we've read about so far.  If we have not engaged in p.d. together, we will not implement curriculum the same way.  We may implement the same "what" but our "how" will look very different.  If we have not been engaged in common, recent p.d., we will not agree when choosing instructional materials.  If we have not been engaged in common, recent professional development, we will not recognize the importance of instructional connections within our mathematics program and between mathematics and other subject areas.  (We will not seek out curricular materials that focus on connections.)  If we have not engaged in common professional development, we will not recognize the importance of professional interaction and will not advocate for time devoted to analyzing common assessments that are closely aligned with curricular goals. 

    Since we can't afford to pay teachers to engage in p.d. outside of the school day, we might consider enlisting those who have volunteered their time.  Could these teachers help inform decisions?  Could we find a way to utilize their expertise in developing professional learning communities as a vehicle for common learning within our schools? On the other hand, we don't want teachers who go the extra mile to be given extra work as a result of their dedication. What are some ways districts that are short on money have recognized teachers who go above and beyond in their learning and teaching?

  • 17 Mar 2013 8:08 PM
    Reply # 1244955 on 1243357
    Jenny Jorgensen
    I like Steve's 15 program components. Of the first seven, the one that I think we are doing well with is curriculum and instructional materials (I know that's two). We have been fortunate enough to purchase materials that are mostly aligned with the CCSS.
    The place where I think we could continue to work is around how we analyze and use assessment results. I would like to see us spend more time looking at assessment results for the class as a whole. I'm not sure that we analyze the overall results and then address what we might learn about our students' knowledge and misconceptions. For example: once an assessment has been 
    , record the class results on one document, question by question. Then look for patterns and determine next steps for the students who might need them. It's the struggle with finishing a unit/chapter and moving forward with the next, knowing that some students still need more time. Thank goodness for differentiation and the steps we are taking to incorporate that into our teaching practice.

    I feel very fortunate with our length of class time. We range, in grades 5-8, with math classes that are 60 to 80 minutes long, five days a week. In reading several responses, I was surprised to see the varying times. I can't imagine K-6 math classes being shorter than one hour. I do think that language arts and math should take precedent over the other subjects at these grade levels. This last comment may ruffle some feathers but perhaps there needs to be discussion about the master schedule and determine how to re-adjust it in order for math to be at least one hour ever day at the K-8 level.
  • 18 Mar 2013 7:46 AM
    Reply # 1245262 on 1243357
    Mary Belisle
    Time continues to be a 4 letter word. I noticed that time was a challenge for many of the people that replied. In a relatively affluent district, instructional technology is available. The amount of use depends on the teacher. I use technology as much as possible and find that works well with the needs and strengths of middle school children. Teachers vary in their readiness to embrace this.
    Challenges that I find are instructional connections and the assessment. These are closely related. I hope we are moving towards greater connections. This is helped by common core implementation and Next Generation Science Standards. It requires more hand holding by other content areas to have transfer of instruction from one class to the next during the day. Assessment should include some of these connections. That helps instruction seem real. There is a place for paper and pencil and concept testing. Their should also be value placed on problem solving, explaining reasoning and presenting results. This is difficult or impossible with traditional assessment but just as important. This is a challenge.
  • 18 Mar 2013 9:43 AM
    Reply # 1245435 on 1243357
    Suzanne Carbonneau
    Time is the issue, but how we use that time is so important. I believe that we need to have a class of 30 minutes daily that is skill driven and homogeneously based. Then we need to have a 60 minute class that is the Connected Math style or problem based.  The instruction must align with Common Core Standards but in an ebbed way not so boring as this is standard RP01.01.02!
  • 18 Mar 2013 11:40 AM
    Reply # 1245533 on 1243357
    Nancy Sirois
    While reading the above posts, I can see why 60 minutes of math instruction is a challenge in middle and high school.  I hear the same here in Portland.  At the elementary level we are "required" to teach 60 minutes of math each day although I'm not sure every teacher does this.  At least it's out there. 

    I have to say that our school is meeting most of the first 7 components on the list.  We adopted a quality math program several years ago that meets NCTM standards but now we have to look closely at whether it meets Common Core Standards.  We have instructional materials and technology.  We all pretty much teach at least 60 minutes of math each day and out math program has a strong science component makes many connections to other subjects and the outside world.  We also have many assessments to check for understanding.  If I had to pick an area of challenge for our school it would be professional interaction.

    When we first adopted Trailblazer Math, we spent a great deal of time interacting and working together so that we were supporting each other.  Now that we have done this program for several years, we spend little time interacting about math.  It seems like our professional development always goes towards new programs or areas of concern.  I guess this makes the most sense but sometimes I wish we had more time to reflect and check-in with each other on the program and how to best meet the needs of all of our students.
  • 19 Mar 2013 1:31 PM
    Reply # 1246576 on 1243357
    Amy Hediger
    #1 Curriculum:  Our middle school has been working on using the common core standards and the Connected Math program to build essential standards charts for each unit.  This helps "delineate the overarching philosophy and goals of the program; present key objectives or outcomes for each grade level; provide tasks, and indicates how each will be assessed" (page 88).  This allows teachers at the same grade to level to have conversations about how to best teach each concept and allows for students to have similar experiences regardless of their teacher and be on the same pace as other students in their grade.
    #2  Instructional Technology:  Our math teachers still can't decide if and when calculator use is appropriate.  Our usual guiding question is "If we are assessing if they can do the computation then they can use them."  The group is slowly agreeing that "technology has made some mathematics obsolete" (page 89).
    #3  I really agreed with "students who complete 20-minutes of meaningful HW 4 nights per week spend over 40 additional hours per school year engaged in math tasks" (page90).  This is a fresh way to look at HW argument. 
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