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Blog by Kari Fiutak, a Eureka Champion, experienced elementary teacher and the Instructional Coach for Math in the Kenmore-Tonawanda UFSD near Buffalo, NY.


Peggy Golden, one of the Eureka writers and my Grade 5 trainer, joked with our team recently, saying, “In the old days, two years ago, we would teach like this…” Everyone laughed and could relate. So much has changed in our teaching lives with the advent of the Common Core State Standards and their inherent instructional shifts.

Change, especially rapid or dramatic change, can be scary and overwhelming. It’s unlikely we’ll get it exactly right on the first try, but we have to start somewhere. My district math team started by looking for the best resources available and soon found that the label, “Common Core Aligned,” often meant nothing more than a sticker on a book. With the sheer number of resources available, the ability to discern and identify good content is a key skill for educators in the modern age. We had to go a long way to find truly aligned, coherent, and rigorous Common Core materials.

We picked Eureka Math and embarked on a full implementation this school year. With that change, our report card descriptors needed updating to address changes in sequencing and pacing. The following guiding principles framed our report card decision:

  • Language taken directly from the CCSS was often confusing to parents, our main audience for report cards. It was important for our teachers to understand the standards and mathematical progressions deeply, but we needed a more parent-friendly way to describe the work of the grade level. 
  • Grade level fluencies are clearly articulated in the standards and we would continue to grade these areas for every marking period for each grade. 
  • Mathematical Practices needed a place on our report card, but perhaps we could select some key practices to include instead of scoring all eight of them. 
  • The rubric used in Eureka already matched the New York State scoring scale, which was already in use for our district’s elementary report cards. The NYS rubric would stay, but with some adjustments. 

With this in mind, we started revising. The biggest chunk of the work was updating the descriptors. The sequencing of learning, pacing of units, and the narrative were different than the program we’d used before. Teachers were concerned that our report card language was quoted almost directly from the CCSS. Although it is true that we want fourth graders to, “use place value understanding and properties of operations to perform arithmetic” (our old descriptor), if we want to study it meaningfully with nine-year-olds, we must explore it in a context that supports the use of these skills. For example, metric or standard measurements could be rooted in interesting settings and data sets. If our report card described that work, perhaps the conversation about math learning would be more meaningful too.

The module titles in A Story of Units describe the learning even better than the standards-based report card descriptors we had used in the past. Our team took the plunge, making the new version strikingly simple by using the module titles (with only a few additions) as the descriptors. We added descriptors beyond the module titles in certain cases. A good example is in Grade 2, where some of the geometry work of the grade is embedded inside a module called Foundations of Multiplication. In that situation, we added a geometry descriptor (use same-size squares to compose and decompose rectangles) for the same quarter so that work was scored. Another example is in grade five when, again, the geometry work with two dimensional shapes is nested within the work of volume and area in Module 5.

We are not confident our work is perfect, but we consider it a mindful starting point. Will it be too simple? Will parents miss the breakdown of more detailed descriptors? We are not sure. The thing is, we won’t know until we try it. We predict they will appreciate the simplicity.

Access the report cards developed by Kenmore-Tonawamda UFSD here.

© Great Minds 2016