Santa Rosa City Schools is a large school district that struggled to find coherence across its varied school sites. The district is made up of five middle schools and six high schools, each independently attempting to shift instructional strategies to include more room for mathematical practices, each emphasizing and deemphasizing different mathematical topics, and each approaching assessment from different perspectives. Teacher understanding of Common Core Math Standards and student experiences and expectations varied from school to school and subject to subject.
The initial priority for addressing this problem of coherence was to focus on providing students throughout the district with opportunities to engage in rigorous mathematics. This entailed supporting teachers with rich modeling activities and instructional strategies to use with all students, including English language learners, Special Education students, and students below and above grade level.
During the first year of our multi-year plan, all eleven secondary schools participated in three cycles of professional development focused on mathematical modeling. All students engaged in a common modeling task and teachers used their observations and evidence collected from student work to inform instruction and emphasize the Standards for Mathematical Practices.
In our second year, we worked with every secondary math teacher, including Special Education teachers, to better understand the content standards and how they offer a coherent mathematical story across the grade levels. This allowed teachers to see which topics they should emphasize or deemphasize and how the content standards coherently fit together from grade to grade and subject to subject.
In the upcoming school year, we will be working with teachers from each of the eleven sites to design benchmark assessments which measure a student’s ability to problem solve, communicate reasoning, and model with mathematics. We will also continue supporting teachers in their instructional practices and understanding of content standards.
Students in Santa Rosa City Schools routinely engage in common mathematical modeling experiences across the grades and courses. Teachers collaborate to examine student work as to inform their instruction and help to better support all students.
Teachers from all schools have reached agreements as to which units will be taught in each course (by semester), and have agreed to provide common student experiences twice during each unit; once as a hook activity at the beginning of the unit, and once as a formative assessment lesson.
All students in Santa Rosa City Schools (7th grade through Algebra 2) will take a common benchmark assessment at the end of each semester that measures their ability to problem solve, communicate reasoning, and model with mathematics. These assessments have been collaboratively developed and align to the instructional practices and common curriculum to maintain the consistency, rigor, and caliber of learning expectations for all students.