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Teachers will receive instructional coaching throughout the next year and continue to work on math standards alignment

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Math improvement is on the rise in the Crook County School District.

Crook County School District leaders had reason to pause and celebrate recently.

When we read News Editor Jason Chaney's article in the Sept. 27 Central Oregonian about how Crook County test scores measure up, the lead sentence thrilled us.

"Crook County schools tested among the highest in Central Oregon for language arts and math according to recently released data by Oregon Department of Education," he wrote.

CCSD Director of School Improvement Joel Hoff highlighted the article at a couple of meetings and said it was worth celebrating because this has not always been the case.

Our increased math achievement and growth scores at Crook County Middle School and Crooked River Elementary are particularly worth noting.

For CCMS, the most recent state test scores showed that 43% of our eighth graders were proficient or better – which is 4% above the state average. Hoff called those scores "fantastic."

He also noted that CCMS student math growth was rated a "Level 5" by the Oregon Department of Education, which is the highest possible rating. This rating highlights the dedicated work of CCMS math teachers.

CCMS Principal Kurt Sloper pointed out that CCMS students have experienced high levels of math growth scores in the last five years, but to have "Level 5" growth in every subgroup is incredibly exciting.

CCMS teachers and the math department have always worked extremely hard to impact student learning, Sloper says. However, in the last couple of years, they have focused on increasing alignment around standards, assessments and communication.

"Our teachers have defined what is important and must be learned at each level versus what can we spiral back to with information not yet learned," he says. "Our teachers are constantly analyzing student data and identifying who needs an additional boost or Math Lab class."

At the same time, more CCMS students than ever are in advanced math classes. At the eighth-grade level, that means receiving a high school prerequisite math credit for algebra.

"When it comes to teaching middle school students math, a major focus is on building up their belief in themselves that they can be good mathematicians. So many students see themselves as being 'bad at math,'" says CCMS eighth-grade math teacher Matt Fischer.

He says the math team tries to put students in positions to succeed by breaking down concepts thoroughly, practicing and reviewing skills throughout the year, giving them good notes and resources to learn from, and trying to prepare lessons and activities that will engage them in the learning.

"Once they experience some success, it's often contagious for them, and they find that they can be successful doing any kind of math," Fischer says. "When they believe they can do it, you can't stop them. So that's the goal: Getting kids to believe in themselves."

When the middle school team thinks about preparing students for high school, college and a 21st Century work force, it is important that students have the ability to solve problems and critically think about mathematically complex scenarios.

"We live in a data-driven world that involves math and numbers," Sloper says. "Ultimately, our teachers are continually improving all things orbiting their practice within our system, and our students are putting in the work and level of engagement to demonstrate increased math learning."

Similar to CCMS, Crooked River Elementary was also rated "Level 5" in math growth on its most recent school report card. Principal Kimberly Bonner attributes the positive growth to her staff's hard work and love for their students.

Bonner explains, "We couldn't be more proud of our dedicated teaching staff here at CRE. They are on the front lines every day, caring for our students and ensuring that each and every child receives the social and academic support that they need to grow."

As part of the district's effort to set high expectations and improve outcomes for all students, the district plans to keep an intentional focus on improving student math scores. Teachers K-12 will receive instructional coaching from SMC Math Consultants throughout the next year, as well as continue to work on math standards alignment.

"Our school board has been clear that they are committed to making CCSD one of the best school districts in the state," Hoff says. "Although we are certainly proud of the recent improvements in achievement and growth scores, we still have a number of areas to improve on so that all students are on track to be career- or college-ready."

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