Math is Figure-Out-Able!

Ep 198: Look Fors for School Wide Vision

April 02, 2024 Pam Harris Episode 198
Ep 198: Look Fors for School Wide Vision
Math is Figure-Out-Able!
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Math is Figure-Out-Able!
Ep 198: Look Fors for School Wide Vision
Apr 02, 2024 Episode 198
Pam Harris

 What can schools use to create a shared vision for math instruction? In this episode Pam and Kim discuss the New York Department of Education's Look Fors for School-Wide Mathematics Teaching and Learning.
Talking Points

  • Who is this Look For for?
  • Specifics for equity around scheduling teachers with an eye on content knowledge and pedagogy
  • Making space for observing, sharing, and discussing teaching practices that engage students with challenging mathematics
  • Share the school's vision throughout all parent communication and events
  • The importance of shared vision about pathways for students to have access to high quality math

Find the Look Fors here:
For Students
For Teachers
For Schools

Check out our social media
Twitter: @PWHarris
Instagram: Pam Harris_math
Facebook: Pam Harris, author, mathematics education
Linkedin: Pam Harris Consulting LLC 

Show Notes Transcript

 What can schools use to create a shared vision for math instruction? In this episode Pam and Kim discuss the New York Department of Education's Look Fors for School-Wide Mathematics Teaching and Learning.
Talking Points

  • Who is this Look For for?
  • Specifics for equity around scheduling teachers with an eye on content knowledge and pedagogy
  • Making space for observing, sharing, and discussing teaching practices that engage students with challenging mathematics
  • Share the school's vision throughout all parent communication and events
  • The importance of shared vision about pathways for students to have access to high quality math

Find the Look Fors here:
For Students
For Teachers
For Schools

Check out our social media
Twitter: @PWHarris
Instagram: Pam Harris_math
Facebook: Pam Harris, author, mathematics education
Linkedin: Pam Harris Consulting LLC 

Pam  00:00

Hey, fellow mathematicians! Welcome to the podcast where Math is Figure-Out-Able! I'm Pam. 


Kim  00:06

And I'm Kim. 


Pam  00:07

And this is a place where math is not about memorizing and mimicking, waiting to be told or shown what to do. But it's about making sense of problems, noticing patterns, and reasoning using mathematical relationships. We know we can mentor students to think and reason mathematically, like mathematicians. Not only are algorithms not particularly helpful in teaching mathematics, but rotely repeating steps actually keeps students from being the mathematicians they can be. Alright, Kim. 


Kim  00:36



Pam  00:37

Let's get right at this. 


Kim  00:39

Okay, well, wait, before we do.


Pam  00:41

No, okay. 


Kim  00:43

I don't... You know, one of my favorite things to do. I have lots of favorites. But one of them is really... I think we've mentioned this recently. Like, I love chatting with the people in the groups and stuff. But I know that you've been doing a lot lately, so I'm not sure if you've had a chance to see this. But I'm laughing because I just grabbed this thing. It's actually from a while ago, but I saw it again, so I grabbed it. So, one of the... I pretty sure it was a Journey member, but she put in the group, "Hey, I got to tell you all a story." And she said, "This is me, minding my own business, listening to Building Powerful Multiplication." The workshop. And she says, "My child - How many videos did this lady make? It's all you ever watch." And then, she wrote, you know, "LOL. Is anybody else?" My comment back to her was, "Tell your kid there's a million more in her brain."


Pam  01:37

Oh, that's fun. That's fun.


Kim  01:39

I mean, yeah. I wonder what the families of people who take workshops think. 


Pam  01:43

"How many videos did this lady make?" That's funny. Every once in a while, I will do a Zoom with a leader somewhere around the world. And a kid will poke their head in. 


Kim  01:54

Oh, yeah, yeah. Yeah. 


Pam  01:55

And I'll be like, "Hey, hey." You know, "I'll be happy to say hi to your child." And the kid will say something like, "I've seen you. My parent watches your video all the time." Yeah, that's always fun. Yeah, cool.


Kim  02:06

Okay, so we talked for a Look For that helped students with (unclear)... We talked for a Look For. What did you just say?  Did I say that? 


Pam  02:15

Well, you said "we talked for". 


Kim  02:17

We talked about. Two weeks ago, we talked about Look For's that we're helping teachers analyze the work they do with their students. And then last week, we talked about a Look For that was really about a conversation that a teacher could have with another person, a coach or a partner teacher. And today, we've got one final Look For that addresses school wide mathematics teaching and learning. And when we decided that we were going to do one each week, we started talking about this one. And it's super funny because we had a completely different perspective about who this was for. And really not like that ever happens where we have two different perspectives. So, tell us how you saw it. 


Pam  02:59

Yeah, it's super funny because I was like, hey, I think this is a good one to talk about because teachers need to know all of this school wide stuff, so that as they create a shared vision, they know what their administration will be looking for, and they know what to expect from their coach, or they can be able to offer the coach, "Hey, this is what I want." Like, the teacher needs to know and have all these Look For's in their hand because it helps them to know what to expect and what to ask for. Right? 


Kim  03:31



Pam  03:31

And you laughed (unclear).


Kim  03:32

I laughed because I said no, I disagree. Although, I agree what you're saying. But I saw it as... You know, originally, I thought, one for teachers, one for coaches, one for admin. And we were saying no, that's not it. But then, I saw it as teachers... So, teachers need the first one. But then this admin one came up or the school wide one, and I thought, "Oh, well admin need to know this big picture, and they need to know what to look for with their coaches." And then, they also need to look for what's happening with students. So, I saw it as kind of like a top down, and you were like, "No, teachers need to see it all." Which is super funny because normally I'm the one who's like, so focused on.


Pam  04:13

On the students, yeah. 


Kim  04:14

Teaching the students.


Pam  04:15

So, again, we don't disagree with each other. 


Kim  04:18

No, at all.


Pam  04:19

We were trying to say, "Does it make sense for us to go over this school wide one in a podcast where mostly teachers and maybe coaches are listening?" And I said, "Oh, yeah, because teachers need to know all this stuff." And you were like, "Oh, actually, I saw it from this other..." So, we both agreed it's a good one to do just kind of from different perspectives. 


Kim  04:35



Pam  04:36



Kim  04:36

So, yeah. Everybody should know all three. 


Pam  04:38

Everybody should know all three. Cool. Alright, so this particular look for is laid out a little differently than the other ones. It's called Look For's for School Wide Mathematics, Teaching, and Learning. 


Kim  04:50



Pam  04:50

And the top sentence says, "This walkthrough tool can support superintendents and leadership teams as they visit schools and look for mathematics teaching and learning trends across the school." Let me try that again, " they visit schools and look for mathematics teaching and learning trends across the school." There. 


Kim  05:09



Pam  05:10

Yeah. So, it's broken up into four sections. I'll read the four sections. One of them is "Vision and School Culture". One of them is "Equitable Access". One of them is "Collegiality". And one of them is "Effective Teaching Practices". So, let me dive in a little bit more about how each of them are kind of what they mean. So, the "Vision and School Culture is a shared vision for mathematics, teaching, and learning." And then, it lists some questions that these superintendents and leadership teams could ask about what's happening. But really, I think there are questions everybody needs to ask about kind of the vision and school culture and the shared vision for mathematics teaching and learning. Then, there's another one Equitable Access, and it says "Equitable Access to rigorous mathematics curriculum and instruction." Yeah. I'm pausing for just a minute because I think the word "equity" is an interesting word. I think it means different things to different people. But I think all of us can agree that we want access for everyone to rigorous math curriculum and instruction. I had a very interesting conversation recently with a school leader not in the United States. It was in a country in the former Eastern Bloc country. And so, I'm not going to name which country it was, but it was a really thoughtful leader who was talking about how all kids can learn high levels of mathematics. Something like that was her statement. And I pushed back a little bit and said, "Yes, but there is an opportunity cost at some point." So, my statement would be, do I absolutely want all kids to have access? Absolutely. Do I think all kids can learn more real math and fake math? Yes. And we need to provide those opportunities and give them a chance to choose those. So, that was a little bit. So, I might not have used the word. Why did I just go into all that, Kim? I don't know. 


Kim  07:03

I think because people have notions about what it means for equitable access, which is super important. But like, I can't stop staring at one example that I'm going to use later. So, it just... When I read the title, then the things that came underneath, it was so much more broad than I anticipated, and it has me really thinking about equitable access for all. So, anyway, I'm going to come back for the example later. (unclear).


Pam  07:33

Alright, so maybe I shouldn't have dove in on that one as much. Okay, so the third one is Collegiality, which I think is a great word. It's all about being colleagues. And so it says, "Time for collaborative teacher planning and professional learning." I think that one is so important. We'll dive into that a bit later. And then, Effective Teaching Practices. "Teaching practices reflect productive beliefs about mathematics teaching and learning." And I'll just say right off the bat, those are exactly the 9 Effective Teaching Practices out of "Principles to Action", the book by NCTM. And I think it was in partnership with NCSM. For sure, it's published by NCTM. Anyway, so those are exactly those effective teaching practices. I think it was a wise choice to stick those on this document for instructional leaders to look at and think about. Okay, So, Kim, where do you want to dive first?


Kim  08:26

I think I'm going to go straight to the one that I was going to mention. So, we've spent some time on these Look For's. Like three weeks because we see them as so valuable. And I really hope that people are going to make use of them because they're making me think about things that I don't often think about. Which I think is really important that we are nudged to think about things. So, when I looked at the Equitable Access section, one of the things that really stuck out to me was there was a section for teacher scheduling. And the question right underneath, it says, "How are teachers scheduled, so that all students..." and they give examples for students with disabilities and English language students. "They have access to math teachers who are knowledgeable in math content, and pedagogy." Like that has everything to do with how are we supporting our teachers schedules, so that all kids get high quality teacher. Which is a massive equity issue. There are lots and lots of schools, ones that my kids have been in, where longevity means you teach 


Both Pam and Kim  09:34

certain classes.


Pam  09:36



Kim  09:36

You are the new hire. You have less schooling. You know, you don't have higher degree plans. So, you know, we do some sorting sometimes based on preferences for teachers, rather than what's best for all kids. And then, if we do have those sorts, are we supporting the teachers so that their students also have teachers who are knowledgeable in math content? So, that's very much an equity issue. And I think it's really, really smart that they put something like that on these Look For's because it is a school wide conversation. Oh, and here's the one right under it. I just saw this. "How are interventions scheduled?" 


Pam  10:19



Kim  10:21

That's tricky sometimes.


Pam  10:23

Well, I remember when you were still in the classroom, you and I had a conversation about the fact that your school was making some super questionable decisions. 


Kim  10:33



Pam  10:34

Interesting decisions about... So, the high stakes tests was coming. And they did some crazy things like sort all the kids. So, take all the kids in fifth grade, and they kind of sorted them as like, you're going to pass the test no matter what. You're going to fail the test no matter what. And then, everything in between. But specifically, a group that they called the "bubble kids" is terrible. We don't advocate any of this, ya'll. And they have this group that like, we think if we really work hard on them, then they can pass the test. And so, then they sorted the teachers, and they put like some random parent with the kids they knew that were going to pass the test no matter what. And I don't know who they put with the kids who were never going to pass the test. But they put like, all their best... "Best" Quote, unquote. I don't know how they chose...teachers in one group. And you said to me, "Just give me my kids." Like, if you can just give me my kids, I can get them. I know my kids. I can do the best with them." Go ahead. Am I not representing that at all.


Kim  11:34

No, that's a fairly accurate representation. But also when we had funds when the school... You know, schools sometimes get funds, and they want to hire support. And so, you know, to give some kids extra support. And so, you know, we were a titled one school, and so we had title one teachers. But also, there was like additional funds that happened. And so, sometimes we'd hire, you know, a guest teacher, sub. You know, outside person. And they would say, "Give these guys an extra 30 minutes." So, the idea that students are leaving a knowledgeable classroom to go be with somebody else to get extra. I said, no thank you to some of that. And I said, "You know, you other teachers who want it, you can have my time? Because I don't need that." 


Pam  12:19



Kim  12:19

For my kids. I need me with my kids. 


Pam  12:21

You were the expert. And so, rather than some persons who doesn't have the... What does it say in here? "The content knowledge and pedagogy". 


Kim  12:28



Pam  12:28

Like, I thought that was also really nice that they included the pedagogy part in there. It's not like we're just going to go hire a mathematician who doesn't know "math for teaching". Thanks, Deborah Ball for those languages. Those languages? That language, those words. That we need to have expertise in math for teaching the pedagogy, the content knowledge. It is an issue if we are taking kids, and we're saying, "Ooh, here. You need extra stuff. But we're going to put you with a person who doesn't have the support in the math content and pedagogy."


Kim  12:55



Pam  12:55



Kim  12:55

So, this is about scheduling teachers and providing scheduled intervention, so that it supports the students. Because I think everybody's trying. They're doing the best they know. The time is limited. But it's a school wide conversation about how to schedule all that.


Pam  13:09

And let's have the conversation. Let's make it the best that we possibly can. You know, Kim, when I looked at this teacher scheduling thing, I anticipated what would be under it, and it wasn't what I anticipated. So, I was glad that the thing I anticipated that would be under Teacher Scheduling actually showed up under Collegiality. 


Kim  13:28

Oh, okay.


Pam  13:28

Because I was a little sad when it wasn't there at all. I was like, "Wait, shouldn't it be there somewhere?" So, under Collegiality, this idea of being colleagues and time for collaborative teacher planning and professional learning, one of the questions is, "How do colleagues discuss, observe, and share teaching practices that engage students with challenging mathematics?" And the part of that I want to really emphasize is the "observe". I think, all too often in education, once you are a classroom teacher, you are within the four walls of your room and the only time that that sort of inner sanctum gets kind of interrupted is maybe when somebody from the office has to bring you a note or somebody comes in to do an evaluation of your teaching. And other than that, like there's just not... Now, if you're right now shaking your head going, "We do," then well good. Good for you. Because there is so much to be gained with teachers having the opportunity to discuss, and observe, and share teaching practices, to literally get into each other's classrooms, and have a chance to have conversations about the decisions that teachers are making. 


Kim  14:35

Yeah, and what we love is not just go watch your partner, teacher or your next door neighbor. We love listening to plan together and teach, like co-teach or watch, and then debrief. So, it's not just like, "Let me go sit in your room and watch you interact with your kids."


Pam  14:51

But even that would be a...


Kim  14:54

Step up of nothing.


Pam  14:54

Step up of nothing, yeah. And to me this is all about schedule because there has to be a school wide the person who schedules. There needs to be some kind of attempt to some scheduling where teachers have the ability to have collaborative planning time.


Kim  15:11



Pam  15:12

So important. Now, teachers, if you have collaborative planning time, ya'll, you got to take advantage of it. Like, then I talked to schools who said, "Oh, we have PLC time," but teachers meet for five minutes, make sure everybody has the worksheets copied off for the week, and then they go and do whatever for the next. So, we also have to carefully plan the collaborative planning time, and then take advantage of it. So, that's also tricky. And hopefully coaches can kind of help with that or building admin can set some expectations.


Kim  15:44



Pam  15:44

That's harder to be the one teacher asking for it. I know as a teacher who had a collaborative planning time, and worked with other teachers who were not interested in planning collaboratively, that was also tricky. But you can't even deal with that trickiness. If that collaborative planning time doesn't exist. 


Kim  16:00



Pam  16:01

So, scheduling. It would be good to get that done. Kim, do you have any more that you wanted to point out?


Kim  16:05

I do. I have one more. I mean, there's plenty, but I picked one more. It's under Vision School Culture. 


Pam  16:10



Kim  16:11

And it says, "Shared Vision for Mathematics Teaching and Learning." One of the questions is, "How is the vision evident in weekly professional learning sessions?" But right underneath that, it says, "How is the vision evident in parent engagement events, in school resources, such as handbooks, newsletters, and bulletin boards?" So A, do you have a shared vision? But then, is that vision evident in basically all the things that you do? And so, this presumes that there are things like newsletters, and handbooks, and parent engagement events. And that just struck me that, you know, sometimes we do these parent events, and it's really just like, "Come look at your kids work" Or, you know, meet the teacher. But are there things about your school culture envision in those events?


Pam  17:00

Nice, nice. There's a nice way, I think, for the writers of this Look For's to kind of stick in, "These things should be happening, and how are they happening?" 


Kim  17:09



Pam  17:10

Yeah. nice. Nice. Okay, the last one that I'm going to mention. And this is a little bit more of a make sure that anybody who goes and looks at this Look For knows how I feel about this particular one. So, one of the ones is under the Equitable Access. It's the only one I think we've seen where it says, "Select questions relevant to the school." So, it's kind of admitting this might not be relevant to all schools, and I think it's because it's literally all about a specific grade level. It says, "School structures. How does the school schedule provide..." A bullet, "A pathway to Algebra 1 in eighth grade, including supports for sixth and seventh grades and multiple entry points from sixth through eighth grade." Another bullet "Completion of Algebra 1 coursework by the end of ninth grade." Another bullet, "Students with instructional time in mathematics sufficient for conceptual learning." So, the reason I bring this one up is by advocating that you look at this document and use it as you develop your shared vision, I'm not necessarily suggesting that I think there should be a pathway to algebra in eighth grade and supports for sixth and seventh grade. I think you need to have that conversation as your local jurisdiction. I think you need to decide for our students, when should students be having an opportunity to take algebra? What does that look like? And then, how are we going to support students in that pathway? What pathway? I think there should be more questions here about what pathways we have available. And I will say, in defense of New York, I'm not sure we have the latest version. Though, it is the one that I downloaded from the site. 


Kim  18:45



Pam  18:46

This one has a date of 2019, so there's possible that New York's did some more work. I know everybody's been really busy with COVID and everything, so maybe they haven't had a chance to revise it. I bet if they were to revise it, they would include some things here about multiple pathways, so that students have a pathway to college university, but they also might have a pathway that's more data oriented. So, multiple pathways would be a way to make sure that students have access to high quality math that will get them where they want to go...


Kim  19:16



Pam  19:17 their life (unclear).


Kim  19:18

Yeah, so we share these because we think the idea of a shared vision is super important. And this is something that we thought was really thought provoking and cause us to think. And I think that's fair to say that there's a lot of things on here that we loved and maybe we wouldn't agree 100% if we were coming up with our own. 


Pam  19:37

Yeah, yeah. Caveat. Caveat. 


Kim  19:39

Yeah, yeah. Yep. 


Pam  19:40

Which I think should be true for almost everything we find. 


Kim  19:43



Pam  19:43

We wouldn't want to throw stuff out just because. I think it's a super good way to start and continue the conversation.


Kim  19:50

Yeah. And so, there might be some admin or school people who feel a little bit like, "Oh, eek" when you read some of the questions and some of the bullets. Like, maybe you're not there yet or maybe you haven't considered something. And they are pretty pointed about what is important, and what's going to be helpful to make progress. But it's a starting place to think about, "Do I agree with this? Does our school need this or want this? Or is it part of our plan?" And it's okay. It's (unclear) helpful to consider.


Pam  20:21

Yeah, nice. And if you're a teacher or coach, or dare I even say, parent, if you read these Look For's, and you like the vision that they've established here, you could share these with your stakeholders, and you can say, "We need to create. We could use this or we need to create our own shared vision," and use it as a conversation starter in your local area. What is your shared vision for the teaching and learning of mathematics? Alright, ya'll, if you want to find these Look For's that we've mentioned last week, the week before, and this week, you can find them in the show notes for the podcast, but also we'll have a blog out by that time. By the time this episode drops. You know, we always record it a little before they drop. We'll have a blog out that will have the links that you can get them from there. And we really appreciate you creating your vision for the teaching and learning of mathematics. Hey, ya'll, thanks for tuning in and teaching more and more real math. To find out more about the Math is Figure-Out-Able movement, visit Let's keep spreading the word that Math is Figure-Out-Able!