Perplexed in Patterns

So much time has passed since I last blogged that I forgot my account/password. I think I tried at least 3 combinations of each before I cracked into my Blogger account. Hopefully I will do better in the future. I know I promised two blog posts tonight, but I forgot how difficult blogging is with my attention span.

Instead of conducting PD this week, I’m actually attending some professional development through the University of Mississippi’s Center for Math and Science Education (@UMCMSE). I’ve probably mentioned how great this group is many times before. I attended their CCSS 3-5 workshop last year and fell in LOVE with elementary mathematics. What I love most about these workshops is that it doesn’t rely on a whole lot of tech. It’s basically, “How can we teach the standards in ways that students can make meaningful connections with stuff you probably already have in your classroom.” Unfortunately, “technology” isn’t standard across the state. In some schools, cell phones are banned from campus and wifi is wonky most of the time. This is also true for several schools in my district, SO going “low- or no-tech” is a challenge for me.

Continue Reading

Teaching CCSS-M to Administrators (No, I didn’t get fired)

While many of you are gearing down for the summer months (or are already enjoying your freedom), my job is kicking into gear. I am sad to be losing my summer (I can hear the sounds from the local pool from my back porch), but at the same time I’m looking forward to working with admins/teachers who are excited to learn new things.

All of our grades will be 100% CCSS-aligned by next year. Our K-2 have been doing CCSS for about 3 years, and grades 3-8 had fully implemented CCSS this past school year. Our high schools will be the last group to transition and those teachers have spent the last few weeks gearing up for that shift. The standards for Common Core are quite different from our previous state standards. In the past, we might have 60 +/- standards for a grade/course that were equally important. Some of those standards might be repeated for 2-4 years in a row to “ensure” retention/understanding. This, in my opinion, wasn’t efficient.

Teachers had too many standards and not enough time, so they were hitting it and moving on while hoping it might “stick” with the next grade. And our assessments were just… well, they were CRAP, to be honest (but that’s a rant for another time).

In talking with teachers last August, I kept hearing phrases like, “We don’t really know what to expect with the PARCC assessment.” So I started digging and, in December, showed the collaborative team leaders across the district how to read the test specs and put that information together with the performance level descriptors. This gave them a better understanding of what to expect on the PARCC (prior to the release of the sample test) and a lot of teachers were surprised about how much of a role the Standards for Mathematical Practice would play on the PARCC. (SIDE NOTE: I am working on a “How to Read PARCC” blog this weekend as well and will link as soon as it’s finished)

But for teachers to really be successful in this shift, I wanted to make sure they had support from administration. Math class doesn’t always look like they remember it to be or what they experienced. And it’s difficult to appreciate the difficulty, wonder and complexity of that shift if you can’t experience what math SHOULD be like. Or at least, that was my thought when we had our final meeting with administrators across the district.

My ELA comrade did a fantastic job showing our administrators a video of a wonderful elementary teacher in our district. She walked them through the video and the led discussions in the important parts of the CCSS ELA lesson. She had them point out student discussions and interactions so they could envision what they should see in a CCSS classroom.

My turn. They THOUGHT I was going to show them a video as well… Mwah ha ha ha…

Continue Reading