Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Ending the Era of Invitation!

            With the CCSS for mathematics, the era of invitation to change the practice of teaching and learning mathematics ends. The CCSS expectations for teaching, learning and the new state assessments of that learning, usher in an opportunity for unprecedented change of the second order variety. Since 1991, the lack of coherent and sustained change toward effective practice has been partially caused by a general attempt to work within first order change parameters. First order change is characterized as working within existing paradigms with marginal disturbance to the system, and implemented within the existing knowledge and skills of those closest to the action – the faculty, staff and administration of a school. 

            Thus, although vision documents such as PSSM, Reasoning and Sense Making and Adding It Up clearly defined teaching, learning and assessment expectations for mathematics, first order change rules allowed for little coherent shifting into the most essential paradigms needed to deliver on the promise of successful mathematics learning for every child. In many cases the very system of previous states’ standards in mathematics assessment caused local district resistance to embracing the promise of the effective teaching and learning of mathematics. The CCSS will be the catalyst for breaking down that resistance, and providing the support you need, as teachers and leaders in your school. 

It is time to disturb the system. 

          The CCSS will bring into focus five fundamental 2nd order paradigm shifts  required to prepare every student and teacher for the successful implementation of the CCSS in mathematics. They are:

1. Professional development – the CCSS require a shift in the grain size of change beyond the individual isolated teacher or leader. It is the grade level or course based collaborative learning team (collaborative team), within a professional learning community (PLC) at work culture that will develop the expanded teacher knowledge capacity necessary to bring coherence to the implementation of the CCSS. The grain size of change now lies within the power and the voice of the collaborative team in a PLC.

2. Mathematics Teaching and learning – the CCSS require a  shift to daily lesson designs that include plans for the CCSS student mathematical practices that focus on the process of learning that develop deep student understanding of the standards. This paradigm shift requires teaching for procedural fluency and student understanding. One can and should not exist without the other. This will require a collaborative team commitment for the use of student engaged learning opportunities around high cognitive demand mathematical tasks in every classroom.

3. Mathematics Content – the CCSS require a shift to a less (fewer standards) is more (deeper rigor with understanding)” standard. This will require new levels of knowledge and skill development for every teacher of mathematics to understand what the CCSS expects students to learn at each grade level or in each course blended with how they expect students to learn it. What are the mathematical knowledge, skills, understandings and dispositions that should be the result of each unit of mathematics instruction?  A school and mathematics program committed to helping all students learn ensures great clarity and low teacher-to-teacher variance to answering the questions, “learn what and learn how?”

4. Mathematics Assessment – the CCSS will require a paradigm shift to assessments that not only reflect the rigor of the standards but also model the expectations for and benefits of formative assessment development around all forms of assessment, including traditional assessment instruments such as quizzes and tests. How will you know if each student is learning the essential mathematics skills, concepts, understandings, and dispositions the CCSS deems most essential in high school?

5. Mathematics Intervention – the CCSS require a paradigm shift in the team and school response to intervention (RTI). Much like the CCSS vision for teaching and learning, RTI can no longer be invitational. That is, the RTI response to intervention becomes R^2TI – a Required Response to Intervention. Stakeholder implementations of RTI programs include a process that requires students to participate and attend. How will you and your collaborative team respond and act on evidence (or lack of evidence) of student learning?

Second order change is never easy. It will require your willingness to break away (or to help a fellow teacher break away) from past practice of teaching low cognitive demand level mathematics lessons at the rate of one standard per day. Breaking away from a past practice that provides few student opportunities for exploration, understanding and active engagement, or that uses assessment instruments that may or may not honor a fidelity to accuracy and timely student feedback followed by student action and correction of errors. These five mindsets (paradigm shifts) will be required by every teacher in order to meet the expectations of the CCSS.

Some advice as the reality of the CCSS mathematics sets in: First do your teacher work together. Pursue the PLC culture. In well-designed grade level or course based collaborative learning team, your teacher knowledge capacity will only grow and flourish. Then as a collaborative learning team, make great decisions about the teaching, learning, assessment and the response to learning that will impact student achievement in mathematics. And make those great and sometimes difficult decisions – every day together. You can start with the CCSS mathematical practices: How will you and your team ensure various aspects of the CCSS practices are part of your unit and daily lesson planning? 

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