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Teacher to Teacher: New Standards and Curricula Elevate Collaboration

By: Catriona Anderson

The new educational standards most states recently adopted emphasize the need for students to engage in collaborative discussions — a skill they’ll need in college and the workforce. At the same time, America’s teachers also are working together more effectively and frequently.

Collaboration can greatly improve teaching and learning. But all too often, teachers have worked in silos, missing critical opportunities to exchange ideas and learn from one another.

The Common Core State Standards are helping to fuel the shift to a more collaborative environment in education. They call for significant instructional changes — emphasizing critical thinking, real-world problem solving, deeper learning, research and analysis. Teachers are looking to each other to share ideas about how to adjust their practices accordingly.

We’re specifically hearing exciting stories about how Eureka Math users are working together. For example, at regular Friday night dinners in Brooklyn, a group of teachers discuss problem sets and math models at some of the borough’s best eateries. Meanwhile, dozens of teachers in the Pacific Northwest use video conferencing to exchange ideas for lesson plans and better understand math models that are new to them.

And consider the case of Vermilion Parish schools in Louisiana, where teachers work in grade-level teams to read the overview of each Eureka Math module and then discuss the learning objectives and math content before customizing lessons to meet their students’ needs. The district’s teachers also have worked closely with their peers in neighboring Iberia and Lafayette parishes to collaborate around lessons and create materials to help parents understand the changes in math instruction. Penny Gennuso, Lafayette’s former K-12 Math and Science Academic Specialist, said the partnership has had a big impact. “We are all more successful due to this unprecedented collaboration among the three districts,” Penny said recently.

In Washington State, nearly a dozen districts have been holding professional learning sessions in person and online to collaborate around Eureka Math. One recent session centered on some of the new strategies and math models used in the curriculum, which encourage flexible thinking and provide students with more than one way of solving problems.

And at the Kuumba Academy public charter school in Wilmington, Delaware, math teachers spend a half-day together several times a year to allow time for studying each module. The teachers read the module overview, check out the exit tickets, and assess the big instructional jumps. They then plan out instructional days and anticipate what they may need to re-visit or work on in small groups. After each such session, they come away with a calendar and customized lesson plans.

We’re also encouraged by individual teachers reaching out to one another across the country through our online community of users. Through Pinterest, Facebook, and our web-based Eureka Champions Network, educators using our curriculum are exchanging ideas and sharing practices with each other and posing questions to our writers — educators themselves who relish being part of a community of teachers and learners.

We are thrilled to see these math conversations taking off and know this will have a strong and positive impact on classrooms across the country. Please keep sharing your stories with us through these social media channels or reach us through our website. We want to collaborate, too.

Catriona Anderson is the manager of implementation support for Eureka Math.

© Great Minds 2016