Families need education in order to advocate effectively for high-quality math instruction
(This article is primarily focused on educating parents about what to look for when it comes to high-quality math instruction. I’ll be following this up with another article about how to advocate when “things go wrong” in a future post.)
Congratulations to SFUSD’s math team!
“In this report from 2 The Education Trust – West: Changing the Equation: Ensuring the Common Core Math Standards Enable All Students to Excel in California SchoolsSFUSD is recognized for our leadership in reducing tracking, an exemplary instance of Best Practice #1: Creating a culture of high expectations for all students.”
SFUSD is recognized in this article from Education Week: Common-Core Algebra Seen as TougherStandards could challenge trend to put 8th graders in Algebra 1
Despite accolades, parents still have reservations about the district’s new Math Sequence
And as a former “high-functioning math student” I learned my times tables and long division well. But I had to figure out for myself, over many years, all the tricks to doing math in my head. And it’s the latter that I find more useful, especially in our digital age where it’s faster to pick up a smartphone than it is a pen and paper to do long division. It also increased my understanding of why systems like long division work in the first place. I wish I had learned that stuff earlier.
Changes are a-coming!
I’ve always thought it better to show not tell… so here are a few videos I’ve been able to round-up illustrating some of the big shifts going on in our classrooms today:
This video shows teachers collaborating to plan lessons that teach math to students at multiple ability levels. As you can see from the video, there is both support for students who need it (more structure, group learning, etc.), but the tasks given to all students are at a high level. Notice that one teacher remarks that she normally would have designed the task for her higher-performing students and is surprised that this approach also brought about great results with her low performers. This is further proof that when you track by ability, any gains you might reap for higher-performing students, come at the expense of lower-performing ones–low performers routinely get stuck in classes that focus on basic skills by less-experienced teachers in classes with more high-needs students.
Parents need to be “educated” to hold the district accountable
Let’s support, monitor, and advocate for strong math instruction in all SFUSD schools!
The district has recently increased its commitment to supporting teacher professional learning at all levels, with an enhanced focus at the middle school level. Specifically, this means reduced class sizes in all 8th grade classes next year (!) There will be no more than 24 students and many will be smaller. Additionally, coaches will be provided on-site for all middle schools with a total of nine coaches and one program administrator supporting middle school math.
Keep up to date on math-related activities by becoming a member of PPS-SF or visiting the Math Department website where you will find parent information guides to the new standards and helpful, activities you can do with your child, and other helpful resources.
No matter what parents do at home, the heavy lifting for this shift will be at the school and classroom level. As parents, we can be strong advocates for our teachers in getting the time, resources and support they need to be effective.
Important questions families can ask are:
- What should my child “know and be able to do” as a result of this course, class, lesson, or project?
- How do you know what my child knows and is able to do in math? How is learning being assessed? How are you adapting instruction to meet their specific learning needs?
- How is the school supporting teachers in making instruction accessible and engaging for all students (differentiation)? Do they have adequate curricular resources, student information, coaching and collaboration time to support students working at the low and high ends of the spectrum?
- How can parents help teachers and schools to be more effective? How can they help students at home master new standards?
Does any of this make sense to you? What do you think? What do families need to know in order to advocate for the best education for all kids?