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Spreading Number Talks

Goals for 2018-19 School Year

Our workgroup met Tuesday evening to walk through our goals for the 2018-19 school year which are focused on getting Number Talks to take root within schools.

  • Validate assumptions about what needs to be in place for Number Talks to take root and spread within a school
  • Pilot effort with Brown Street Academy and Prince of Peace
  • Recruit and prepare additional educators in round 2 schools
  • Develop community of practitioners that can support pilot and round 2 schools

Assumptions

Our assumptions about what needs to be in place for Number Talks to take root and spread within a school come out of our workshop at the Systems Thinking Institute in March, and our ongoing work with educators involved with the project.

Support

  • Overt support of building leadership
  • Community Partners (Learn Deep, Milwaukee Succeeds, UWM)

Resources

  • In-building expertise/support for Number Talks in a role that can serve classroom teachers
  • Willing cohort of teachers
  • Time for in-building collaboration
  • Cross-school network of practitioners willing to share problems and ideas
  • Peer-based professional development

Tools

  • A shared set of tools teachers can use in their practice:
    • Common Terms
    • Sentence Starters
    • Anchor Charts
    • etc.

Collaborative Feedback Processes

  • In-building
  • Cross-school/district

 

Pilot School Criteria

Our assumptions about what is required for Number Talks to take root and spread, guide our criteria for where it makes sense to pilot the effort:

  • Supportive Building Leadership
  • In-school resource in a role that can support colleagues working to establish Number Talks as a regular practice.
  • 3+ teachers willing to establish Number Talks as a regular practice within their classrooms from the start of the school year.
  • Participants willing to collaborate across school/district boundaries

We’re excited to be able to pilot the effort with Brown Street Academy (MPS) and Prince of Peace Elementary School (Seton Schools), and will be working with both schools over the summer to prepare for a fall start.

 

Tools

A number of the tools teachers planning to implement Number Talks are looking for were produced and archived as part of the GE Foundation project within MPS.  These include:

  • Sentence Stems
  • Discussion Prompts
  • Math Strategies
  • Planning Guide
  • Teacher Moves

These tools, and others are available on the project’s legacy site:

https://sites.google.com/milwaukee.k12.wi.us/gefvideos/math-resources

In our work this year, we also saw the need for a couple of additional tools– first, what we’ve been calling a Strategy Map– a quick guide for teachers that, for a given Number Talk, gives them a sense of the types of strategies they might see, common errors, and for those common errors, strategies a teacher can use to allow students to recognize and correct the error.  We’ll explore what these might look like over the summer.

We’ve also heard a need for a tool that can allow a teacher easily note where a student is in their thinking or level of comfort with a strategy that does not disrupt the flow of the discussion.  A simple checklist may suffice and we’ll look to test out some options within our pilot schools.

 

Collaborative Feedback Process

In-Building

For teachers to quickly develop competence and comfort in a new practice, effective, timely feedback is key.  We envision a process that borrows from Scrum, an agile methodology used in software development.  The idea here is a quick daily meeting that allows team members working on a common project (in this case Number Talks) to communicate where they are, where they are headed, and what they need help with. Our suggestion is to do these on the same frequency as Number Talks, 3-5 days a week.

Cross-school/District

For the 2018-19 school year, our workgroup meetings will shift towards peer-based professional development.  We look to continue the schedule of meeting every 4 to 6 weeks, but the focus will be on what teachers see, learn, and need help with as they use number talks in their lessons.  We’ll expand the group to include not only the teachers at our pilot schools working with number talks, but teachers at other schools that are using the practice on their own, or from schools that are looking for more widespread use.

Role of Community Resources

Throughout the year, we’ve had help from Kevin McLeod and Gabriella Pinter from UWM’s Mathematics program. UWM has a couple of professional development opportunities this summer, that Brown Street teachers will take advantage of in preparation for the work they will be doing next fall.

Strong Start Math Project — June 18-29
Early Math Seminar — July 30 – August 3

We touched briefly on the potential to connect after school programming at the Boys & Girls Clubs to the work schools are doing around Number Talks, as well as leveraging the Milwaukee Area Math Council to reach additional teachers interested in bringing the practice into their schools.

 

Metrics & Evaluation

As we look to scale the use of Number Talks within schools, we see the need for two sets of metrics.  The first, is focused on the spread of the practice:

  • Number of teachers using Number Talks as a regular practice
  • Number of schools with teachers using Number Talks as a regular practice
  • Number of students participating in Number Talks on a regular basis
  • Frequency of Number Talks for teaches, schools and students

The second set of metrics is aimed at evaluating the effectiveness of the program.  There we can look not just at test scores, but

  • Movement along learning trajectories/where students are in their thinking
  • Level of participation in discussions
  • Improvements in classroom culture

UWM’s Master of Sustainable Peacebuilding Program put together a workbook of tools that MPS might use to assess them impact of Systems Thinking in Schools.  They see that Systems Thinking training ought to have impacts beyond simple mastery of of the ideas.  As those ideas are put to use by students and staff the impact should be felt in the culture of the school, how students deal with conflict, etc. Given that number talks establish a pattern of respectful discourse where the students’ ideas are valued, we expect the practice to show impacts beyond understanding in math, and that a similar approach could be useful in assessing the effectiveness of Number Talks.

 

Next Steps

As we look forward to our fall pilots with Brown Street Academy and Prince of Peace, we’re moving on to what we need to get done over the summer:

  • Get the resources/tools in place for pilot teachers
  • Identify schools/teacher leads for who are interested in following the pilot efforts/participating in next year’s work group series
  • Confirm roles for community resources
  • Solidify the evaluation process
  • Secure funding to support the effort

If you’d like to join or support the effort, please let us know.

Collab Lab 20: Recap & Notes

At the end of March, we met with a group of group of students from Reagan High School who were working in or looking for internships in STEM fields. We heard three key concerns:

  • Students want a chance to exercise the skills they’ve been developing
    Students want the internship to be a chance to learn
  • Outside a few narrow fields, STEM internship opportunities for high school students are difficult to find
  • If students don’t get a chance to grow and learn, an internship is “just a job”, and those take a lot less effort to find.

In our May session we explored several issues around creating effective STEM internships for high school students. We began the evening with a review of what we heard from the Reagan students, and identified a few additional issues:

  • Internships are a new norm for K-12 schools (which have been focused on college prep)
  • Lack of buy-in around career readiness from industry, schools, and students
  • A reliance on university students for internships may be misinformed, particularly when it comes to computer programming
  • High level of on-going coordination required
  • It’s difficult for companies to identify schools with strong programs (from which to recruit)

Round 1

With this as background, we asked participants to inventory the problems to be addressed, and with the help of a couple of volunteers, sorted those responses into the following groups:

Potential Careers

  • Schools not doing enough to introduce the world of possibilities to students
  • Where do we find the resources to support students who want internships
  • High school students as seniors still only know basic STEM careers (doctor, nurse, engineer)

Logistics

  • Students need summer pay
  • Students do not have transportation
  • Companies not willing to work with MPS schools
  • Companies not looking to the “experts” in the schools to assist w/career experiences
  • Let’s not forget about the MPS HS kids not in Reagan, King, Riverside
  • Internship logistics– not appealing or logistically difficult for minors/teens
  • If internships don’t work, what are other options?
  • Companies moving out of the city
  • Resources & funding both in education & industry
  • Legal barriers– minors, health care specifically
  • Transportation needs
  • Business & school partnership
  • Business support
  • How do we educate employers on the importance of internships
  • How to develop a mutually beneficial work relationship between employer and student
  • AP Java or AP anything can’t be the gatekeeper to these opportunities
  • Not having a dedicated person (100%) at each school focusing on career readiness
  • One day field trips/job shadows get kids excited but are disconnected or not continued
  • Students lose STEM engagement
  • Helping our community understand the world of work has changed

Exposure

  • Exposure to different career fields
  • Exposure to local companies/orgs
  • How can we expose students to career based learning experiences so they know what they want to do/don’t waste time & $ post-secondary?
  • Career based learning experiences in building
  • Off-site experiences
  • Job shadows
  • High schoolers need a way to explore future options
  • Students liking “engineering” but not wanting to further pursue as a career
  • Kids go to college not knowing what they to study/do for a living
  • Convincing students/parents to look at the bigger picture– experience vs test scores
  • Expose kids to advanced topics earlier
  • Internships/work experiences that offer meaningful ways to engage students in school
  • How to increase significant student exposure to careers
  • We want to grow MKE as tech hub but students have little to no tech exposure
  • Real world work experience for teens

Equity/Support

  • Equity– females & underrepresented minorities in IT
  • Kids need significant role models
  • Generate a community culture of learning and support
  • Family involvement (for support & buy-in)
  • Increase talent pipeline
  • Frequent, immediate, continuous check-in and support
  • How do we monitor long-term investment and impact on interns
  • Viewing high schoolers as capable of doing meaningful work
  • To build a common system that supports students and industries
  • Funding to allow access for every kid who wants to experience

Teaching Skills

  • Develop human skills — robot-proof education
  • Teachers not always equipped to assist w/career readiness
  • Pre-employment skills building
  • Shape curriculum to better match the real world
  • Social-emotional skill building
  • Students need employability skills
  • Application of skills vs content knowledge
  • Kids don’t have the soft skills employers seek
  • Ensuring school coursework is relevant– tied to industry competencies
  • Communicating K-12 → post-secondary →industry and adjusting as skills adaptively grow
  • Stop treating tech like a science and more like an art
  • Health care based research projects
  • Project based internship programs– what does this look like in health care?
  • Career readiness after leaving the academic environment

Round 2

We chose three areas to focus on for the remainder of the session, and split into groups to explore each topic.  Here’s what we came up with:

Teaching Skills

Problem:

  • Conflicting priorities of K-12 educators, industry, and curriculum

Driving factors/barriers:

  • Lack of regional coordination
  • Lack of frequent and effective collaboration
  • Culture of STEM education
  • Educators are at capacity

Models:

  • TEALS (Microsoft program to tap industry professionals to launch computer science programs in schools.
  • SafeNet’s high school internship program (company treats program as a donation, students work on tech projects for non-profits)

Parties Involved:

  • Students
  • Educators
  • Industry
  • Parents

 

Exposure

Problem:

  • Students lack exposure to career based learning experiences

Driving factors/barriers:

  • Lack of staff buy-in
    • Curriculum incorporation
    • Knowledge of industry
  • Lack of clear District/Industry connections

Models:

  • Staff PD
    • Industry
    • Curriculum support
  • Look at successful districts/schools

Parties Involved:

  • Top down involvement (administration to teachers)
  • Industry
  • Post secondary educators/administration

Equity/Support

Problem:

  • Lack of equitable & accessible resources allocated to students in need of most support

Barriers: 

  • [Lack of] Social & emotional support
  • [Lack of] School based career support
  • [Lack of] Student to student support
  • [Lack of] Transportation
  • No social capital
  • [Lack of] Role models (who look like them)
  • Achievement gap

Solution:

  • Positive feedback loop of near-peer mentors
  • Partner with corporations and communities
  • Change perception of what is professional

Thanks again to The Commons for providing the space, Brian King for facilitating, and to our featured participants for the experience and insight they brought to the discussion:

Tamera Coleman– Internship Coordinator, Milwaukee Public Schools
Matthew Hunt– College & Career Readiness Specialist, New Berlin High School
Ariana Radowicz– University Relations, Rockwell Automation
Molly Schuld– Science Teacher, Ronald Reagan High School
Laura Schmidt, Strategic Advisor to the Superintendent – School District of New Berlin

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