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Building Leadership Capacity to Improve Math Teaching and Learning: Lessons from the Math in Common Initiative

September 1, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has required educators to make a seismic shift to distance learning, first on an emergency basis early in the crisis, and now with some amount of pre-planning in fall 2020. Many educators are concerned that distance learning exacerbates students' inability to access and engage in high-quality math learning. Educators are particularly concerned about learning for the groups of students that, prior to the pandemic, were already performing less well than average on the state math achievement test: Black students, English learner students, and students with disabilities.Before COVID-19, there was already a growing awareness that school site leaders' instructional leadership could be critical for raising student achievement. The pandemic further highlighted the potential for targeted leadership development to improve math teaching and learning in California schools at a moment when achievement gaps could be widening.Findings from WestEd's evaluation of a seven-year initiative called Math in Common may offer some useful insights at this time. Math in Common was organized to support 10 California districts in effectively implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) across grades K-8. A key part of the effort to improve math teaching and learning in these districts involved providing leadership development opportunities for many types of district and school leaders — from teacher leaders and instructional coaches to principals and district administrators — to help them understand and support the math content and instruction that teachers are expected to use.In this brief, we offer three recommendations for how educators in California and beyond should conceptualize new leadership development opportunities to support math improvement - during the COVID-19 crisis and beyond. We offer these recommendations to a broad audience of educators, administrators, and policymakers concerned with building leaders' capacity for school improvement, including representatives from county offices of education, district central offices, the California Subject Matter Projects, the newly formed California Leadership academies, and leadership associations such as the Association for California School Administrators. To ground our recommendations, we begin with some brief background on the CCSS-M and the Math in Common initiative.

Strengthening the Data Use and Continuous Improvement Capacity of Teacher Preparation Programs

August 1, 2020

Educators and policymakers across the United States recognize a growing urgency to improve the nation's systems of teacher preparation. Ensuring that teachers stay and thrive in the profession depends largely on having system-wide policies and practices in place that address teacher shortages, promote equity and excellence, and cultivate expertise, diversity, and more.The California State University (CSU) system partnered with the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to launch the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI), in an effort to transform the nature and quality of teacher preparation at both individual CSU campuses and across the CSU system as a whole. To answer the question, "What does it take to transform teacher education?" WestEd and SRI International conducted an evaluation to examine and share learnings about the CSU-led effort to implement large-scale clinically oriented teacher preparation reform.As part of a series of new evaluation reports that explore key transformational elements of effective teacher preparation programs, this paper addresses how programs can expand their capacity to use data for continuous improvement through the following levers:Lever 1: Develop data sources that can inform improvement effortsLever 2: Delineate clear roles to support continuous improvementLever 3: Build an infrastructure for efficient data entry and analysisLever 4: Establish a culture of improvement through routines for data review and use

The NGEI Approach to Improving Teacher Preparation in the CSU Through a System of Supports

August 1, 2020

Educators and policymakers across the United States recognize a growing urgency to improve the nation's systems of teacher preparation. Ensuring that teachers stay and thrive in the profession depends largely on having system-wide policies and practices in place that address teacher shortages, promote equity and excellence, and cultivate expertise, diversity, and more.The California State University (CSU) system partnered with the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to launch the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI), in an effort to transform the nature and quality of teacher preparation at both individual CSU campuses and across the CSU system as a whole. To answer the question, "What does it take to transform teacher education?" WestEd and SRI International conducted an evaluation to examine and share learnings about the CSU-led effort to implement large-scale clinically oriented teacher preparation reform.As part of a series of new evaluation reports that explore key transformational elements of effective teacher preparation programs, this paper reviews the evolution of a system of support for NGEI campuses that included targeted grant requirements, coaching and technical assistance, and a learning community to help partnerships share problems of practice. The following levers supported NGEI campuses to undergo rapid transformation, while implementing reforms in systematic, sustainable, and context-specific ways:Lever 1: Balance grant requirements with flexibility and responsive supportLever 2: Customize technical assistance support to meet partnership needsLever 3: Embed opportunities for cross-networked learning and collaboration

Strengthening the Clinical Orientation of Teacher Preparation Programs

August 1, 2020

Educators and policymakers across the United States recognize a growing urgency to improve the nation's systems of teacher preparation. Ensuring that teachers stay and thrive in the profession depends largely on having system-wide policies and practices in place that address teacher shortages, promote equity and excellence, and cultivate expertise, diversity, and more.The California State University (CSU) system partnered with the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to launch the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI), in an effort to transform the nature and quality of teacher preparation at both individual CSU campuses and across the CSU system as a whole. To answer the question, "What does it take to transform teacher education?" WestEd and SRI International conducted an evaluation to examine and share learnings about the CSU-led effort to implement large-scale clinically oriented teacher preparation reform.As part of a series of new evaluation reports that explore key transformational elements of effective teacher preparation programs, this paper identifies key levers to put high-quality clinical experience - that is, the opportunity to practice the work of teaching in classrooms - at the center of teacher preparation. Findings in this report explore the following high-leverage strategies to strengthen the clinical orientation of teacher preparation programs:Lever 1: Identify prioritized skillsLever 2: Select or create a rubric to assess candidate proficiency with prioritized skillsLever 3: Integrate and expand opportunities to practice prioritized skillsLever 4: Re-conceptualize clinical roles, selection, and supportLever 5: Define and implement processes to provide formative feedback to candidates on prioritized skills

Building Strong Partnerships to Improve Clinically Oriented Teacher Preparation

August 1, 2020

Educators and policymakers across the United States recognize a growing urgency to improve the nation's systems of teacher preparation. Ensuring that teachers stay and thrive in the profession depends largely on having system-wide policies and practices in place that address teacher shortages, promote equity and excellence, and cultivate expertise, diversity, and more.The California State University (CSU) system partnered with the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to launch the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI), in an effort to transform the nature and quality of teacher preparation at both individual CSU campuses and across the CSU system as a whole. To answer the question, "What does it take to transform teacher education?" WestEd and SRI International conducted an evaluation to examine and share learnings about the CSU-led effort to implement large-scale clinically oriented teacher preparation reform.As part of a series of new evaluation reports that explore key transformational elements of effective teacher preparation programs, this paper describes how participating CSU campuses and their partner school districts strengthened their relationships and developed strategic partnerships to establish the necessary foundations for high-quality, clinically oriented programming.This paper identifies four levers that can be operationalized in order to sustain strong partnerships between stakeholders:Lever 1: Create and operationalize a shared visionLever 2: Identify key rolesLever 3: Ensure space and time to collaborateLever 4: Share data to identify needs and monitor progress

Math in Common: Reflections after Five Years

April 13, 2020

Math in Common is a seven-year initiative launched in spring 2013 that supports a formal network of ten diverse California school districts as they implement the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics (CCSS-M) in grades K-8. The ten unified school districts are: Dinuba, Elk Grove, Garden Grove, Long Beach, Oakland, Oceanside, Sacramento City, San Francisco, Sanger, and Santa Ana. Eight districts, all but Garden Grove and Long Beach, will continue to work together in a community of practice through June 2020. The initiative is funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation. WestEd serves as the formative evaluator and California Education Partners facilitates the community of practice.Foundation staff has partnered with all ten districts in the initiative's first five years through regular phone calls, site visits, formal grant reports, participation in three community of practice meetings each year, and involvement in optional multi-district events. Based on this experience, staff has compiled reflections on this ambitious investment in California's students and educators. We are sharing these reflections here in the belief that learning from Math in Common provides current "real-world" evidence of best practices applicable to standards implementation, as well as insights into barriers districts may encounter.

New Generation of Educators Initiative: Transforming teacher preparation.

April 1, 2020

The focus of the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI) was to answer the question "What would it take to transform teacher education?" From 2016 to 2019, with support from the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, teacher education programs at 10 California State University (CSU) campuses partnered with local school districts to design and demonstrate innovative practices that could transform teacher preparation. This report documents the learnings from multiple participants in this transformative work, including Foundation program staff and representatives from partnerships between universities and school districts.

Funding Teacher Preparation: What we did. What we learned.

January 1, 2020

Through the New Generation of Educators Initiative, the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation invested more than $20 million across six years, 2014 to 2019, to support high-quality preparation for new teachers in California. This preparation included a focus on instruction aligned to the state's new academic standards for math and science.The Foundation directed its investment to the California State University (CSU). The CSU system comprises 23 campuses that collectively prepare more than 50 percent of the state's teacher workforce for K-12 education -- and about 10 percent of the nation's teachers.The overarching goal was to demonstrate improved practices that prepare new teachers for success on their first day in the classroom, to scale and sustain these improvements across the CSU system, and to inform and influence the approaches used by other teacher preparation program providers as well as funders and policymakers supporting their efforts.

Building Capacity for Improving California Mathematics Teaching and Learning: How the Math in Common Districts Leveraged Three Types of Expertise

January 1, 2020

Imagine a school district administrator in the fictional California district of "Rosewood," who is concerned about her 5th grade students' proficiency in math. Fifth grade math achievement scores have been static in the district and teachers say that many 5th graders are struggling with multiplication, even though it was supposed to be introduced in 3rd grade through the California Common Core State Standards: Mathematics (CCSS-M). Rosewood's district math team has tried to address principals' and teachers' concerns with multiplication, but those efforts don't seem to be moving the needle for students. The Rosewood administrator is ready to dedicate more resources toward improving 5th grade student math learning, and wants to be efficient in seeking technical assistance (TA) to help solve this district challenge. How might this administrator go about identifying and obtaining relevant and appropriate technical assistance?Under California's funding structures, districts have autonomy to purchase technical assistance in prioritized need areas.1 That freedom can be both a blessing and curse, as there are thousands of consultants, nonprofits, and resources available in the multimillion-dollar technical assistance marketplace -- almost all of which promise to help districts solve their problems, but very few of which have been vetted by any authority.The 10 districts in the Math in Common (MiC) community of practice regularly faced the kind of scenario unfolding in Rosewood. That is, they often needed to seek out TA to help them address issues related to implementing the CCSS-M -- ranging from improving the alignment of their textbooks' lessons, to supporting better standards-aligned instruction for English learners, to reconfiguring teacher professional learning communities (PLCs) to help teachers effectively implement the standards. But unlike most California school districts, MiC participants received significant support on making TA decisions through MiC's community of practice. Their experience highlights a major issue in standards implementation across the state: Districts need to be thoughtful, and well supported, in identifying and accessing TA that will help them bring standards to life in their local contexts and ultimately improve student achievement.As MiC's evaluator, WestEd examined districts' experiences with standards implementation in a comprehensive series of formative and summative evaluation reports spanning 2013-2019. This brief summarizes our learning from these reports on the successes and challenges that districts encountered.

Developing Systems for High-Quality Feedback to Teacher Candidates: Lessons Learned from 11 California State University Teacher Preparation Programs

January 1, 2019

This paper shares information and lessons learned from sites that are attempting to transform their teacher preparation systems toward practice-based approaches that feature high-quality feedback for teacher candidates. The paper is based on qualitative data collected from 2016 through 2018 in 11 sites where partnerships between California State University (CSU) teacher preparation programs and local school districts are working to improve how they prepare new teachers. Each partnership received a grant from the New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI).

A System of Measures to Support Improvement in Teacher Preparation

January 1, 2019

As efforts have mounted to reform how teachers are prepared for their profession, so have calls for data that would provide insights into whether teacher preparation programs are producing desired outcomes, and for data that would inform continuous improvement efforts. The New Generation of Educators Initiative (NGEI) at California State University (CSU), funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, seeks to strengthen the current teacher preparation system in California so that new teachers enter the workforce prepared to implement the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards. Building on the efforts of CSU teacher preparation programs (TPPs) that have been working toward improved outcomes, this paper offers a perspective on how TPPs can use data that indicate how key parts of their systems are performing.

Spotlight on Student Achievement: Analyses of Statewide Assessment Data in Math in Common Districts

January 1, 2019

The Math in Common (MiC) initiative was launched in 2013, amid the introduction of many education policy changes in California. The California State Board of Education adopted the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSS-M) in 2010, although there was a delay in associated state policy supports for CCSS-M implementation. For instance, there was no state-approved list of CCSS-M-aligned instructional materials until 2014, and the first standards-aligned summative achievement test was not administered until spring 2015.The MiC initiative aimed to support 10 California districts in implementing the CCSS-M and improving mathematics teaching and learning in grades K-8. Another goal of the initiative was for participating districts to identify and share best practices that could help the state's other 900-plus districts accelerate implementation of the CCSS-M and improve their math achievement (S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, 2012).Five years into the initiative, and with several years of data available from the state's standards-aligned summative achievement test, the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP), we are in a position to examine some trends in student achievement scores in the CCSS-M era. Analyzing these data can help us understand how MiC districts, with their infusion of both material and intellectual resources, are performing in relation to the state mathematics standards, and how this progress looks when compared to peer districts and to districts across the entire state.This report documents the uneven math gains made by MiC districts, schools, and students, by analyzing the patterns of those gains, which range from outperforming statewide trends to more moderate growth. While progress in student achievement in the MiC districts has been slow, there are some promising signs to share with the field.