Developing skillful teaching that builds on equity and cultural competence
Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) in Maryland is one of the largest and most diverse school districts in the United States, and it continues to expand each year. TeachingWorks is collaborating with teachers and school leaders within the district to further their work on developing skillful teaching that builds on the diverse cultural and community assets children bring to classrooms.
The MCPS and TeachingWorks partnership is focused on improving the teaching of mathematics by supporting teachers, administrators, and school leaders in implementing high-leverage practices to the benefit of students and their ideas of what it means to know and be successful with mathematics.
For the project, TeachingWorks collaborates with a group of 20 first-, third-, and fourth-grade teachers, along with their coaches and school leaders, from both Rock Creek Valley Elementary School and Mill Creek Towne Elementary School. Each month, members of the TeachingWorks team meet with the group for day-long professional development sessions to work on learning about and trying out high-leverage practices in mathematics.
“Practicing teachers are often working on their craft as a whole, and don’t get many opportunities to focus on individual aspects of improving their practice,” said TeachingWorks Mathematics Research & Design Specialist Karen Reinhardt, who co-leads the project. “The high-leverage practices allow us to break down the complex work of teaching into smaller pieces that can be practiced, analyzed, and improved.”
“By having a clear and consistent focus on teaching that advances justice, teachers are finding new ways to recognize and identify the mathematical competence students are already bringing to the classroom and how to leverage that for the benefit of their learning and growth.” Alexis Yowell, ELA Research & Design Specialist, TeachingWorks
MCPS has a deep commitment to meeting the needs of their growing school district by cultivating teachers who can leverage the diversity among their students to improve their practice. TeachingWorks is connecting with the district on their initiative by focusing explicitly on how skillful teaching is integral to advancing justice, specifically how the equitable enactment of the high-leverage practices can disrupt deficit views of children of color and other classroom inequities.
This year, the group has worked together to build an understanding of the practice of leading a discussion in mathematics, and learning specific skills of discussion leading, including noticing and naming competence and asking questions that encourage broad and careful thinking amongst children.
“By having a clear and consistent focus on teaching that advances justice, these teachers are finding new ways to recognize and identify the mathematical competence and cultural knowledge students are already bringing to the classroom and how to leverage them for the benefit of their learning and growth,” said TeachingWorks Research & Design Specialist Alexis Yowell, who works on the project.
In addition to monthly in-person professional development sessions, participants also receive support from TeachingWorks in monthly coaching visits where they have a chance to receive on-site feedback on their instruction. Each participant is also placed in an online co-development community where they can share videos of their practice to receive additional coaching and feedback from TeachingWorks and other participants in the program. Both the district and TeachingWorks have been equally committed to creating a community where teachers and school leaders can learn and thrive together.
“Montgomery County Public Schools has been enthusiastic and eager to collaborate with us,” Yowell said. “One of the most rewarding things about this project is that MCPS truly views this work as a continued partnership where we are really learning and growing with one another and figuring out how we can best support each other.”