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Saturday, May 02, 2015

Reflections on the Math Year 2015

Today at our PLC, a review of the math year was suggested.

I wasn't ready for that as I'm waiting to hear about the State decisions related to standardized testing for next year and I also want to see our students' results. I'm wondering how they fared on this year's PARCC tests.

When the scores come in, I'll carefully look at the questions and then assess students' results. Since I know what we did in the classroom, I'll be able to compare time, focus, and approach with results on specific questions by specific students. I'm also curious as to the growth score algorithm the State will use to look at student progress with regard to this year's PARCC tests and last year's MCAS, and I want to hear how the leaders in my school system react to the tests too. What will be their assessment of the test results and how will that impact their goal setting for the year to come?

Also since I don't know my assignment for next year, I wasn't ready to think too deeply about the year ahead. Yet as a fan of analysis and assessment, I do think it's good to do an end-of-the-year review of curriculum efforts, and in that spirit, I have the following thoughts.

First, I really liked starting the year with making the number quilt. It was a great way to review students' number skills and create a great resource for classroom learning and endeavor. I think it works well to start the math year with a comprehensive, differentiated project that includes both review and new learning.

I also thought that starting the year with measurement and order of operations gave students number processes and facts to study and use throughout the year as we learned more about standards related to computation, fractions, coordinate grids, and geometry. Also learning measurement early allows us to integrate that knowledge into science exploration and study as well.

I also felt that the depth and breadth of early-year standards based tests helped to prepare students for later year standardized tests and projects. Starting strong when students' energy and enthusiasm for learning is high lays a good path for the learning year.

I was happy with the way the math class was blended too. We used multiple online and offline resources and strategies. That made math class interesting and productive. The use of the Magnificent Math class website supported student learning too.

The system-wide math website, RTI work, and RTI protocols also supported the teaching and learning this year as well.

The areas of the math year that I'd like to reconsider include the following:
  • Start RTI earlier and increase support for our most challenged math learners to five times a week. 
  • Assess students' overall skills and performance during the first two weeks of the school year.
  • Realign assessment patterns so that we don't have as many big tests altogether leaving more time for differentiated, standards-based, deep project work particularly in the late winter/spring time frame where we had too many tests positioned together.
  • Include more coding with math work.
  • Scaffold the teaching and assessment for the most challenged math students more so they don't become discouraged and so they can see the progress they make explicitly often. 
  • Stay in communication more with the parents of challenged math students. 
  • Increase the time with regard to fraction study and focus, and perhaps begin the year with a big fractions project because fractions are typically taught in the busy weeks of late winter and spring which are often interrupted with other events. 
  • Create a more scaffolded common assessment so that students who struggle do not become as discouraged as they did this year taking a test that was beyond their current ability level. 
When the tests come in, I want to note the following:
  • Areas where most of my students did well and areas where most of my students did not do well.
  • How my students scored in comparison to my colleagues' students--were our scores similar or did we differ in some areas?
  • I'd like to research more about the areas where colleagues' students, in general, did better than my students so that I can learn more strategies. Of course, when I look at scores, I'll consider colleagues' students and class profiles since we tend to know each others' students well through our PLC discussions and data share.
Once I know my assignment, my students, and results of last year's overall efforts, I'll have a better sense of where I'd like to take next year's math program, but in the meantime, these are my math program thoughts at this time.