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INTENSIVE TRAINING IS THE KEY AT KUUMBA ACADEMY: A FIELD REPORT FROM WILMINGTON, DE


Sally Todorow is the Math Instructional Coach at Kuumba Academy Charter School in Wilmington, DE, consistently rated one of the state’s highest-performing schools despite very high numbers of low-income students. The veteran educator (who spent 16 years in Brandywine, the state’s third largest district, and is now in her second year at Kuumba) says Eureka Math’s training is the key.


How long have you been using Eureka?

I first piloted Eureka Math as a 5th grade teacher in Brandywine early on. I had worked with Robin Ramos, lead instructional coach forEureka Math, and Scott Baldridge, lead mathematician and writer of Eureka Math, on Singapore Math, so I knew their approach well. Kuumba is in its third year of Eureka implementation and uses the curriculum in kindergarten to grade 8.

What’s the difference with this curriculum?

For Kuumba Academy, it’s the rigor, the alignment with the Common Core State Standards, and the high expectations for students and teacher content knowledge. Training is essential. For teachers who’ve had training and/or more than a year teaching the curriculum, their students do very well. For instance, in 3rd grade, 63 percent of our students scored mastery or above on the Smarter Balanced assessment, compared to 53 percent statewide. Last year, we had teacher turnover in 5th and 6th grade, but stability and consistent training in 3rd, 4th, and 7th, where we rocked it on the Smarter Balanced test. There was a dramatic difference. This curriculum really demands that teachers have a certain level of expertise.

How do you handle training?

It takes time. Before the year began, all teachers participated in a two- or three-day institute with the Eureka writers. During the year, math teachers meet weekly to analyze assessment data and plan together with me. Also, new this year, we get substitutes and spend a half day together doing our own module study before each grade level begins a new module. We follow the same approach as Eureka’s Pacing and Preparation Guide. Our teachers look at the table of contents, module overview, and exit tickets; see how the story evolve; look for big jumps in the cognitive level for that module; plan their days of instruction; and anticipate what they may need to revisit or work on in small groups. Though it’s only a half day, teachers really dig in. For each module, they come away with a calendar and lesson plans. Plus, we have the great advantage that Colleen Sheeron (who helped lead the development of the grade 2 curriculum) is on staff here.