Preparing our students for today’s global economy means providing a solid foundation in math – one that promotes strategic critical thinking and creative problem-solving. When Common Core Math was introduced several years ago, the shift in mathematical practice and instruction was dramatic. We are fortunate to have engaged and highly skilled teachers in our district that are motivated to develop their craft. Even so, a transition of this magnitude takes many months of attention, training, and funding. For several years now, MBEF has actively supported this shift with grants for professional development and instructional coaches to help teachers adapt to the student-centered approach known as Cognitively Guided Instruction (CGI).
Math Teacher on Special Assignment (TOSA), Holly Compton, has had a huge impact on the math instruction in the elementary classroom. Mrs. Compton works with teachers one on one and in small groups, both in the classroom alongside students and outside the classroom to plan and reflect on instructional strategies that support and engage students. The majority of the support Mrs. Compton provides, as is the case with all our TOSAs, is job-embedded. Mrs. Compton attributes much of our growth in math to MBUSD’s commitment to job-embedded professional learning.
Consequently, the most common way for teachers to connect with Mrs. Compton is by signing up for in-classroom coaching. No matter where teachers are on the learning continuum, they benefit from partnering with Holly—and so do their students. A master at her craft, Mrs. Compton is truly appreciated by classroom teachers. A fifth-grade teacher shared that Mrs. Compton “has completely transformed my approach to teaching mathematics. She has an incredible ability to capture the minds of her learners through fun, innovative lessons, where students are challenged at their own academic ability. I’ve seen a huge boost in student achievement and confidence after working with Holly for the past three years!” At a time when students are preparing for the transition to middle school, these students leave fifth grade inspired and challenged – ready for the next level of inquiry.”
When students are just beginning their relationship with math, Mrs. Compton is also able to have a strong impact. One first grade teacher says “working with Holly has been invaluable! She has this amazing ability to challenge your views on math instruction while also providing unwavering support on your CGI journey. She has strengthened my ability to have students take ownership of their math learning and to solve problems in ways that make sense to them. Because of my work with Holly, I have been able to support my students in ways I had never dreamed of: they have stronger number sense and a much deeper understanding of problem-solving strategies.”
This year, MBEF allocated additional funding for math at the middle and high school levels. This will continue the progress and help bridge the instruction from elementary to middle school and middle school to high school. Additionally, in grades 6-9, MBEF dedicated funding to keep the average class sizes in math to 30. In some cases, this is up to six fewer students, making personalized learning more manageable. To have an even greater impact, MBEF would need to raise even greater funds.
During the Paddle Raise at the 2019 Manhattan Wine Auction, MBEF raised $208,000 to ensure we are equipped to build on the mathematics momentum. These funds will be used to support teacher development, as well as provide resources and enrichment for students in grades TK-12. The energy and excitement around math is just taking off. Elementary, middle, and high school Math Clubs are now forming and teams of students are participating in local math competitions.
And the results are in – the efforts are having an impact. The 2019 Student Achievement Report reflects a 9% increase in math proficiency between 2015 and 2019, including an increase of 19% in 11th grade. Over the past four years we have also been closing the gap between ELA/Literacy and Math – this year we are 86% proficiency in ELA and 80% in math.
There is more work to be done. MBEF, our teachers, and our students working together will be instrumental in our efforts.