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Principal Training Is Key to Math Success

Harrison School District 2 in Colorado Springs, CO, is all-in on professional development—not just for teachers but for principals as well. At monthly meetings, principals work on Eureka Math problems. “They get to be a student, so they understand better what is going on in their teachers’ classrooms,” says Laura Spruce, the district’s elementary curriculum coordinator. Even the superintendent has worked through number bonds and used the Rekenrek, a manipulative that uses beads to help teach addition and subtraction.

Having principals onboard by actually training them and making them take part in the math experience has been key to our success,” Spruce adds.

Teachers also receive abundant support throughout the year. When the district first adopted Eureka Math in the 2016-2017 school year for Grades K–5, staff from Great Minds, the nonprofit that developed the curriculum, conducted the Preparation and Customization of a Eureka Math Lesson professional development session for a group of district teachers, one from each grade level. During the year, teachers of Grades K–5 participated in more focused training from Great Minds.

In the second year of implementation, the district’s curriculum team is delivering targeted training to schools to address their specific needs. And districtwide, grade-level teachers collaborate about two weeks before each new module is taught. “We’re all in one room together, and then we backward plan the unit using some of the Eureka Math resources, like the ladder metaphor,” Spruce says.

Finding Coherence

District Module Planning Sessions

Teachers first brought Eureka Math to the district in its earlier online guise, EngageNY Math (the original Eureka Math curriculum developed for New York State). They were excited to discover a cohesive curriculum so well aligned with new state-adopted college- and career-readiness standards. Finding Eureka Math meant they no longer had to develop their own lessons.

District leaders have also taken several steps to free teachers from administrative tasks, for example, helping them set up their interactive whiteboards and creating wall posters of vocabulary words. “Now they can just print them, instead of having everyone create their own. We did what we could for the teachers so that they could spend their time really planning, thinking, and executing these lessons,” Spruce adds.A couple months into it, the teachers started to like the curriculum more. This year, the teachers who taught it last year are really enjoying it. They believe in the product. They believe that the teaching they're doing is correct,” Spruce says, adding that teachers are already making notes on how to improve their instruction next year.As with any new curriculum, the rollout was somewhat challenging at first, as teachers learned how to adjust their pacing, especially with students who had so much ground to make up. “We've done a lot of training on the article ‘Resisting the Urge to Reteach for Mastery,’” Spruce says.

Results Are Encouraging

The results are encouraging: Student achievement on this year’s mid-year assessments improved from last year. And district leaders are eager to see the results of the 2017–2018 state tests, which the students will take this spring. 

The learning is apparent in the classroom. “We’re definitely seeing student work and student thinking really improve. They can explain what they’re doing and really have a deeper understanding,” Spruce says. Indeed, students know the math so well, they often are the ones who show their parents how to work through problems during school Math Nights. 

Kindergarten Students Learning About Number Bonds