Week 10 (March 22-28) Chapter 7: Changing the System: Assuring Quality of Program Components (Part 2)

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  • 24 Mar 2013 6:30 AM
    Message # 1250423
    Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Reading:  pp 92-99 Chapter 7 continues
    pp 120-121 "Changing the System:  Tidy Events and Messy Processes"


    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 remaining 8 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.

    What specific action(s) can you take to strengthen at least one of the components on page 99 in your classroom, school, or district?

  • 25 Mar 2013 7:26 AM
    Reply # 1251069 on 1250423
    Mary Belisle
    A strength that our district has is ongoing meetings for professional development. We have weekly meetings time set aside to discuss curriculum and instruction. This can be the greatest benefit to effective teaching. People share what is going well and what kinds of things can be implemented to help students learn.

    A concern in every district, ours included, is the lack of professional development money available for conferences. It is important to climb out of your own 'frog pond' to see what is going on in the vast sea of humanity.

    Something that pleasantly surprised me was the sections on leveling. This agreed philosophically with what is going on here.No students is denied access to rich curriculum. On the other hand , it can look different at different levels.
  • 27 Mar 2013 5:58 AM
    Reply # 1252665 on 1250423
    Nancy Sirois
    For our school, our greatest challenges are Professional Development and Resource  Personnel and Leadership.  It seems that, in today's culture, if you are a struggling or failing school, you get money for development and personnel to get you back on track.  If you are successful or are making AYP, you're on your own.  I'm proud to say that my school is doing well.  We have made some changes on our own that have made a difference.  The problem is that we are the poorest school in our district.  We have no professional development money at all.  What we want to work on, we do the professional development ourselves.  We provide RTI for our students and there is little or no support staff to work with students with math.  It's all on us, the classroom teacher, to provide support and work with students who may be struggling. 

    I know it's our job to meet the needs of all of our students but providing that extra support can be a challenge.  I actually meet with several students an hour early 3 times a week to work on math. It's the only way I could truly work on those areas of need and provide support to meet RTI expectations.

    Overall, I think our school is successful because we have taken change seriously and have incorporated these components into culture.  What we need to work on is providing continued professional development that doesn't just feel like a throw away.  Professional development needs to be consistent, informed and not a feel like a waste of time.  It needs to support change but also respect the needs and time of all of the teachers involved.  I think we do a pretty good job overall but at times the focus gets a bit fuzzy and we need to get back on track.
  • 27 Mar 2013 3:50 PM
    Reply # 1253112 on 1250423
    Julia Levensaler
    We've done a good job of minimizing tracking and leveling while still using flexible grouping and collaborative teaching when it's appropriate in order to meet the needs of students. 

    This year we've added a math coach to our district staff and I think that has been a strong move in the right direction for resource personnel and leadership. BEing part of this book study has really helped me work on being better trained for effective supervision in math. 

    An area we need to work on is monitoring programs. We know our current program isn't working for our current students but we have not done a good job over the years of collect data about specific groups and studying why it isn't working and what type of program would be better. As we move to adopt a new program district-wide we must improve in this area.   

  • 28 Mar 2013 10:17 AM
    Reply # 1253704 on 1250423
    Deleted user



    Even though PLCs have been implemented K-12 and the district hired math and literacy coaches for grades 5-12, professional development is still my district’s biggest challenge.  There is no money for teachers to go to conferences or to pay for subs for release time. I see us falling further and further behind the times with no plan for catching up.


    Another of my district’s challenges is the monitoring of programs. The district is “data poor”. Decisions are not made based on data. The discussions that would happen from Steve’s questions in this section would be very powerful with teachers and with administrators.



    The most successful component in my district is “Intervention and student Support”. This is due more to dedicated teachers who go above and beyond for their students every day then it is having a district-wide, articulated intervention program. In the past, each building developed their own RTI process and followed through with various levels of success. This year, principals developed a district-wide RTI process. We are moving in a positive direction with this piece.



    In my math coach role, I need to be asking some of the monitoring questions when I have discussions with teachers. Also, I have tried to elicit more support from administration and have had varying degrees of success.  I usually am verbally supported and on rare occasions financially supported. The people making decisions do not necessarily know or understand the latest educational research and they need to be kept informed by those people who work with students every day. I need to work on being more vocal with my messaging.

  • 30 Mar 2013 9:34 AM
    Reply # 1254959 on 1250423
    Tracey H.
    Which one causes you and your colleagues the greatest challenge? As was the case last week, I'm finding it difficult to select one; most of this week's components are related.  I'm thinking that Administrative Understanding and Support is the component, that, if addressed, would provide the biggest bang for our buck.  As Steve says, "Administrators play a key role in encouraging and supporting teachers who are struggling to change old practices and adopt new practices." A supportive administration would ensure that professional interaction takes place, professional growth is ongoing, curriculum is aligned and implemented and specialists are utilized in such a way that they make a difference for learners.
    Is there one that you feel that you would say is your greatest success? Tell us about these. I can name two: 1)Tracking and Leveling: At the elementary level, we do a good job of providing most students" access to a rich and demanding mathematics program".  (We can do a better job, though, of becoming more purposeful in planning flexible grouping experiences, however, in order to meet individual needs.) 2) Professional Supervision and Evaluation: For a long time, classroom observation was casual and infrequent except for new teachers.  We now have a comprehensive plan in place. Each teacher will receive feedback when it is his/her year in the cycle.

    What specific action(s) can you take to strengthen at least one of the components on page 99 in your classroom, school, or district? As an interventionist, I can advocate for high quality, differentiated instruction in all mainstream classrooms and advocate for an alternative to the constant learning time model we have in place.  Currently, students who need support miss instructional time to get support. One idea I shared with my principal was that of flexible scheduling.  Perhaps interventionists could work with students during after school hours, instead of during the school day so that interventions would be supplemental rather than taking the place of other instruction.

  • 31 Mar 2013 5:52 PM
    Reply # 1255700 on 1250423
    Jenny Jorgensen
    A strength in our district is Resource Personnel and Leadership. I say this because we are fortunate to have people in several positions that are support staff who help with students' programs. We have an instructional strategist who does testing for special education, schedules and facilitates meetings, and provides teachers with advice when requested.  We also have a math and a literacy lead teachers. The role of these positions is to provided "in class professional development" to classroom teachers and to guide teachers as they learn about new curricular materials and the CCSS. The Lead teachers also provide the Tier 2 support for the RTI process.
    Something from the second half of Steve list that we could improve is probably the monitoring of programs, specifically the RTI progress monitoring. I don't feel as though what we are currently using aligns with the support that is being provided to the students. We have been looking at the whole RTI process this year with the hope of tightening up the process.
    A specific action that I could take to strengthen the alignment of our instructional materials would be to continue the push that I've been making to make sure that the district budget includes enough money to purchase CMP3, which has been revised to align with the CCSS.  I've been informing the staff who teach math, about the CCSS Math content and practices. I've provided the teachers with feedback about which practices they are using in their instruction. We've had discussions at our Learning Area meetings that happen about four times a year. With the purchase of CMP3, we can continue our focus on the CCSS standards and practices using materials that align with the expectations of the CCSS document.  Another item from the list on pg. 99, that I'm also going to be working is helping teachers use the printable tasks from Smarter Balance. I'd like them to take advantage of the formative assessment opportunities that these tasks offer. It's also a great resource for professional development and discussions with colleagues.
  • 31 Mar 2013 7:13 PM
    Reply # 1255734 on 1250423
    Maureen Brown
    I feel as though our school  can consider one of the goals as both a celebration as well as an albatross! The goal of tracking and leveling can be seen as a positive tool in our class rooms since it allows the students to work from where they are proficient and receive instruction, have time to practice and also opportunity to become proficient with in the standards. The students can progress at a pace that works for them, can question their peers, can watch videos and take assessments when they are ready. The students are heterogeneously grouped on each team - but the teachers use the NWEA to level the students.

    In theory this is a utopian design. Of course there are those students who can move on at their own pace, who have parents who keep track of progress, and who have a good math background that allows them to build on previous learning. Those students who are less fortunate, who do not have the intrinsic motivation to find someone who can explain the work to them do not move as quickly, consider themselves "dumb" and become stuck in the rut of not being able to move around the standard. We need to make certain that flexible groups can be created to help with instruction. We need to provide interesting lessons and tasks that allow these children to engage with the math that they are learning. Videos are great but they lose their excitement after the third straight day. 

    Leveling can help us to know which of our students are proficient at what point. Leveling can help us ensure that the needed background for a skill has been met, but leveling can also create the "crows" vs the "robins." 

    We need to carefully watch that we do not fall into the track of worksheets and assessments without providing interesting, engaging, social, math interaction.
  • 31 Mar 2013 7:42 PM
    Reply # 1255753 on 1250423
    Tom Light
    At a personal level, I struggle with the "tracking and leveling" component.  We have heterogeneous classrooms, and I work to meet all students' needs by pulling out students for a "meeting of the minds" (Thanks Tracy H!) during independent work time (if they need extra support or challenge), providing challenge activities for students who finish independent work, etc.  Despite my efforts (I won't say my best effort, with all the demands of a general educator in 6th grade time limits my effort - this will improve next year as we move to some specialization, STEM and Humanities teachers.) I judge that I do not "fully meet the diverse and individual needs of all students."  I carry some shame around this and judge that it is a huge challenge in all of our classrooms.

    Our greatest strength has got to be time.  The need for adequate instructional time has been seen and supported by administrators.
  • 31 Mar 2013 7:50 PM
    Reply # 1255764 on 1250423
    Tom Light
    I am becoming the "king of the afterthought"!

    I have been involved in a school-based book group reading Pathways to the Common Core.

    This summer I plan to read Mass Customized Learning and reread it and join a book group to discuss it next year.  I hope that the ideas in this book will help me better meet the diverse individual needs of my students. 
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