Throughout the Santa Monica-Malibu School District, programs are being revamped and evaluated for the coming year. Mathematics is one course that sees constant changes in textbooks and state standards, which leaves educators grappling to keep students afloat.
Rosa Serratore, coordinator of teacher support for Santa Monica-Malibu School District, educates teachers and principals in new practices that focus on small groups and multistep problem solving. She with other education service coordinators presented these instruction techniques to the SMMUSD Board of Education last Thursday. With budget decisions to be made for this summer, the board received a math lesson.
Serratore works with elementary and secondary teachers who scramble after re-teaching the basics each fall to students who forget lessons over the summer or miss information all together. The education services department is adapting the previous three-year plan to ensure classes are covering the approved curriculum on time and effectively. She works to help teachers to master the content and find the best practices to teach them.
“Just because someone knows math really well doesn’t make them a good math instructor,” Serratore said.
The district wants to see an end to these disparities and improve the declining test scores in math seen nationwide. The new learning techniques aim to solidify lessons to give students tools each year to build upon. Teachers in turn collectively learn the same tools, so they don’t “hit a wall” with students when lessons get tougher.
The hope with this is that teachers at the post-elementary level don’t have to teach everything from scratch. The coordinators are using new techniques and multiple variations to solve similar problems in order to reiterate lessons. Pictures and story problems teach students deeper problem solving and understanding of math.
“I think we need to start working a little bit more about trusting the process along the way and see where that takes us,” Serratore said.
Steps need to be taken as California Standard Test scores statewide drop drastically after seventh-grade algebra courses, only to continue to drop each year, according to CST results. The district aims to solve this decline with not only also multiple-step problems but also with better informed teachers and increased encouragement for all students. Existing programs offer pathways for students that fall behind to relearn essentials as an “intervention.”
Education Services Director Maureen Bradford said data shows that students who take the same courses despite demographics perform statistically the same. Students learn to problem solve while increasing their engagement and meaning in the work. Bradford said these practices are a foundation for students to build upon for years to come.
“It’s a waiting game, you know, we’re not going to see the results for some time,” Bradford said. “If we’re looking to see an end to that slide, it’s going to take time.”
The Board must decide how to allocate the budget if conferences to further educate teachers will move forward. Members agreed that ensuring teachers are effective is a top priority. Board member Ralph Mechur said, “We need to continue to put focus behind these efforts to make our teachers better teachers.”
Mirror Staff Writerkatherine@smmirror.com