I work closely with the 8th grade teachers of our district and can say without hesitation: We are excited as we move into year 2 with this curriculum.
But true confessions: Sometimes year 1 felt bumpy.
It was hard for many of our team to adjust to this different way of teaching. It was hard for our students who wanted so much for us to revert to old methods and tell them what to do, and were stubbornly determined to wait us out. Sometimes the connections were not what we expected or were used to, and it felt a little uncomfortable. And sometime unit test scores were not what we wanted.
Time was tight and we had no real time for reviewing before state testing. In fact we had to cut short things that were priority standards. After testing we covered things that featured prominently in the state performance task.
We pushed onward and did our very best for our students. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say we were worried going into state testing, and even more worried when we watched them taking it.
And in spite of what was sometimes uncomfortable, state test scores showed amazing program growth.
- Our average growth per teacher was 7%
- 47% of our teachers experienced double digit growth
- More than half our teachers had over 50% of their students meet or exceed standards. (for comparison the district averages for the last 4 years in 8th grade math were: 45%, 43%, 38% and 41%)
So while sometimes we had days where our lessons felt like a hot mess, somehow we got better. How is that possible??
- Our curriculum was better aligned to the grade level standards. Teachers spent time teaching the things they were supposed to teach at the correct level of rigor.
- Teachers learned more about the math content. Teachers who planned using the teacher materials were pushed to think more deeply about the math they were teaching. They begin to see connections they did not see before. It was amazing PD to dig in and learn this course.
- Teachers began to understand the vertical connections and their place in the progression of student learning. The curriculum emphasized building on previous year’s learning all year long.
- Spiraling allowed mastery over time. Topics came up again and again, which allowed students to revisit and deepen their understanding. Research shows that this has a profound impact on retention.
- Pedagogy and access. The curriculum is built to support teaching differently than we have before, in a way that promotes access and understanding for all students. Some teachers experimented with this more than others, but for all of us we are just at the beginning of this learning. Note – lots of teacher and student growth could happen without this piece, but the greatest growth came in classrooms that experimented with these new methods.
We can’t wait to see what happens next year now that we know the curriculum and are addressing some of the problems with pacing and practice that we had during the first year.
So the moral of our story is don’t be afraid to jump in. Even with our less than perfect execution, the curriculum was good for our students.
And that is what we are all about.