Monday, July 18, 2016

Vertical Articulation inspired by @TracyZager

I'm missing #TMC16 this year as I have the past few years, but I am thoroughly engrossed in keeping up with it from afar.  This morning, I watched the keynote speech by @TracyZager from that conference and was astounded at how well it spoke to me.

Our district admins have scheduled vertical articulation meetings at the end of each of the past few school years.  Generally, these meetings are attended by teachers representing various grade levels. In a meeting at the end of the 2014-2015 school year with teachers from grades K-12, we discussed the strengths and weaknesses we are seeing at each grade level.  It was worth noting that several grade levels voiced concerns over the same topics (multiplication skills, comfort when working with fractions, etc - the typical stuff).  The problem I saw with that meeting was that we never addressed how these problems should be tackled.  There was no game plan established.  At the end of the past school year the meeting took place between the MS and HS teachers.  We discussed where we had left off and noted that nothing had changed since the last meeting.  We all acknowledge that the problems exist, but have no idea how to tackle the problems we are seeing.

Like most districts and schools, we are driven by our standards and standardized tests.  I can't help but think that we have to find a way to address these problems, but what do you give up?  We know, for example, that multiplication skills are sub-par, but what do you give up in the 3rd grade curriculum to put more time into multiplication.  And, if you do find a way to adjust the curriculum, what skills may become deficient (that currently aren't) due to this change?

We have been told that these vertical articulation meetings will continue throughout the next school year, but they are supposed to be held on a monthly basis.  At the end of this spring's meeting, we were tasked with coming up with a peer study topic.  Our group chose to look at examples of low-income schools that are doing great things - have turned themselves around.  It is our hope that by addressing large-scale problems (school dynamics), some of the smaller scale problems (work ethic, students struggling with topics, etc) will improve as well.

Note:  I am in no way trying to say that all of our problems lie in the elementary grades.  I am simply using multiplication skills as an example.

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