Saturday, September 13, 2014

Math Council Meeting #1

Math Council met for our first meeting of the 2014-2015 school year on Wednesday. Our agenda was packed because of all the changes this year. We have new standards, new content limits, new item specifications, and new state standardized assessments. We also have new online tools purchased by the district.

Knowing what we do about S-C-I-A (Standards, Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment) alignment, we know that new standards and the definition of how we assess them, changes everything. It changes the curriculum units we use as teacher tools, the instructional content we teach, the rigor and depth of the questioning we use, the level of tiered instruction we'll implement, the assessment questions we create, and the homework we give. It basically turns back the clock of time.

We start all agendas with a quote; It seemed fitting that I used, "In places where most people see challenges, Julie Jackson sees opportunity and promise." from a new text I'm reading, Leverage Leadership.  At The Creek we've always seen challenges as opportunities. Though we will be turning to new, we know that with the new, often brings growth. It'll be hard work but in the end will lead students to a deeper math understanding.  As professionals it will require us to study and hone our craft, but we are ready and willing.

The agenda was structured around four questions, Where Have We Been, Where Are We Going, How Will We Get There, and What Do We Need to Get There? 

Where Have We Been?:  We quickly analyzed last year's data to give us a clear picture of what we had accomplished and what next steps remained.  Due to all the changes, we didn't spend time setting new goals based on this data, rather will closely monitor our exit tickets and common aligned assessments as we move forward this year.

Where Are We Going?:  The majority of our time together was spent on discussion about our new standards and the new state assessment. To begin, council members paired up and took a true/false quiz on the new Grade 3 standards that was written by our third grade math lead, Ashley Russell. The team answered the questions to the best of their ability and then logged on to to look up answers. After they looked up a few, Ashley provided an answer key with notes. Here is a partial part of that quiz:    

Grade 3 Mathematical Florida Standards

Use multiplication and division within 100. 
TRUE         FALSE
Understand the Associative Property of Multiplication.
TRUE         FALSE

By the end of Grade 3, students will know from memory all products through 12 x 12.
TRUE         FALSE
through 9x9
Solve one-step word problems using the four operations.
TRUE         FALSE
Use place value understanding to round whole numbers to the nearest 10 and 100 only.
TRUE         FALSE

The leads found the exercise interactive and beneficial with getting acquainted with the standards and saw the benefit in clearing up misconceptions. As they create their own standards quiz for their grade level, I've asked them to share a copy with me. Having a vertical picture of the math standards is one goal of the Math Council team.

"Standards are meaningless until you define how to assess them." Another quote taken from Leverage Leadership which created the springboard for our next activity. We logged on to the Florida Assessments Training Test at and took a Training Test. (Open in Firefox, Click on Students/Parents, Click on Training Test, Click on Sign In as Guest User, and Start Test).

Right away, our leads recognized the depth of change. Students would have to get really comfortable with technology tools, varying question stems, answering with multiple correct answers rather than just choosing a best answer. A deeper level of content understanding and number sense would be necessary. The list goes on and on. The Training Test shows the rigor at which the state plans to assess.

How Will We Get There?:  I put together binders for each lead with the grade level standards, the content to be covered on their grade level test, and the sample item specifications of new questions and stems. We turned our attention for a few minutes to these documents that will need to be dissected in order for full understanding and to give leads the ability needed to begin making changes to the assessment questions on their common aligned grade level assessments, exit tickets, and homework. This is where the depth of our time, energy, and expertise will be needed this year to begin the massive revisions.

Again, I used Leverage Leadership by reviewing Chapter 1 on Instruction, highlighting major points, to give leads an understanding of why we need these revisions to be common, state assessment aligned, and curriculum aligned. It will be a difficult and time consuming, but we have to find a way.

Our discussion in this area also included the importance of teachers following the Learning Schedule. Only when learning schedules are followed can common aligned assessment occur for grade level discussion of student work and assessment results. The level of rigor needed must be embraced across all classrooms on a grade level. We plan on much more sharing of student work during Teacher Meetings to make this a reality.

What Do We Need To Get There?:  With a change in standards, comes changes in content. Some of the new standards will mean rearranging curriculum units between grade levels, others will require buying new materials, and yet others will mean that we need professional development in certain areas. We know, we will need inch rulers in first grade, Number Talk books in K/1, and we will need to send leads to the Florida Math Conference. I'm sure there are other needs, too, that will emerge, and this team stands ready to fulfill the requests.

We also recognize that new ideas will be implemented and old ideas tweaked to better meet the needs of all students. Though, I called these Tidbits on this month's agenda, as we move forward I'll call them Small Gems. Two small gems from this meeting included Ashley's implementation of a Today's Number Sheet during her math center teacher led group, and Angela's implementation of her common board configuration and lesson planning. They were ideas that were shared so others, seeing connections, may immediately implement.

If you are interested in reading more about our Math Council meetings, stay tuned... We met, again, on October 8th! 

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