When you make a large investment in a curricular change—particularly with a high-quality curriculum like Eureka Math®—it’s worth the additional commitment to ensure a successful implementation. As a K–12 math curriculum specialist for a large district in Missouri, I had the opportunity and privilege to work with our leadership team and teachers to support my district’s implementation of Eureka Math. Throughout this journey, we learned a lot about assumptions we’d made regarding how to best support the leadership team and our teachers. The biggest takeaway is that we all have a role to play in implementation.
A successful implementation involves educators at all levels.
We can’t just expect teachers to know how to use a new curriculum effectively. We must equip school and district leaders with knowledge about the curriculum and content so they can support teachers and provide meaningful, intentional feedback that’s specific to the curriculum. Too often, we assume that if teachers attend professional development, they are ready to use a new program in their classrooms. Throughout the implementation of Eureka Math, I saw the importance of educating and providing professional development, not only for teachers but for administrators and instructional leaders as well. Eureka Math requires a shift in mindset for many administrators, teachers, and students. We realized that our educators need our continued support to shift toward teaching math more conceptually.
Being immersed and entrenched in our math program has been incredibly meaningful for everyone, including assistant superintendents, principals, teachers, and others throughout the district. Now, stakeholders at all levels ask themselves, “How do I provide good instruction?” We’re all on the same page, and we all support success in mathematics.
Professional learning for leaders supports implementation success.
For our school leaders, my district decided to go beyond the Lead Eureka Math professional development and engage with Eureka Math’s Guided Observation for Leaders coaching session. Through this additional coaching, we learned about core implementation actions and indicators. These indicators have become a guide not just for Eureka Math but for core instruction across all content areas. We gained knowledge of what good instruction in math and productive struggle look like, and we became more aware of what we can expect to see in our classrooms.
Investing in professional learning for our leaders allows us to meet our goal of empowering leadership because every principal is supported with tools for observation of math classrooms and is better prepared to provide feedback about Eureka Math best practices. We see the areas in which we are doing well and what next steps we’d like to take for the entire staff, grade-level professional learning communities (PLCs), and individual coaching.
Teachers thrive with ongoing professional learning.
When we began our Eureka Math implementation, the teachers attended foundational professional development offerings like Launch Eureka Math and Fluency in Action. Teachers had the information they needed to get started, but they also needed to think beyond those first few days of teaching. We’d seen the impact of coaching on the leadership team, and we knew our teachers would also benefit from coaching. A Eureka Math coach came into two of our schools to work directly with our teachers.
Coaching allows us to reinforce the foundational professional development and give teachers valuable feedback as they implement the curriculum. The continued support following the initial professional development makes a huge difference for teachers and students. But this would not be possible if we hadn’t first built that capacity with our leaders. Now, rich conversations about math instruction happen regularly. It was a shining moment to see the benefit of the professional development carry over into the classroom. We are truly building a culture of good math practices and feedback.
We also found the coaching process to be a powerful driver of our PLCs. School leaders can lead PLC conversations more artfully, and our discussions are much more rooted in the instruction than they were previously. Teachers are empowered to take ownership of their learning and engage in PLC discussions more purposefully. Coaching helped us transfer what we learned in Eureka Math professional development to our own classrooms with our own students.
The coaching process that my district partnered with Eureka Math to provide has been invaluable. It’s shifted our thinking so much that we want to use a similar process for other content areas. The professional development for leadership has been every bit as valuable, if not more so, than the professional development for teachers. We’ve invested in our Eureka Math implementation at all levels, and we’re seeing the results. Our Eureka Math implementation journey is a success story.
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Jennifer Combest is the K-12 math coordinator for the Ferguson-Florissant School District in St. Louis County, MO. Prior to assuming the role of coordinator, she taught secondary math for 18 years.