• Aug 17, 2021 07:00 PM

Start Your New School Year Right: How Middle School Teachers Can Build a Whole-School Agreement

Presented by Sarah Bush , Karen Karp and Barb Dougherty

As we head back to our classrooms, let’s agree that our back-to-in-person learning goal should go beyond back to business as usual. We can use our collaborative and creative thinking for the benefit of students across the school. How can we get our mathematics instruction to not just bounce back but to jump forward in ways that serve each and every student? This coming school year is the perfect time to embark on a more cohesive and collaborative approach to mathematics learning. We suggest that you start with a mathematics whole-school agreement (MWSA), which is a structure for targeting students’ strengths and learning needs and moving them forward through deep and meaningful mathematics instruction. The MWSA is consistent, coherent, systemic, and systematic.

Never has it been more important to align mathematics instruction across grades or courses rather than repeating or mismatching mathematics instruction from one class to the next. When students experience consistent messaging and see familiar concepts, tools, and strategies, they move gracefully into more sophisticated ideas and reinforce topics that need a boost. Mathematics then becomes logical and easy to follow rather than a constantly shifting set of mysterious and sometimes disconnected tricks and tips.

An MWSA at its core is an act of ensuring equity in mathematics education. What we found through the experience of the pandemic is how urgently we must provide accessible and equitable learning opportunities for all students. Although our system always revealed evidence of inequities, the pandemic intensified the identification of these differences while pointing to other disparities. Now is the time to mend and renovate.

The MWSA challenges the ideas of parents and caregivers who want a child placed with a particular teacher or who try to navigate around certain instructors. The MSWA promotes cohesion, consistency, and agreement within a grade level and through the grades, ensuring that all teachers of mathematics are on the same page, so to speak. Schools can use the MWSA to create effective use of language, representations, generalizations, and mathematics notation commonplace in all classrooms.

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