Good Curriculum Matters: Here’s Your Proof

In October of last year I started having nightmares about our state assessment scores coming out. I had pushed (and hard) for my school to pilot Open Up Resources 6–8 Math and it was a huge transition for our teachers. I think October was when it hit me that if it was a flop that I had put my school, colleagues, and students in a terrible position.

I knew in my soul that it was the best way to teach math but you know there is this “little” thing called accountability testing that meant regardless of what I thought that if the kids didn’t perform well on state testing that I had bought myself a lot of trouble. October was about the time of year that we were worried about pacing, the transition to a program that was so conceptual, and the million other things that comes with adopting a new curriculum hence the nightmares I started having.

There were bright parts along the way that I blogged about. We really saw the beautiful part of teaching students conceptually and had some amazing student outcomes on our MAP testing but I knew none of that mattered if my kids didn’t perform on our state test.

I got word in September that our results were strong but since I was no longer employed in the Fayette County School District it was so hard to get detailed results. Finally this morning our state department of education went live publicly with 2017-2018 detailed accountability data so I immediately dove in to see just how impactful the curriculum was.

I did a lot of analysis this morning and I am so excited to share it with you. A few quick notes. This is our 7th grade data only. Our 6th grade math also had strong results but since I was a 7th grade teacher I felt I could speak most accurately to the teaching and learning in 7th grade so I chose to focus on those results. There were also some long term teacher absences in 6th grade that I felt may have skewed the data somewhat and I wanted to present the best data I could for those interested.

This data is a comparison of 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. In that time our 7th grade teaching team remained the same so there was no difference in teachers. The demographic in our school also did not change significantly in that time. Although our state accountability system is undergoing some changes the test and measures of Novice and Proficiency did not. All of this data is based on 326 7th grade students who were tested. If you have other questions drop them in the comments I am glad to answer them.

Here we go…

 

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All Learners –  the percentage who were Proficient/Distinguished increased by 15% while the percentage who were Novice decreased by 39%.

Economically Disadvantaged Students – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 34%, Novice decreased by 35%

Students with Disabilities – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 8%, Novice decreased by 46% (did you read that…wow!)

English Language Learners – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 100%, Novice decreased by 20% (this is probably what I am most proud of…we doubled the amount of English Language Learners that were Proficient of Distinguished on the state assessment!)

African American Students – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 50%, Novice decreased by 42%

Non-Duplicated GAP – Proficient/Distinguished increased by 26%, Novice decreased by 32%.

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So there you go, year one of  Open Up Resources 6–8 Math. I am still in a little bit of awe at how much the GAP actually closed. I can’t help but think if we made this process in year one what schools in year two and onward will be able to do for students.

Kids, all kids, deserve a chance to be successful in math. Two years ago if you were a student with disability in our school there was a 60% chance you were Novice on the state test. Last year there was only a 30% chance and that was with only 1 year of strong curriculum. It gives me chills to think about what can happen to a student over the course of 3 years with a strong math curriculum like this one.

Good curriculum matters. Here’s your proof.

Sources:

2017-2018 School Report Card

2016-2017 School Report Card

 

Answers to Your Questions 1/24/19

There were some great questions asked about this data that I wanted to address! A teacher on Facebook asked a great question wanting me to compare last year’s 7th graders with their 16-17 6th grade scores rather than the previous class of 7th graders. I did that and WOW.

Screen Shot 2019-01-24 at 12.30.20 PM.png

Check that out… a 322% increase in our ELL students Proficiency from 6th Grade to 7th!

Dan Meyer also asked some great questions that I wanted to address:

Hi Brooke – these are really fantastic results, particularly if y’all think the K-PREP is a good exam. Thanks for sharing. Can you elaborate a bit on the factors you think led to those results? I’m sure good curriculum is a part of that. Were there other parts? What was the teacher PD like? What kinds of communities of practice would we find in FCPS? Did you folks do a lot of hiring in seventh grade math last year and if so what kinds of teachers were you looking for? Basically whatever you’d be willing to share in whatever time you have would be a big service to the math ed community.

 

My response:

Those are GREAT questions that I am happy to answer and will also go back in and add some of that information as an addendum so others can find it easily.

I do not honestly find that K-PREP is a good exam but it is what we have and it did provide a good comparison for me to use. Previous to 2017-18 our results were pretty consistent. We did not experience any large jumps or drops in scores like we saw here. I have written other posts on different assessments including NWEA’s MAP assessment where we also saw huge growth for all learners – especially those in the GAP and also our district written assessments so thee results really have been confirmed in a variety of ways.

I wish so much that we had strong PD around the curriculum. I can’t imagine how much growth we could have seen had we been able to take advantage of that. But we were really on our own in the District. We were the only school using Open Up Resources 6–8 Math and they helped us purchased the books but then we were on our own. I provided a PD to the teachers before school started to introduce them to the materials and any routines they were not used to but that was all we did in that regard. We had monthly Department meetings and weekly PLC meetings however where teachers could brainstorm and problem solve.

I will say one advantage we had was that I had long been an active MTBoS follower so I was very familiar will the instructional routines and structures such as Which One Doesn’t Belong and Notice and Wonder. Over time, I had introduced many of those to our Department in meetings and summer PD so they weren’t starting from scratch which I imagine would have made it much more challenging.

FCPS does have a wide variety of teacher PD days where teachers are “released” from the classroom for a day for professional learning. They range on a variety of topics and our teachers did participate in those but their participation was no different than it had been in years before. Things in FCPS remained the same as they had been in prior years.

We also did not hire any new seventh grade math teachers. The seventh grade team had worked together for the last 4 or 5 years with no changes at all. We did bring on a new collaborating math teacher in our co-taught classes. She was not new to our school building but was new to our PLC.

Our student population did not experience any large changes in this time either.

Another teacher asked what I thought was a very valid question. She wanted me to compare same students to same students. So instead of 16-17 7th graders to 17-18 7th graders she wanted to see the 17-18th graders comparison to their 6th grade scores from the previous year. I crunched those numbers and the results were crazy. I will add in that chart but our ELL students experienced a 322% growth as they moved from 6th to 7th grade. Of course maybe this can be attributed partly to them having an extra year of language experience but I was so excited for them regardless. They are closing their GAP and that is what matters to me.

Overall, I think the biggest impact was the fact that we went from no curriculum to a top notch curriculum in one year’s time. Although we had the best of intentions and worked ourselves hard to plan engaging and coherent lessons the truth is we obviously fell short especially when it came to coherence. I had long been a supporter of teaching math coherently and thought I was doing it…until I started using Open Up Math and then I quickly discovered that that kind of planning and forethought was something I just couldn’t easily achieve while also teaching full time and all of the responsibilities that come with that. In short it is pretty near impossible to be a full-time teacher and a full-time curriculum writer which is what I had been trying to do for 12 years. For the first time I could really focus on my teaching and the kids learning. That’s a simple though but had a monumental impact. I could refine my craft as a teacher instead of resource mining and piecing together part of other curricula to put something together that I thought served my kids.

From my students standpoint I think the greatest contributor to their success was math through this curriculum became something they enjoyed more because they had more autonomy in their problem solving methods and strategies. I was never a “hey you have to do this my way” teacher but I will admit a shameful teacher truth – when push came to shove and we had been on a topic way too long and my GAP students were still struggling I would try and make things easier for them by breaking things down, showing them steps, and giving them ridiculous things to remember. I am not proud but I was desperate sometimes.

The cyclical nature of Open Up Resources 6–8 Math meant that when we had spent a lot of time on a subject and we weren’t quite to mastery that I knew that the topic was going to continue to be woven in the next lesson and unit so that my students could continue to grapple with the math until they achieved mastery in their own time. I had so many struggling students for the first time tell me that the really “enjoyed math class” and I attribute that to the fact that it was no longer a race to mastery but was instead a time to brain storm, problem solve, work together, and think.

I saw that often when it was time to take a high stakes assessment. The kids who would previously “do math” by taking all the numbers out of a problem and add, subtract, multiply, and divide until they got something close to one of the answer choices and then decided that must be it were instead making xy tables, drawing number lines, using tape diagrams, and really reasoning. That was a win for me as a teacher. Half the battle of teaching math is convincing the kids that they can do it, this curriculum really did help me do that.

Sorry this was a novel. Hope this helps. Shout with other questions!

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4 thoughts on “Good Curriculum Matters: Here’s Your Proof

  1. Hi Brooke – these are really fantastic results, particularly if y’all think the K-PREP is a good exam. Thanks for sharing. Can you elaborate a bit on the factors you think led to those results? I’m sure good curriculum is a part of that. Were there other parts? What was the teacher PD like? What kinds of communities of practice would we find in FCPS? Did you folks do a lot of hiring in seventh grade math last year and if so what kinds of teachers were you looking for? Basically whatever you’d be willing to share in whatever time you have would be a big service to the math ed community.

    • Those are GREAT questions that I am happy to answer and will also go back in and add some of that information as an addendum so others can find it easily.

      I do not honestly find that K-PREP is a good exam but it is what we have and it did provide a good comparison for me to use. Previous to 2017-18 our results were pretty consistent. We did not experience any large jumps or drops in scores like we saw here. I have written other posts on different assessments including NWEA’s MAP assessment where we also saw huge growth for all learners – especially those in the GAP and also our district written assessments so thee results really have been confirmed in a variety of ways.

      I wish so much that we had strong PD around the curriculum. I can’t imagine how much growth we could have seen had we been able to take advantage of that. But we were really on our own in the District. We were the only school using Open Up Resources 6–8 Math and they helped us purchased the books but then we were on our own. I provided a PD to the teachers before school started to introduce them to the materials and any routines they were not used to but that was all we did in that regard. We had monthly Department meetings and weekly PLC meetings however where teachers could brainstorm and problem solve.

      I will say one advantage we had was that I had long been an active MTBoS follower so I was very familiar will the instructional routines and structures such as Which One Doesn’t Belong and Notice and Wonder. Over time, I had introduced many of those to our Department in meetings and summer PD so they weren’t starting from scratch which I imagine would have made it much more challenging.

      FCPS does have a wide variety of teacher PD days where teachers are “released” from the classroom for a day for professional learning. They range on a variety of topics and our teachers did participate in those but their participation was no different than it had been in years before. Things in FCPS remained the same as they had been in prior years.

      We also did not hire any new seventh grade math teachers. The seventh grade team had worked together for the last 4 or 5 years with no changes at all. We did bring on a new collaborating math teacher in our co-taught classes. She was not new to our school building but was new to our PLC.

      Our student population did not experience any large changes in this time either.

      Another teacher asked what I thought was a very valid question. She wanted me to compare same students to same students. So instead of 16-17 7th graders to 17-18 7th graders she wanted to see the 17-18th graders comparison to their 6th grade scores from the previous year. I crunched those numbers and the results were crazy. I will add in that chart but our ELL students experienced a 322% growth as they moved from 6th to 7th grade. Of course maybe this can be attributed partly to them having an extra year of language experience but I was so excited for them regardless. They are closing their GAP and that is what matters to me.

      Overall, I think the biggest impact was the fact that we went from no curriculum to a top notch curriculum in one year’s time. Although we had the best of intentions and worked ourselves hard to plan engaging and coherent lessons the truth is we obviously fell short especially when it came to coherence. I had long been a supporter of teaching math coherently and thought I was doing it…until I started using Open Up Math and then I quickly discovered that that kind of planning and forethought was something I just couldn’t easily achieve while also teaching full time and all of the responsibilities that come with that. In short it is pretty near impossible to be a full-time teacher and a full-time curriculum writer which is what I had been trying to do for 12 years. For the first time I could really focus on my teaching and the kids learning. That’s a simple though but had a monumental impact. I could refine my craft as a teacher instead of resource mining and piecing together part of other curricula to put something together that I thought served my kids.

      From my students standpoint I think the greatest contributor to their success was math through this curriculum became something they enjoyed more because they had more autonomy in their problem solving methods and strategies. I was never a “hey you have to do this my way” teacher but I will admit a shameful teacher truth – when push came to shove and we had been on a topic way too long and my GAP students were still struggling I would try and make things easier for them by breaking things down, showing them steps, and giving them ridiculous things to remember. I am not proud but I was desperate sometimes.

      The cyclical nature of Open Up Resources 6–8 Math meant that when we had spent a lot of time on a subject and we weren’t quite to mastery that I knew that the topic was going to continue to be woven in the next lesson and unit so that my students could continue to grapple with the math until they achieved mastery in their own time. I had so many struggling students for the first time tell me that the really “enjoyed math class” and I attribute that to the fact that it was no longer a race to mastery but was instead a time to brain storm, problem solve, work together, and think.

      I saw that often when it was time to take a high stakes assessment. The kids who would previously “do math” by taking all the numbers out of a problem and add, subtract, multiply, and divide until they got something close to one of the answer choices and then decided that must be it were instead making xy tables, drawing number lines, using tape diagrams, and really reasoning. That was a win for me as a teacher. Half the battle of teaching math is convincing the kids that they can do it, this curriculum really did help me do that.

      Sorry this was a novel. Hope this helps. Shout with other questions!

  2. Pingback: The Outcomes Stories We Should Be Talking About – Curriculum Matters

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