The Power of Coaching a Professional Learning Community

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Tom Stricklin, Salem, OR  thomasstricklin@cpm.com

In 2016, the Algebra 2 team at North Salem High School ended the school year with disappointing results.   When the dust settled, F rates were high, A and B rates were low, and the percentage of North Salem students proficient in the Smarter Balance Assessment in Mathematics had dropped to 21%. On top of this, instruction had drifted away from a concerted effort to use the CPM curriculum and the teachers had reduced the amount of content they were covering. The team needed some direction, encouragement, and a renewed sense that their students could step up to the challenge of a rigorous course.

Behind the direction of Principal Cynthia Richardson and Assistant Principal Michael Contreras, steps were taken to support the team the next school year and challenge them to strive for more math for more kids. The leadership fully believed that with the right instructional practice, more students would pass and achievement on the state assessment would increase. They spoke to Susie Boehlke, one of the strongest CPM teachers in the building, gave her three sections of Algebra 2, and asked her to lead the team.

Having just stepped into my new role as the district high school math coach, I was eager to work with the North Salem mathematics team. Michael approached me and told me that he and Cynthia wanted me to focus all my energy at North on coaching the Algebra 2 PLC. They asked me to support the team in its use of the CPM curriculum and in analyzing and planning interventions based on common formative assessment results.

So we went to work. Susie and I meet regularly to discuss what should be on each common unit assessment and what conversations should the Algebra 2 team have to support student learning. The team was open and willing to re-engage with CPM and do their best to give the same assessments and analyze the results together. They had great input on what should be on the common assessments and what approaches our students needed. We met as a team about three times a month on Monday afternoons and had many spirited conversations about how to help the students who seemed to not be getting it. Over the course of the year I spent a ton of time in classrooms with teachers, debriefing lessons, and talking about how we could support student study teams and ask better questions to get students thinking. With many English learners and students of poverty in our classes, we regularly discussed scaffolds, posters, graphic organizers, and other tools that would help students make sense of the mathematics. In addition to our work, Michael would regularly get into classrooms and provide the teachers additional feedback and data on how they were doing in implementing the lessons our students needed to be college and career ready.  In our team meetings we would discuss this data and reflect on the types of lesson we were planning.

After each test we looked at the evidence of student learning. As a team or as individuals, we discussed what kids could do and what they struggled to do. We designed specific problems or activities for these students in response to the assessment results. After each six week progress period we looked at the percentage of As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs our team was giving. We discussed if we were hitting our goals and spent a lot to time unpacking the reasons that students were failing. We gave students multiple attempts to pass common unit assessments and provided re-teaching in between opportunities. When we saw trends or reasons that affected many students, we addressed them with interventions or purposeful activities. It did not feel like we were doing anything revolutionary; we were just sticking with it. It was a grind and we worked hard each day as a team to help each of our students make sense of the math.

When we reached the end of June, and our work was complete, we were thrilled with our results. We made significant improvements with how the CPM curriculum was implemented, covered more than eight chapters (the previous year the team had only covered six), and dramatically increased the rigor of the teams’ common assessments. You would think students grades would decrease, but they did not. We improved the percentages of As and Bs from 17% (2016) to 30%. Our F percentage decreased from 37% (2016) to 17%. And when our results on the SBAC Mathematics test were released by the state, we found that 31% of our Algebra 2 students were proficient, up from 19% in 2016. Overall the schools results improved from 21% proficient to 27% proficient.

The whole process just reminds me of the impact a team of teachers can have when they work with a coach who has the time to focus, facilitate ongoing reflection, and keep the work on track. It encourages me as a coach to continue to work with teams of teachers and convince them that together they too can have an incredible impact on theirs students achievement. I am so grateful for Susie, Rosette, Jacey, Corey, and Marty. For the hard work they put in all year for their students and for the joy it was to work with them each and every day.

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Algebra Tiles Blue Icon

Algebra Tiles Session

  • Used throughout CPM middle and high school courses
  • Concrete, geometric representation of algebraic concepts.
  • Two-hour virtual session,
  •  Learn how students build their conceptual understanding of simplifying algebraic expressions
  • Solving equations using these tools.  
  • Determining perimeter,
  • Combining like terms,
  • Comparing expressions,
  • Solving equations
  • Use an area model to multiply polynomials,
  • Factor quadratics and other polynomials, and
  • Complete the square.
  • Support the transition from a concrete (manipulative) representation to an abstract model of mathematics..

Foundations for Implementation

This professional learning is designed for teachers as they begin their implementation of CPM. This series contains multiple components and is grounded in multiple active experiences delivered over the first year. This learning experience will encourage teachers to adjust their instructional practices, expand their content knowledge, and challenge their beliefs about teaching and learning. Teachers and leaders will gain first-hand experience with CPM with emphasis on what they will be teaching. Throughout this series educators will experience the mathematics, consider instructional practices, and learn about the classroom environment necessary for a successful implementation of CPM curriculum resources.

Page 2 of the Professional Learning Progression (PDF) describes all of the components of this learning event and the additional support available. Teachers new to a course, but have previously attended Foundations for Implementation, can choose to engage in the course Content Modules in the Professional Learning Portal rather than attending the entire series of learning events again.

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Building on Instructional Practice Series

This series contains three different courses, taken in either order. The courses are designed for schools and teachers with a minimum of one year of experience teaching with CPM curriculum materials. Teachers will develop further understanding of strategies and tools for instructional practices and assessment.

Building on Equity

In this course, participants will learn how to include equitable practices in their  classroom and support traditionally underserved students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Participants will reflect on how their math identity and mindsets impact student learning. They will begin working on a plan for implementing Chapter 1 that creates an equitable classroom culture and curate strategies for supporting all students in becoming leaders of their own learning. Follow-up during the school year will support ongoing implementation of equitable classroom practices.

Building on Assessment

In this course, participants will apply assessment research to develop methods to provide feedback to students and to inform equitable assessment decisions. Participants will develop assessment action plans that will encourage continued collaboration within their learning community.

Building on Discourse

This professional learning builds upon the Foundations for Implementation Series by improving teachers’ ability to facilitate meaningful mathematical discourse. This learning experience will encourage participants to adjust their instructional practices in the areas of sharing math authority, developing independent learners, and the creation of equitable classroom environments. Participants will plan for student learning by using teaching practices such as posing purposeful questioning, supporting productive struggle, and facilitating meaningful mathematical discourse. In doing so, participants learn to support students collaboratively engaged with rigorous, team-worthy tasks with all elements of the Effective Mathematics Teaching Practices.