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Local elementary school teachers receive professional training to improve math instruction

PHOTO COURTESY OF CROOK COUNTY SCHOOL DISTRICT - Jen Hunt works with local elementary school teachers as part of a training to improve math instruction.

As another school year begins, Crook County Elementary teachers have been training to improve math outcomes.

Consultants from SMC Consulting recently visited from the Portland area to provide math professional development to elementary teachers. Jen Hunt taught math-teaching skills to kindergarten, first and second grade teachers, while Laura Nelson instructed third, fourth and fifth grade teachers.

This professional development is part of the district's intent to improve math outcomes.

CCSD Curriculum Director Stacy Smith pointed out, however, that this was not a part of adopting a new curriculum.

"We are not changing the math curriculum, we are learning to use it better, and to align it in a scope and sequence that better aligns with assessment," said Smith.

Academic Coach at Barnes Butte Elementary Sarah Klann explained that this will be the third year Crook County has really internationalized their focus around improvement in math for their students.

"We have an incredible teaching staff in this community that is working so hard to improve the math skills of children, yet we are not seeing the results that we would like," she emphasized.

The cornerstone of what determines success is the standardized test called the Oregon Statewide Assessment, formerly known as the Smarter Balanced Assessment. Year one and year two were about providing the teachers with the resources they needed physically.

"Each teacher received manipulatives — hands-on tools for children to feel and see and understand math concepts," said Klann.

They also worked in partnerships with OSU-Cascades and Dr. Malinda Knapp in a project called Math Talks. This was a two-year process, and they had 50 percent of staff year one and 50 percent year two take advantage of the training.

The key pieces involved teaching teachers how to facilitate really productive and in-depth conversations with children using mathematical practices to encourage children to talk through math problems.

"A lot of conversation and teaching children to realize that there is more than one answer to a problem, and multiple ways to get to a solution," concluded Klann. "It is better for you to be able to articulate your thinking than to simply do paper and pencil."

We are constantly seeking to improve our education system so that we can better prepare our students to have a successful future," said Crook County School District Director of School Improvement Joel Hoff.

"As part of that work, this summer CCSD hosted some highly skilled math professional developers to equip our teacher leaders with a number of tools and strategies that will maximize their ability to teach our Engage NY math curriculum. We look forward to seeing the implementation of these new strategies in all of our elementary classrooms over the course of the upcoming school year."

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