Webinar Date: January 30,2014
As an elementary school administrator, you are tasked with supporting the transition to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). Though it’s a challenge, it also is a tremendous opportunity. The instructional seeds planted and nurtured at the elementary school level become the mathematical foundation of the college and career readiness intent of the Common Core State Standards.
- Francis (Skip) Fennell - Professor at McDaniel College, Maryland
Host:Edweb and we hope that in addition to joining today’s webinar, you’ll also join the community on blended learning, which you can do at www.edweb.net/blendedbootcamp and if you’re tweeting today, you can use the hashtag #Edwebchat so we’ve got that back channel going but please also post in the text chat window here. If we get too many people on the webinar today, if we’ve got up to a couple hundred people , then we may need to turn the text chat here off and we will just use the back channel on Twitter, but we’ll post a message about that first.
I think before Skip begins his presentation, Tim Hudson from DreamBox Learning is going to come on and talk to you for a few minutes so I’m going to drop off and just enjoy the presentation. Thank you all for being here. Skip, nice to have a little time to talk with you. I’ll see you later.
FF: Great talking to you as well.
TH: Hi everyone, I’m Dr. Tim Hudson. I’m the curriculum director at DreamBox Learning and I’m sure that many if not most of you know Skip Fennell. In addition to being a very valued member of our DreamBox Board of Advisers, and the past President of NCTM, Skip is a professor of education at McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland and the project director for the Elementary Math Specialist and Teacher Leader’s Project. He has widely published research articles and text books related to elementary and middle grade mathematics education. He’s been a key contributor to the development of the Common Core State Standards as well as NCTM’s Principles and standards for school mathematics, and NCTMs curriculum focal points for PreK through Grade 8.
Dr. Fennell was also a member of the National Math Advisory Panel appointed by President Bush. He is a great teacher, leader, and thinker with many more accolades that I could list. He’s an all around great guy and for better or for worse a Baltimore Raven’s fan. And so, with that, I will turn it over to your speaker today, Skip Fennel. Thanks Skip.
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FF: Thank you, Tim. It’s great to have this opportunity and it’s also to some extent humbling. I have been monitoring people who are here. I got former graduate students as well as colleagues and people from around the country and so forth but the intent of this presentation really is to sort of help principals consider their very important role in the transition to and implementation of the Common Core State Standards. It really came out of a white paper I actually did for DreamBox that I’ll refer to later and you can go the DreamBox website and pull this down if you want to where I tried to address the issues that are so critical for principals to sort of deal with.
What you’re looking at now, this slide, frankly I have nothing to do with the slide but it’s about things that you ought to consider relative to better audio and video and things along those lines so that’s just an FYI for you, which you can pick up and use as appropriate. But as we move to thinking about the role of the principal in this context, my plan is to address a number of issues that impact principals. And by the way, just because I know some people who are on the line, I know you are not principals but I think as a building math leader as a math leader in the school district or beyond, you can perhaps either hand this off to a principal or be thinking about how you can engage in such a dialogue with your principal.
So, we’ll talk about principals and the importance of them to sort of indentify particular learning leadership priorities that they have as they move in this transition. Their knowledge—your knowledge and I’ll refer to the collective US principals school based leaders in some way—your knowledge and understanding of the standards, action items that you ought to at least consider for successful implementation of the Common Core and then sort of next steps and key takeaways and the likes. So that’s the plan. And so these priorities that are essentially for you, how can you help? You’ve got a busy job if you are a principal—sort of a never-ending job. By the way, a thousand years ago I was a principal. And so I know a little bit about that role. And so, with all the stuff that you are responsible for and I can’t over emphasize that enough because right across the hall for me is good colleague who teaches school administration and we talk about the principals’ instruction leader. And we go back and forth and might sometimes I say, “When does that person have time given bus schedules and cafeteria issues and frankly right now issues around gun control, and some of the tragedy relative to Connecticut and so forth and so on?” So, at minimum, how can you help?
What’s important as you sort of walk down that path to helping your teachers, your building, your parent community sort of get around this. How do you do it and essentially then what’s the plan for doing that? Those are the priorities. Not necessarily in order but clearly the first one is, you got to think about your ability to help in this process, and certainly knowing about this initiative is important. Supporting it every day, and by the way, that kind of merges into the next step because if you’re that principal, probably one of the first things you have to do if you haven’t already done it, and I’m guessing many of you have and have sort of figured it out, “Okay these people are my math instructional leaders at building level. These are the people I’m going to lean on to drive this implementation in my building.” They’re the groups whether that’s a person who actually carries the title of elementary math specialist in a fully funded and supported position or math interventionist or they’re just frankly your best math teachers, and you’re pulling them together as a cadre to help you develop the learning communities that are essentially going to make this happen. Whether you’re going to perhaps work for the primary learning community and then your intermediate grade learning community, and then the whole school as a learning community or fractions thereof it as you move this forward. So, the issue of moving this forward and building that leadership team at the building level is absolutely paramount to your helping in this process.
I’m going to now attempt to get a sense of where the collective you are in this process, so we have a poll coming up that folks kind of behind the scenes are going to develop and now you’re looking at this first poll question and you can read it: “My building status regarding the Common Core State Standards can best be described as: transitioning, implementing, thinking about it, or perhaps I work in Virginia, Texas, Minnesota or Alaska.” And the tongue-in-cheek in that will come up a little bit later.
Okay, I’m guessing we’ve got just about everybody and you can see kind of where you are. You’re moving forward and whether that’s transitioning to or actual implementation of—and by the way this is a good thing—we’re not only ready to have this discussion, we’re launching. We’re a little bit further than that. So we’ll come back to another poll question later on in the presentation but for right now I think we can go back to the slides and we’ll pick up where we were.
We know we’re transitioning. I mentioned this in a different way earlier, but I’ll say it pretty directly right now. You can’t do this. By the way, if you are the Principal or if you are the Assistant Principal, you can not do this by yourself. This has to be a team. You don’t have the time to do it right. In many cases and this is not to offend anybody. You haven’t visited this mathematics, you haven’t taught mathematics in while to sort of be current, so all of those things point towards the roll of you as leader, and you as the person who can make this happen. Because frankly, what we know at least in my work with math specialists, math leaders in the work that I do in and around the country is when principals are behind an initiative, when principals provide the support, when principals regularly get behind that math leadership team, things happen. And let me just say and you’ll hear this again in the presentation. You make the difference. You’re difference makers if you’re that principal and so think about that because you’re absolutely critical in this.
So what’s important? We know we have to support this. We know you figure out how you’re build your leadership team, but certainly awareness and knowledge of the Common Core State Standards. And that merges with the next bullet, and what’s that going to look like in my building with my staff and thinking about that implementation wise, and bumps down a little bit and I’m sure you do this. That’s recognizing building strengths and needs.
You know right now who your superstar math teachers are. You know right now where you have some weakness. So, how do we get the math leadership team to mentor, support those who struggle little bit with teaching mathematics. How do you think about the professional development that you need building-wide, or within particular grade levels or across particular areas of instruction? So this issue of importance is certainly knowledge of but it also has its looks in my slice of the world, in my building and so forth, so all of that is really important as you move forward.
So let’s take a look at this movement, and what you see on this slide are a lot of different things that helped drive this whether that’s international testing results TIMSS or PISA or International Assessment or the Business Round Table Reports or Bill and Melinda Gates and their foundation—I heard Bill Gates today on television, perhaps many of you did. The national math panel work, frankly, even the work of Tom Friedman, who in The World Is Flat talks about issues around outsourcing in particular Asian culture, countries and their children doing so well and what’s the matter with us and so forth and so on. So, there’re lots of things over the last decade for sure that has helped drive this initiative. But what’s important here, and I don’t want to lose this is that the people who are really behind this, the people who have really pushed this, if you will, agenda to the point where we now have Common Core State Standards, were initially the National Governor’s Association at a meeting now four plus years ago, and then kind of connected with that the Chief Council of State School Officers. So they are really the initiatives, both of them, if you will, apolitical who have really pushed this forward. That’s not to say that the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics as a professional society hasn’t been involved with this but frankly it wouldn’t have worked if NCTM did it, and I say that as a past NCTM President. We needed a large group if you will with that sat outside of particulars and instruction to get this done.
And here’s a little flavor of the standards. I particularly like this from page 5. I’m going to read it, “These standards are not intended to be the names for old ways of doing business. They are a call to take the next step.” And there’s more there. It’s time to recognize that standards are not just promises to our children but promises we intend to keep. And you know that as people talk about college and career readiness, they refer back to these Common Core State Standards in both literature and mathematics. But of course we are talking about mathematics today, which is frankly the only thing I know.
So, as you think about that statement, as you think about, as you read the newspaper on a regular basis or other sources of media, the notion of college and career readiness pops up a lot. But we’re making history here. And what I mean by that is that right now we have 47 states that’s actually kind of interesting language. It’s really 46 states in the District of Columbia. I actually missed the memo when they became a state, but in any rate 47 states, 46 states doing the same thing. Bill McCallum who is the lead author and I’ll refer to Bill later, of the Common Core State Standards renowned mathematician, University of Arizona—he often gets the question, “What’s so important about the Common Core State Standards?” And his response usually is the word “Common.” This is the first time in our history that we have a common set of math expectations across all the states that you see on the screen. So we can have similar discussions. We can share information. What a great asset in terms of us being able to help each other, go to different places and so forth and so on. So that in itself is pretty important.
So let’s get this started. As a principal, where do you go first? What do you care about first? And I would suggest to you that the first thing you care about as you begin the knowledge step are the standards for mathematical practice. And you see all eight of them listed on this page. And this is an important thing to start with because the standards for mathematical practice cut across all grade levels, cut across all mathematics. It doesn’t matter whether we’re talking about first grade kids, eighth grade kids, frankly, high school students what have you, we want them to make sense of problems and persevere in solving them. We want them to model with mathematics. We want them to look for and make use of structure as they do particular mathematics. Will they do all eight of these practices within a lesson? Of course not. Will particular practices pop in certain mathematics? Absolutely. Which gets me to the next slide here. What I know around the country as somebody who helped write and edit this work and now help a lot in states and school district transpositions is that it’s pretty well accepted as a starting point as people begin the implementation process.
And there’s a comfort level for part of that decision and that is, the mathematical practices emerged from the NCTM process standards and the report Adding It Up produced by the National Research Council, so the connection to NCTM process and processees and Adding It Up are, “Oh, we’ve done this” with this connected to our prior mathematics or what have you. So that’s nice.
The fact that—I’m going to go back a minute—the practices are observable statements. Think about this principle. Attend to precision: you ought to be able to see that in the classroom. Model with mathematics; you ought to be able to see that in the classroom. You ought to be able to see kids do it. You ought to be able to see teachers do it or think about doing it in their planning. So that has become a real plus in terms of engaging people with actually observing children engaging in the mathematics.
To me the practices do exactly that. They get kids involved in doing mathematics. And that’s important. In other words, it’s not watching somebody else do it at the board, it’s now children doing this mathematics. Because of that, because of the observable nature of it, it is now connected to both planning and pedagogy and I might also argue and will later in another slide, connected to assessment as well. Now as we consider the practices and the importance of the practices, I will say that there’re certain dependencies here and that’s the considered part of this slide. That is, for certain mathematics, you know, particular practices might pop more readily than for other mathematics. I could see that two—what I would refer to and the two structure of practices 7 and 8 will be involved with certain mathematics more than, if you will, other mathematics. We also have to remember the developmental levels of children and early learners will approach the practices a bit differently as you might imagine than higher grade students and so forth—just a consideration as we do the implementation.
So let’s think about some mathematics. Here’s an actual math task that comes from the Doing What Works materials from the United States Department of Education and one of the AES, that’s the Department of Education Well Practice Guides and problem solving that was released this past summer. I think it was.
So here’s a problem, Mrs. Logan, and you can read that for yourself. I’m going to linger a while to force you to read it. And you can see as you read about Mrs. Logan and what she is doing there that this is a multiple step problem. And it clearly involves fractions and work with fractions, and you can see the context there is not only brownies (food) but it also involves money in terms of how much she is going to pay for whatever she is purchasing as the second part of the work. It clearly connects to the mathematical practices of problem solving because it is a problem. And as students were engaged in that you’re going hopefully get reasoning as to describe what they are doing and modeling as they kind of represent the mathematics that goes along. I suspect if you’re going to use manipulative materials or drawings of any sort, you could get the tools practice and the like. So a way for me think about you and your teachers is to make sure they have opportunities to see, if you will, good mathematics. Think about, “Okay. If I’m going to use a problem like that, in the fifth grade classroom, because by the way, that’s where the math is, it’s number and operations fractions at the fifth grade level and it’s those three standards that connect underneath that, so if I’m going to do that, what practices might I engage my students in as I think about that,” and just a discussion about that as an afterschool professional development session or what have you again.
Madam Principal or Mr. Principal, Principal, Assistant Principal, you don’t necessarily have to lead this. Be aware of it. Be supportive of it. Help with it. Understand the importance of connecting content to the practices and I’ll talk about that in a very direct way in a minute.
The power here is the mathematical practices whether it’s the problem solving practice, the two reasoning practices, the practice around modeling with mathematics, the practice around thinking about work with tools; however you think about tools either technological or manipulative or drawings. So forth, there’s a connection. There’s that I have to think about as I plan that lesson. How do I then implement that and how will the practices play out as I implement that lesson and then sort of differently will this connect to the formative assessments that I’m creating for this lesson, or that my district might have, you know, for me to monitor the curriculum, and so forth. So, the practices are really tied into that, but I kind of alluded to this and I’m going to say it more directly now. So this is sort of the—by the way, take no offense about of this picture—this is sort of, I will confess that I’m a person who has run nine marathons and probably 25 or more half-marathons and races of smaller distances a lot. And there these kind of crazy warrior races now where they run through stuff. And so I like in races like that to, if you will, engaging with the mathematical practices as you learn mathematics because you know what? You ought to be rolling up your sleeves and you’re going to get a little dirty about doing the mathematics because that’s what this is about. It’s connecting to the mathematics. It’s really getting involved in that mathematics. And you know what? It might get a little muddy at times. It might get a little testy at times as somebody’s got a solution that they think is pretty good and yet as you have your class share ideas here’s one that’s even better or something like that or you know, a little bit more concise or whatever. So I want people to think about these kinds of things as they walk into classrooms and as they do I’m going to refer to now as a look-for.
So, for the principals in our audience and even for those of you who are math leaders and know about looking for these kinds of things, observation-wise in classrooms. As many of you know, school administrators, you know, almost regularly do something called a walkthrough where they—it will not quite be a formal observation but it’s kind of setting the stage or just informally going in and get a sense of tenor, that I, by the way, I refer to these as drive-bys. You can say what you want about that. But so, if I’m going to do a drive-by, a walkthrough or whatever, I ought to be able to look for things. And so, what you’re going to see as I flash on the screen here. By the way, some of these are going to be easier to read than others and you’re all going to get these. So I just saw something about posting that so just so you know. So, for instance, let’s say that you and your math leader are going to go after a particular practice. And so, we’re after the problem-solving practice and what it is—what was it that you saw kids doing, key student dispositions as you went into that lesson. What is it that you saw the teacher doing and so forth? You can think about that as a look-for within the lesson. Here’s another way to think about it. Think also about this tool as a planning device. Let’s say that our lesson today is really going to focus on modeling with mathematics. What would you expect kids to be able to do in this lesson that would show them being able to model with mathematics? What would you do? What are your teacher actions or what do you expect the teacher actions to be to sort of deliver that? So this is one sort of look-for. You know, in my work, you know, because we’ve doing this for a couple of years now. I refer to this as the Deep Dive. We’re going to—we’re going after a particular practice usually when we have this discussion either prior in the planning phase or as we look for it in classrooms.
This next one’s different and it’s a two-pager and you probably can’t read that unless you blow it up—actually, I can maximize this and give you a better shot of it. So what this is, first of all, it’s a different organization of the practices and I’ll come to that in a moment. You have the overarching practices of problem solving and attending to precision here. You have reasoning, the two reasoning practices here and you have what students might be doing as you walk through and look through or look for in a classroom. What teachers might be doing in these various practices. So to some extent, it’s an observation tool and the same thing is true in the second page of this where we put together, if you will, the two tools practices and the two structured practices that I referred to earlier. And so, it gives you an opportunity to look for particular student behaviors and also particular teacher behaviors. And that’s—that’s just something that you can think about as a tool. Again, think about this as perhaps a look-for tool for informal observation to sort of help teachers see that this is working or that it could happen. There is that. And again, also think about this as a planning tool that you might use with the teacher leader and so forth and so on. So that’s—there is that. So there is two and the third one I’m going to mention and you can take a look at this yourself. This is an actual app for an iPad 2 or frankly an iPhone. And it’s relatively cheap as apps tend to be and this project that I worked with for Math Specialist, we’ve been as I mentioned earlier, we’ve been doing the look-for stuff for a couple of years now. And I have to admit by the way that the idea for that came to me from a principal because he said to me, you know, I want to get my students and my school into this. What can I use because we have nothing? And so, we created versions of look-for’s—excuse me for just a minute.
Versions of this that sort of move that discussion forward and colleague that I worked with, John Ray who’s a supervisor in Howard County Maryland Public Schools and also an active member of the Board of Directors of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, helped create this app. The app is entitled Common Core Look-for’s (CCL4S), so if you just go to the Apple Store, you can see it. I think it’s $2.95 or whatever. I am not selling it. I receive 0 cents for this.
I will tell you a cute story. The guy who did this was an out-of-work classroom teacher, great techie and he put this together in like 10 days. And it will allow you to do more than I have time to talk about in this little slice. You can certainly do the look-for technologically using your iPad. But you’re also able to track time that teachers spend on particular activities, able to go in and look at actual content windows and forth and so on. I’m verging on doing something that I never do and that is I’m not trying to advertise this but I’m just saying that there are technological tools that can help you get this done as well.
So, let’s move sort of from practices to content and I want to make, I want to make the following case here and that is that when we think about the mathematical practices, I’m going to read this. The mathematical practices function differently from content because that’s how you engage people in doing the mathematics. One can teach content sadly without the practices but not the practices without content. I alluded to my colleague John Ray. John as I mentioned I think is a middle school supervisor. He and his high school supervisor went into and observed over 400 teachers and they were looking for the practices. In 10 percent of the classrooms—so do some basic math, that’s 40 or so—they saw none of the practices observed. Couldn’t see anything and I was kidding them and said so that means that teacher has his or her nose against the board and it talking to the chalkboard and writing stuff on the board. And they frankly said, well sort of. So think about the fact that you can present content and never engage students. And so that’s why this connection between the practices and the mathematical content is really important, and that’s why this second bullet in green, it should, it needs to be authentically connected to that specific content. So, you have that obvious and important connection and also the practices need to be involved in all assessment components and particularly now, if you will, with all of the work around the consortia assessments which were alluded to a little bit later whether you’re a PARCC state or Smarter Balance, that’s really important. So real briefly and you know about this if you’re implementing, you may not know as much if you’re transitioning, so bear with me a little bit.
What you’re looking at are the K through 2 and the 3 through 5 standards. Notice that counting in cardinality as you know is a K-only content domain. That doesn’t imply by the way that children stop counting at the kindergarten level. That just means it’s really focused on at that particular level as a domain. And similarly, that doesn’t mean that number and operations fractions only occurs in Grades 3 through 5 because those of you who are implementers, you know that smuggled under geometry in Grades 1 and 2 is stuff with fractions. But I would tell you this and for those of you who are implementing, you can ask me a question later or feel free to disagree. I would argue that the changes K through 2 in the content domains are not that significant than what people have been doing. Fewer, I’ll come to that in a minute, but not that much different. I would also argue that this is a huge shift and if you’re a principal on the line right here, make sure that your fourth and fifth grade teacher are pretty good in mathematics and make sure all of these people that I’m messing here right here know about fractions, a lot about fractions because they’re going to see stuff they’ve never seen before in the elementary curriculum.
If for whatever reason, you happen to be a middle school principal or a middle school or connected to a middle school or and many of this is true for some of you have really bright kids who are kind of pushing into middle grade mathematics. This is a whole different scheme. This is really pre-algebra almost throughout the entire thing. But notice how ratio and proportion which is 6/7 only kind of picks up on the Grades 3 through 5 fractions and extends it to this context, and also notice in grade 8 that functions is introduced clearly algebra but there’s a lot of algebra here under number system and fractions and equations and so forth and so on. And again, if anybody here is a middle school connected, you’ll never see as much probability anywhere as you’re going to see in Grade 7 as these levels.
So, things along those lines are just sort of basic that again, get into this, see what’s important for you in your building slice and some of you are probably K–5 buildings. Some of you are perhaps primary only. Some of you are K–8 and the like. But you know, that notion of content is really important.
I want to make this point because it—because frankly it always comes up. As, when people initially pick up—here’s my copy, my dog-eared copy of the Common Core State Standards and they see that, “Wow—I got 34 standards at the fourth grade level. That’s—I can do the math. That’s a lot less than 83.” You know, when we were doing the NCTM curriculum focal points and we had all of them. I’ve look at—we had states, some of you are them, who had close to a hundred objectives in a given year. I frankly don’t care whether you have national board prepared teachers teaching that mathematics or presidential awardees or whatever. Nobody can do that right. So this and again, I’m claiming this is not fair I’ll tell you why in a minute. This is nice news. Okay? But the number of standards isn’t the story here. Because if we don’t do this right, and by do this right, make less become more. We’ve lost the opportunity. And I can’t tell you how many times people who haven’t read the Common Core come out to me, “Are you kidding me? I get 34 standards. I’ll be done in like October.” No. no. time out. That is not the issue here. So the notion about that this less-is-more thing is really critical.
Now, I’m going to kind of shift to, actually some of the meat behind that white paper I referred to that I did for DreamBox specifically for principals. And I used these areas that actually the Chief Council of State School Officers have sort of suggested that we consider in a publication that actually they designed for people print materials for K through 8 math materials, textbooks and the like. But I see it too as a way to sort of think about how you’re delivering the mathematics. And so, these are three key areas to me. One is focus. And so as you think about the mathematics, the content, as you think about teaching, the focus issue is here’s the depth. I need to spend more time on this particular standard. I’ve got the time to linger. For the first time in my career I can really do this right. I know this is important. It’s been identified as important and so forth. So the areas of focus that the Common Core identifies through their critical areas or through the consortia assessments, that’s an opportunity to say, okay—and here again, Principal, here’s how you help your math lead teachers—let’s make sure that the professional development perhaps first is around areas of focus. Let’s make sure in addition that teachers also recognize the issue around coherence and that is the development time to flow across grade levels to link to major topics and so forth. So let’s make sure people understand that. I know you’re a third grade teacher but guess what, what came to you? And where is that going? So, the issue of coherence is important as is the issue of rigor. Because for the issue of rigor and again I’m going to read a little bit, “For major topics is conceptual understanding, understanding how these works, the procedural skill in doing that and then the ability of kids to sort of show that they’re fluent in that in a particular topic and actually do that mathematics in the context within a problem, within an activity and so forth.”
So, if we can support child learning and teacher planning and implementation and assessment around focus and coherence and rigor, that’s what this is all about. Let me identify each one. I like to think that focus is as I explain you know, this is something I’m going to sink my teeth into it. I love a good hotdog by the way hence the picture. But to me, the biggest change relative to the Common Core is right here. It’s bite size. These are bigger bites. You’re going to spend more time on this and hopefully have the time to do it right. Again, you might have this feeling, “You know, I can really use those materials and then connect it to the sort of abstract way that we represent things mathematically and we can model with both tools and with mathematics. And I can make sure that I’m connecting this with the practices.” So that’s really important, the focus thing. As is—and by the way, the focus thing by the way bounces out at us in different ways. And here’s what I mean by that. One of the things you might consider with the professional development at the building level is to actually just have your teachers tease out the standards for which they are responsible for. Notice how many times they’ll see the word understanding, okay. That’s really important. I’m just cherry picking here, Grade 4.
Another thing that would be good, sort of connected to that is having them look at representations. Notice how many times an actual representation is called for, again, I’m cherry picking, Grade 3, represent fractions on a number line diagram. A whole lot of teachers have never done that by using equations rectangular arrays and/or area models. There is the actual model specified. So you have understanding and representation. That’s going to give you this focus issue by the way. And the point I make in all these and there’s a problem there that actually comes from the Common Core. You’ll notice that it says, solve more problems by using multiplication and fraction by a whole number for example using visual fraction modules so forth and so on and they actually give you a product of an actual, you know, example problem. But my point is this. If we want kids to understand and we clearly do and we expect teachers to use representations and then, and kids as well, that means we have, and you do, the time the to do that, that means, the teachers have the stuff and by the stuff, I mean whether it’s manipulative materials or opportunity to sort of understand how particular representations work or whatever, that’s going to get you rigor. Now, I know this is math-wise, this is kind of the crazy equation. But the bottom line for me is that conceptual understanding is not an option. It’s an expectation. And by the way, it’s about time. And I know there are some math educators on the line who have championed this for decades but these standards are going to hopefully do this for us. So, you know, that’s around the issue of focus.
As I think about coherence, it’s this business about really making sure that kids have enough time to learn and it’s considering across levels. In other words, to me this says that I’m not sure I necessary want to have you know, my second grade teacher is doing professional development and isolation. I might want the first and second grade and third together so they can see the coherence of particular topics across levels. They can see how place value flows across those levels and the amount of development time that is really necessary for them to do that. So, that’s something to think about, really understanding the issue of coherence, and by the way, another reason for that is certain kids aren’t going to have the background and they make having other level teachers to help, you know, “Here’s what we did last year. Here’s where we are” and so forth and so on, kind of helps in that regard.
What you think about the following and these are gaps. So for a while, we’re going to have some gaps. By that I mean, we’ll have gaps that if you implement next year in fourth grade and third grade at the same time, your fourth grade kids haven’t added third grade Common Cores ahead, so what do you do about that? And by the way, this is facing everybody across the country. There’s no great formula to do this. I know districts that are doing right now, implementing full time, Common Core, 1 through 5. That means nobody’s had any of the Common Core background.
On the other hand, I know people who are doing it gradually and that means it’s just slower getting to that point and so, it catches up a little bit, but there’s gaps in that too. So you have that and what about kids who are, in some ways, Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3, RTI, do we need to more clearly define the tier needs within particular programs to pick up some of the things that kids are missing. So, it’s causing people who are delivering RTI particularly Tier 3 RTI to have those serious conversations about, “What gaps do I plug here? What are the most important topics?” and so forth.
And having said that, go to other side of this and what are we doing about enrichment and/or acceleration. I mean we—this by the way becomes a critical issue, Mr. and Ms. Principal, relative to parents in communities. So, you know, I know you’ve been used to accelerating kids in your school and all of a sudden, we have, if you will, a curriculum that is more demanding. And so, kids aren’t going to be able to blast through it as quickly and you have some parents are going to expect that. What do we do about that? What do we do about communicating the articulation between elementary school mathematics via Common Core and middle school Common Core because they’re very different, as you saw in the content domains? And you, some of you are four year; really high-flying kids will be moving into middle grade mathematics at the elementary school level. So those, those articulation issues across levels, those articulation issues across the curriculum, those issues about how do I communicate this to parents. And I’m a parent and a grandparent of nine. And so, the notion of some very well-meaning parents wanting way too much math, way too quickly. It has run amuck in this country, and so, ways to certainly provide for that path but ensuring that the people who are accelerating are really ready for that I think is pretty critical. So that’s just somewhat cautionary as well as dealing with the gaps.
Take it another way. You’re thinking about working with your teachers and you are talking about connecting focus and coherence and rigor and let’s say you decide to pull together the third grade teachers or all the primary grade teachers, or however you want to go at, at that either conceptually or grade level wise. You know, an interesting discussion for them and/ or for you is might be is go through there, what’s familiar to you, classroom teacher. What’s brand new? Never seen this before. In 18 years of teaching and so forth and so on. What’s challenging? By the way, I boldly challenge you for two reasons. One is stuff can be challenging because it’s always been challenging. I’ve been teaching that those 18 years. That’s an—still challenging. Or, it’s challenging because it’s new or I’ve never taught it before and I’ve never used a number line on a regular basis, whatever that happens to be. So these are really good discussion topics and because having done this a lot, a whole lot of teachers who know mathematics pretty well are going to say, I’ve been doing a lot of these my entire career which is a good thing, okay? So, it’s not like this is brand new mathematics. It’s saying, let’s do it right. There’s more depth here and so forth and so on. So that’s—that’s pretty important I think.
So let’s come to your plan. What is your plan? Build your math team, do you have the content and pedagogical capacity building-wide, thinking about that, what’s your communication plan with regard to community members and parents thinking about that. Maybe it’s a time issue. Maybe you need to find ways just kind of smuggle more time for mathematics and districts, frankly, in a district I’m sitting in right now. They’ve created STEM teachers at the upper grade levels of elementary schools and such teachers are doing pretty much only science and mathematics and they can connect the mathematics to the science and frankly gives them more time to do that. How will you monitor your implementation and keep in mind, these are the Common Core State Standards, so everybody is doing this. And see what neighboring schools districts are doing. How can you learn from them? I’ve given you a website here and I’m going to show you a slide rendering of a Wiki. This is the Howard County Public Schools in Maryland and on their Wiki, what’s you’re seeing a page right here and you can see the website and you can go there if you like. But you know, what they have done is taken it grade by grade. I think they’re now through the third grade and they’ve connected it to the practices and they’ve posted all kinds of activities that teachers can use and so forth and so on. It’s free to the world and this just happens to be a teacher, or excuse me, a school district that is very close to me. They worked with my project and they’re really good people. There are lots of places in this country that are doing really good stuff. There are lots of states that have great websites that you can go and learn from and so forth. So, all of these are interesting things that you ought to consider.
So we’re now, we’re now going to take our second and last poll and this one kind of connects to professional development needs so I’ll turn it back and you’ll see the poll here in a minute. My building status, oh, here it goes. My building status regarding the Common Core, actually, that’s the one we did before. We don’t need that one. We want to go to the next one. Here we go. This is your building’s professional development plan for the Common Core. And you can see what’s happening. Some of you are planning. Some of you either have done or considering or doing professional development relative to the practices, some of you for content. Some of you not yet and it’s changing every portion of a second. So this is—this is interesting to me from a couple of perspectives.
One of the perspectives is that it appears that we’re kind of split and the area, the descriptor, that’s give—the distracter that’s getting the least response is math content. I would suggest to you that that’s a problem. In other words, what we know is that some of your teachers really need help with teaching that mathematics from a content perspective. Also know it’s a challenge by the way because what happens—and we can go back to the slides. What happens is that you maybe in an area where you don’t necessarily have somebody you can come in and do the content. So that’s a challenge for you and/or maybe your math team isn’t yet up to speed to do that. If you’re a Principal, maybe it’s a situation where you just haven’t gotten to that yet or you’re not sure how to do that and so forth. And by the way, for those of you, I see where Linda Curtis-Bey wanted to choose all three choices. No you couldn’t do that. I rigged it. I made you do a decision and you could legitimately say, “You know what? I’m planning, I want to do PD, I want to do content and so forth.” But I figured that out, so that’s why I forced it.
So, I want to move to another issue and this is a comment that came out of a research study funded by the National Science Foundation that looked at. Okay, as we implement the Common Core State Standards, what are questions that we have and the emerging question, or actually there were bunch of them. But here’s a huge one. The influence of the Common Core State Standards would be strongly mediated by the consortia assessments. I often referred to as preferred to PARCC and Smarter Balance as the elephant in the room until you implement those tasks, until, your teachers feel really comfortable with those sample items and comfortable of some of what’s demanded there. It’s not going to mean as much. So, I mean the more you—and by the way, this show is not going to get consortia assessments. That’s like two shows. But this is a huge issue as you move into next steps here. So that’s just something for you to consider.
I’m also going to show you now real quickly some resources that you might have, that you might think about using. This one is from the Elementary Math Specialist and Teacher Leaders project that I direct. If you maximize this, you’ll see here a couple of things. One is that Doing What Works project that has a whole lot of materials from that project, connected to the Common Core that you can use. If you also click on resources, you’ll be able to get lots of different resources for the Common Core State Standards and again, that’s just for you and you can explore that on your own time. It’s a very, at least people tell us, it’s a very useful site. Another site and this just came live a couple of weeks ago, Achieve, which by the way is sort of behind the scene as director of PARCC put together several publications. One is a publication implementing the Common Core State Standards, the role of the elementary school leader. It’s an action brief and there’s also one for the secondary school leader at IE Principal and there’s also one for guidance counselors. So if you’re in any of those roles, you can go to the Achieve site and drag down those and see to what extent they’re helpful to you, that’s a second resource.
Again, not to be in commercial vein, but the National Association of Elementary School Principals and Solution Tree couple of years ago, put out a book specifically for principals on the teaching and learning of mathematics that Tim Kanold and Diane Bryers, some of you know, those two co-authors of mine and I produced and that’s out there potentially as a resource for you as well, particularly if you’re that elementary principal. And then finally, you know, you are the principal, you are the building leader, how can you help by knowing all about this, by supporting every day, by building and supporting your leadership team, by empowering them and helping them and establishing those learning communities which are absolutely critical in this process as you move forward.
But now it’s time to me, we have a little turn—my turn to shift this back to deal with questions that you have—I’ve been—as much as I can and possibly can without also paying attention to what I’m saying here, I’ve been seeing some of what you have scrolled and I just noticed for instance that the North Carolina and Arizona State Department websites are noted here as being good websites for the Common Core and I know people, that Howard County site, I showed you that Wiki, they used the North Carolina site as well. I also hear good things about the Utah site but we’re all doing this together. I’m going to turn this out. I think there’s—yeah, it goes back to Tim for any questions or issues that you might have.
TH: Actually Skip if you’d stay on, we’ll both be here to fill any questions that the folks might have. There’ve been just a couple of come through. There’ve been some informal conversation happening. So if there’s anyone who would like to reiterate some questions if they have, go ahead and chime in the chat.
There was, while we’re waiting for some to maybe come in, there was one Skip about how elementary principal, their district was looking at what other states have done and that questioner was concerned that might actually ignore some of the focus, coherence, and rigor points. Any strategies for that principal to know where to know and what to do for focus coherence and rigor.
FF: Sure. Yeah. Well, what a great question. You know, I–you know, my analogy to that, Tim, is that I has happened to me. I’ve had principals come to me and say, you know, somebody has to ask me to talk to you about what I’ll do, I’m like time out. It’s your building. And so, tell me about your teachers, figure, you know, and it’s interesting, once you turn that around, I mean this person, I mean who sat right on the chair right next to me for about two hours, about a week ago, he could tell me who the lead teachers were, where are the challenges were and so forth and so on. And he knew that. But sometimes I think people, “Well go to this website.” Well you know what? Figure out what your plan first. Know what your strengths are, know what you’re weaknesses are, know where you’re going to go and then maybe use the website or whatever it happens to be the resource however you think about that to help. But I think unfortunately, I find people who want to say, you know, go here for the quick fix. There’s no quick fix here folks. And it’s got to be about what you’re doing and what you’re building–at your building level, building that team supporting them and then you rate it. By the way, to grab those resources and have them make the decisions about what’s good. So, I hope that helps.
TH: Sure. We had a question about can you speak to any challenges or information you have for someone working with an extremely small school perhaps isolated either geographically or just for being a small district, small school, any tips for principals in that situation?
FF: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I mean one of the things about–boy, kind of where we are right now is the best thing I have to suggest as a resource Tim is that, boy, all those stuff is online between the stuff that you’re going to tell them about from DreamBox between the slides that I showed and that’s just kind, and that one slide really takes them a lot of different places. They’re able to really see what other places are doing and then maybe get underneath that and actually go to schools that are somewhat like them that are very rural or have some of the challenges that in urban district might have or you know, the challenges are both simultaneously similar in terms of implementation and different in terms of community structure and size of building and challenges within the building and so forth, so.
TH: Yes, and building that capacity in any school but especially in the schools it’s a daunting task to be sure. You probably see that question near the bottom from Peter from Morrow Elementary. You kind of validated this a little bit but what would you be your focus for particular content if doing some math content PD and 3 through 5.
FF: Yup. Yup, yup. Right, yeah. Right, absolutely, yeah. Actually, you know, I’m going to actually scroll up because I see Peter said thanks, but my guess is, oh yeah, okay, fine. Okay, Peter, what you got to do. Start with fractions and I actually saw somebody and Maria answered that quickly. The biggest change–the biggest see change in my opinion at the 3-5 levels is fractions. And by the way, when I talk about fractions is fractions and decimals because decimals come in there a couple of different times as well. But there’s more of–there’s more of fractions than probably here to 4 and I actually find as a person who’s taught a lot of mathematics to both pre-service teachers and professional people just you know, our culture just not good at those things called fractions- let it be fractions, decimals, percent, you name it. So, I would sure say that’s an area of focus, so I guess it was Maria from Miami who suggested that I’m–I like that Maria from Miami. I’m agreeing with her.
TH: Alright there’s not a whole lot coming through. Ay last words Skip before I just share briefly about DreamBox?
FF: I’ve seen a lot of questions about the slides and I’m seeing that Tim indicated that they’re coming back pretty quick. So I guess, I guess I would say that our country is really moving fast and I think very strongly in this implementation and that I think that’s encouraging and simultaneously challenging so that’s a good thing. You know, Tim, I got to do the following. Ravens. Yeah.
TH: Yeah, right. Go Ravens. Alright [Foreign Language]. Nicely done. Thank you very much Skip. You’re getting a lot of shout outs here in the chat. Folks saying thank you and we really appreciate it. Skip’s a valued adviser at DreamBox. And I think at this point Skip you can probably click “Stop Broadcasting” and I’ll close it out here in these last five minutes. And we’ll keep [xx] when it’s time.
So, here is a couple of slides about where to get a little more information about the project Skip’s working on. And ffennell .com is also where you can follow Skip; keep track of him. I also remember that on Twitter there is a Common Core hash tag CCSS that you can keep up to date and just see things that come through there on the Twitter at Twitter hash tag.
Real quickly about DreamBox; in case you don’t know anything about DreamBox in case you don’t know anything about DreamBox, we are elementary math software built on an adaptive learning platform. I myself, am, a former high school math teacher and K-12 mathematics curriculum coordinator for sub-urban St. Louis where I worked very closely with principals who were dealing with a lot of the challenges that you are; implementing the Common Core in the past couple of years. And I was fortunate to be able to support principals in their role as Skip mentioned principal’s task is incredibly daunting and it was great for me to be able to support them as a content expert and work with the curriculum and work with their teachers.
principals do make a difference of course. And you can’t do this alone. DreamBox is a partner for schools who are leveraging technology, who do want to support student learning through the use of the kinds of software that Skip talked about that’s not only aligned with the Common Core in terms of contents but also in terms with the practices that develops the conceptual understanding.
So here on this slide you can see just a real quickly- these are three screen shots of many of our Virtual Manipulatives. Our software individually adapts and individualizes to – that first bullet’s is really the key thing. Students’ own intuitive strategies.
Like Skip said helping all students meet and reach high standards of achievement, proficiency and understanding on the Common and Really any standard is a challenging task for principals and teachers and it incredibly difficult to alone if you read any works on differentiation Carol Ann Tomlinson for example, the challenge of matching each student each day with content that’s in their zone of proximal development at their level of achievable challenge is incredibly challenging. And a lot of software sort of goes through the, “Here’s how you do it. Now go practice it” kind of pedagogical design, but at DreamBox, we build our tools for kids to intuitively pick them up play with them and learn intuitively through the mathematical models that we use. Skip is one of our advisers, Kathy Fosnot, who’s also an elementary math expert and also a trusted adviser and they help vet all of the things that we do. You see here in these images – actually the picture of the lower right had corner shows our multiply and fraction lessons that actually teaches kids that brownie problem that Skip went through where it helps kids realize that 1/12th of 1/3rd is 1/36 using models that are mathematically valid, and engaging and interactive. And we have many of these tools actually available through our website that teachers can use at their interactive whiteboard on their smart boards to help develop some of that content that skip was talking about. We adapt based on kids’ – the kinds of mistakes they make, the efficiency of strategy; you could see our number line tool here on the lower left that our teacher here at DreamBox write lessons to figure out how kids are thinking about problems and solving them.
We are truly formative learning. We eliminate the wall between instruction and assessment. We do develop the conceptual understanding and procedural fluency that Skip was talking about. We have those consistent progressions and coherent connections needed to make sure all students are learning and progressing with rich mathematical ideas and no gaps in their learning.
We deal with those cross grade issues because students are always working at their individual level and they are able to move forward and even sort of backwards to meet them right where they’re at. If you are a fourth grade teacher, or if you are a principal with a fourth grade classroom and you know that there are some struggles there to improve their achievement at a particular grade level, helping get kids at fourth grade whether they’re working fifth grade content or third content, or maybe even second grade content, DreamBox helps partner with your school to provide you with a data, to provide you with quality learning that conceptual understanding and of course robust reporting. This is an actual student report from the district that I worked in at Kindergarten classroom at the end of one year of DreamBox. So we let you know not only how long kids have worked on DreamBox , but the blue shows where they were at when they came , a sort of initial diagnostic, and then the orange is a matter of how much of the curriculum and the standards that they met over the course of time of playing DreamBox.
So you have kids working at multiple grade levels which was an issue that Skip alluded to and then lastly for differentiation, we also have a report that allows teachers to see which students have mastered a concept, which are working on it in DreamBox and which habit started it as well.
So, yes, it’s not just practice, but it has practice in it. And it’s instructive and kids really enjoy it. With that I believe I turn it back to our host.
Host: Hi, I’m Ken. Yeah great, thanks Skip and Thank you Lisa.