I recently attended a New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) meeting in Albany to talk with union representatives and members about Eureka Math, which is widely in use in classrooms across New York. My colleagues (Marianne Strayton and Catriona Anderson) and I were a little cautious. With so much misinformation about the Common Core State Standards circulating in the media and elsewhere, we didn’t quite know what to expect that Saturday morning.
Standards aren’t the same as curriculum. Standards are goals, or grade-level expectations for learning, while a curriculum is the tool or vehicle that allows teachers to connect their instruction to those learning standards. But there has been so much confusion about the two.
I didn’t know if I was walking into a meeting in which I’d have to defend the new college- and career-ready standards, which I fully support but didn’t help write. Or if I’d get a chance to help educators engage with the Eureka curriculum, which I and many other teachers helped develop.
Fortunately, the latter turned out to be the case.
The educators and union leaders had many questions for us. For example, what is our agreement with the New York State Education Department? Answer: The state contracted with us to help make a free version of our PK–12 curriculum available to any district in and outside of New York. How does Eureka Math address diverse learners? Answer: We have various models and strategies for solving problems and helping all students understand the meaning behind math concepts. How closely are teachers expected to follow Eureka Math modules and lesson plans? Answer: Nothing in the curriculum should be used as a script. Eureka Math provides detailed resources for teachers to use but not follow word-for-word.
In addition to enjoying an excellent dialogue, we also heard frustration from the teachers about the level of information and support they are receiving related to new school reforms.
Some of those at the New York meeting weren’t entirely aware that the math curriculum on EngageNY is Eureka Math. Our visit was a great opportunity to point them to the Great Minds/Eureka Math website, which is increasingly full of rich resources. For example, teachers looking to help parents understand the shift to our more rigorous approach to mathematics, which encourages critical thinking and real-world problem solving, ought to check out the Eureka Math parent tips.
Many of the resources we’ve put on our website originate from ideas we get in meetings like the one I attended in Albany. For instance, attendees suggested we do further outreach with principal associations as well as teacher groups. That makes sense, and we’ll heed that advice. We teachers and writers strongly believe in Eureka Math, and we know the best results come from schools that implement the curriculum with thoughtfulness and fidelity. We get so much out of talking with school leaders about what that should look like.
In New York, you don’t have to look far. Several districts have been implementing Eureka Math so well. Lindenhurst School District, for example, saw a 10-point jump in end-of-year math scores. And, overall, New York schools saw nearly five-point gains in math in grades 3–8 last year. Many of those schools used the version of Eureka Math created for EngageNY.
Conversations like the one we held in Albany can only help keep this terrific momentum going — not just in New York but all across the country where teachers and parents are eager for quality curricular resources that can help all students excel.
Adam Baker is a former 5th-grade teacher from Marlboro, New York. He is now working with the Eureka Math team as a curriculum writer.
© Great Minds 2016