Education Week - November 12, 2014 - Special Report - S11
EDUCATION WEEK n
November 12, 2014
Making Sense of the Math: The Common Core in Practice > www.edweek.org/go/math-report
documents, based on research about students' cognitive development,
that detail how instruction on a particular topic should advance over
time. The standards' writers took those "progressions documents" and
divided the skills into grade levels at which they should be taught.
The progressions documents can now be found on Achieve the Core, a
website hosted by the New York City-based nonprofit group Student
Achievement Partners, which was founded by the lead standards
The documents are, in a word, dense. But they do offer insight into
how skills build on one another, and most experts on the standards
suggest teachers consult them.
"What I've been recommending is that people form book clubs or
study groups and read those progressions together," said Mr. Daro.
"They're not written to be read while sipping a cup of tea. They're
written to be studied, and you don't study alone."
Three to five elementary teachers could meet once a week for
a month to read a single progression, he said. "Will that be
enough for them to understand everything in the progression?
Probably not. Will that advance their mathematical thinking?
Surely it will."
The progressions documents take a lot of "unpacking," said Ms.
Hemstetter. Even so, she tells teachers to put them by their desks,
along with the standards. "It's not an easy read sometimes, but
every time you read a portion of that progression document, it's
going to make more sense to you," she said.
At a professional development conference held by the Maryland
education department in August, a small group of teachers
gathered at a session on fractions division. As the teachers
discussed whether students should convert improper fractions
to mixed numbers, which the common standards do not require,
high school teacher Kevin Wajek chimed in from the back of the
room. "As soon as you cross into high school, that's the answer
I want," he said in reference to improper fractions. "Unless it's
a recipe, do not use mixed numbers again." The middle school
teachers turned his way to consider the plea.
The moment exemplified the way cross-grade learning
can contribute to coherent instruction in math. Mr. Wajek,
the math department chairman at Severna Park High School,
in Maryland, said in an interview that coherence goes both
ways-high school teachers need to know the beginnings of the
learning progressions as well. "I should understand where that
conceptual understanding came from, so that I can say, 'Remember
when ...' " and point to what students learned in previous
grades, he said.
Windy Hill Middle School, in the 15,900-student Calvert
County, Md., district, began organizing professional learning
communities across grade levels three years ago, when the school
first introduced the common core.
"We may discuss a topic we'll talk about in 7th grade, and tie
it into a topic in 6th grade, and where they're going with it in
8th grade," said Dawn Caine, a math teacher at the school. The
middle school teachers have also met with 5th grade teachers
from the nearby elementary schools at times, she said.
As of yet, though, that kind of cross-grade integration isn't common
practice in middle schools, according to Steven Leinwand,
a principal research analyst at the Washington-based American
Institutes for Research who specializes in math education. "Most
middle school teachers are meeting as [single-] grade teams-one
math, one English, one social studies, and one science teacher," he
said, calling that a major problem.
Cross-grade-level meetings have been helpful for Chris Austin,
a 4th and 5th grade math teacher at Rock Hall Elementary in
Rock Hall, Md., who attends Ms. Hemstetter's professional learning
community. Working with teachers below her grade level has
given her a firmer grasp on the progressions. "I'm not as familiar
with the 3rd grade document, so she can remind me to take it
down a notch," she said, pointing to a colleague who teaches 3rd
grade. Knowing the progressions below her grade also allows her
to fill in gaps for her students, Ms. Austin explained.
"We didn't have progression documents before the common core
to see why does this make sense," said Ms. Hemstetter. Now, in the
professional learning communities, "we can unpack the progression
document, look at student work, and analyze 2nd through 5th grade
to see why these progressions make sense," she said. "It's about the
Coverage of the implementation of college- and career-ready standards is
supported by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Education
Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
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Education Week - November 12, 2014 - Special Report
Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Education Week - November 12, 2014 - Special Report
Education Week - November 12, 2014 - Special Report - S1
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