As I wrap up my time in the Digital Education Leadership (DEL) Master’s program at Seattle Pacific University, I decided to focus my culminating project on the Tier II math intervention courses in my district. As a former math teacher this is an area that has a special place in my heart and a subject that I know many students struggle in and lack confidence in. So for my practicum project I wanted to focus on taking the data and information gathered during my program evaluation project, that I wrote about in my bPortfolio, and put the findings into action.
To do this I first decided to partner up with one of the assistant principals (AP) at a middle school in my district, since they were also wanting to make improvements to the math intervention courses at their school. Through this collaboration we determined that we needed to look at the course structure and guidelines for how students are recommended and enrolled in the course. In order to make this a positive experience for students, we knew we needed to make sure that before a student was enrolled they knew about the course and how they might benefit from it. This was important to us because in the past students have often just been put into the course without knowing why and then are upset because they now have 2 math classes instead of one and no elective class. We also knew that it was important for teachers and other stakeholders in the building to understand why this course was important so that we could make sure it got the support and priority that it needed. Often in the past teachers would become frustrated with the process because they would recommend a student but then the student would not get enrolled in the course because it didn’t fit into their schedule. So we wanted to make sure that when a student is recommended every effort is made to enroll the student in the course, therefore we need the buy-in of all stakeholders.
In collaboration with the assistant principal we determined that there was a need to create a 1-page document that could be shared with teachers that outlines the focus of the course, structure of the course, and how this course can help students. This way when talking to teachers about the course we could all be using the same language and be working toward the same shared goals and vision. After the 1 page overview document was created we decided that it would be important to create a more modified version that could then be shared with families when recommending a student for the course. This again allowed us to have a common language and shared vision when talking about the course with families.
As I mentioned above, one of the other components was to make enrollment in the course a positive thing for students. I wanted students to be a part of the process and to have a voice in the conversation. Therefore, it was important that before any student was recommended for the course that teachers had conversations with the student and their family. However after talking with the AP, we knew we had to be specific about what these conversations looked like. Since we wanted the student and family to be a part of the process we knew that the conversation needed to happen either over the phone or in-person, we didn’t want teachers just sending an email home and hoping that the family read it. We also knew that time is valuable and so to make things a little easier on the teacher we decided to develop a script that teachers could use when calling home. This way it takes some of the pressure off the teacher and gives them a place to start the conversation when calling home.
Phone Call Script
Once we had these things in place we decided to meet with the math intervention teachers in order to get their feedback. This was another way to continue the lines of communication, allowing for teacher voice in the process and making sure that we had buy-in from the teachers. From this conversation one of the things that the teachers said was important to them was having a clear set of guidelines for how students enter the course (are enrolled) and how students exit the course. So following this conversation I put together an entrance and exit criteria document for the course. This document will then be shared with all stakeholders so that everyone involved can follow the same set of criteria and steps.
Entrance and Exit Criteria
One of the other pieces to all of this work was putting together a support system for the teachers. Based on the program evaluation that I had done previously I knew that this was something that had been lacking and was important to the teachers. So, another piece to all of this was developing a plan of support for those teaching the math intervention course. Even though I was specifically working with an AP from one of our middle schools, I decided that the learning was something that would benefit all of the math support teachers in our district. Therefore as I began putting together a professional learning plan, I intentionally planned for supporting all the math support teachers. In planning the professional learning experience I knew that I wanted to draw on my own learning from the DEL program. I first started thinking about the overall goal of the professional learning experience and then the learning experiences that I wanted to create in order to meet that goal. Taking some of the ideas that I had learned regarding adult learning theories and active learning I wanted to design something that allowed for participants to have choice in how they learned, time for self-reflection, time for putting the learning into practice, and time for collaboration. I also knew that I wanted to connect the learning to some of our district goals in order to make connections to the work across our district. This allowed me to develop a professional learning plan that allows for both asynchronous learning as well as in-person learning over the course of the year. In order to not overwhelm the teacher I designed the learning so that it gives time for processing and reflection in between sessions. Each session has a different focus for the learning all tied to district and building goals with a total of 5 learning sessions throughout the year. I am also planning on creating a Canvas course so that participants have a place for discussion and so I can utilize the module function of Canvas for creating the asynchronous learning opportunities. This will also allow me to pivot quickly if for some reason we are not able to meet in-person next year and have to instead meet remotely.
Professional Learning Plan Proposal
Moving forward the AP and I are planning another meeting with the math intervention teachers. At this meeting we are planning on sharing all of our documents with them so that we can get any final thoughts or ideas from them. After that the AP is working with the building principal to put our ideas into action so that we can be sure to have the appropriate staffing and classes available for registration. I am also submitting my professional learning plan to my supervisor for approval so that I can begin officially planning and building the Canvas course. Throughout the course of the next year I plan on continuing to make adjustments and refinements to these plans in order to make sure we are meeting the needs of the students and teachers. Toward the end of the year the AP and I are planning to reflect on how things went, make adjustments and also outline ideas for how to share this with the other schools in our district for continued improvement and support.
This entire process has allowed me to utilize a lot of the learning that I have done over the course of the DEL program. I was able to use ideas connected to the ISTE Coaching standard: Learning Designer, such as designing active learning experiences, allowing for student voice and choice, collaborating and personalizing the learning. I also pulled from the ISTE Coaching standard: Professional Learning Facilitator, ideas of designing based on needs assessments, supporting active learning, allowing for reflection and feedback and evaluating impact in order to make improvements. I am continuing to collaborate not only with the AP but also with the math intervention teachers as well as the other STEM facilitators in my district so that we can partner together on this work. I am also using data collected from the teacher during the professional learning as well as continuing to monitor and pull student data in order to evaluate the changes we have made to the intervention courses this coming year. My goal is to be able to continue to use the data in order to make further adjustments and improvements. I am also using this experience to support my own professional learning journey so that I can continue to learn and grow throughout this entire process.
In the end everything comes back to student learning. How can I help support teachers so that they can support students and how can we all have a voice at the table? I am committed to continuing to work with the teachers so that we can begin to not only just look at the intervention courses but eventually all the math courses, so that we can have a larger impact on student learning, mathematical confidence and helping all students see themselves as math students.
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