Although there are many approaches to vocabulary instruction, Robust Vocabulary Instruction, a research-based approach developed by Dr. Isabel Beck and Dr. Margaret McKeown, provides students with the rich interaction needed for students to develop true ownership and understanding of words.
Making Connections Beyond the Classroom, Seeing Mathematics in Our Everyday Actions
What might it look like when a teacher works to support students in making connections between their math work, themselves, and the community/world in which they live? We invited a teacher from one of our partnering districts to share stories from their classroom and reflect on the impact connection-making has had on students.
Vending Machine Nourishing Hungry, Young Readers
A book vending machine was introduced to inspire readers at a Texas elementary school and now students are reading at a record pace.
Finding Entry Points Can Unlock Educators’ and Learners’ Potential
A simple question sparked big changes in Nashville. By challenging the thinking of adults, educators can discover new approaches and consider ways to refine their existing approaches to challenge the thinking of their students.
In Their Own Words, Stories from the Field
Here we are mid-October and the excitement and nerves that come with a fresh school year have given way to the joy that grows out of learning and the comfort from predictable classroom routines.
As teachers move further into the year, we wanted to create space to share some of their stories. We reached out to educators and posed the following to questions to get their thoughts.
• What led you to education?
• What goals do you have for the work you do?
• How does your work reflect you?
The following are excerpts from several responses. We invite you to read, pause, celebrate, and reflect on their stories.
Celebrating Success in the Dallas ISD/IFL Network for School Improvement
Four years ago, the IFL along with the LRDC and CUE partnered with the Dallas Independent School District to improve literacy instruction at fourteen of the district’s highest needs schools. As the network enters its fifth year, we look back on teachers’ successes.
Superintendent’s Student Cabinet a Success
You wouldn’t want to be at a job where you had no say on what happens, how it happens, or why it happens. So why wouldn’t students want the same? By inviting student voice into your school, you’re building accountability and credibility with the students you serve.
Ptáyela Waúŋspeič’ičhiyapi: Building Cultural Competence and Responsiveness
IFL partner Todd County, South Dakota serves nearly an entirely Indigenous student population. However, their teachers do not reflect that population. To bridge that gap, they are putting their students’ culture at the center of their education.
“Esto Si lo Puedo Hacer!”: Creating Opportuinities for Success when Teaching Academic Vocabulary in Mathematics
Too often we hear the suggestion to pre-teach math terms to multilingual students, an action that prefences memorization over meaning making. Though well intended, this approach limits opportunities for students to engage in sense making of the mathematical concepts and relationships they are studying. There is a better and more equitable way! This article shares four pedalogical choices that foster student success in the math classroom while positioning multilingual learners as leaders.
A Journey Towards Text Analysis
High-level comprehension tasks impact the depth to which students respond to analysis tasks. Check out this article in which two teachers share their stories about working with their students on comprehension tasks that support text analysis.
Are You “Wishing” Math Content Knowledge Into Your Students? 6 Questions to Ask Yourself to Find Out
What does it mean to “wish mathematical knowledge” into your students? If reading the title of this article makes you pause, you might be doing it. Take the quiz to find out!
Increasing Representation by Globalizing School-Based Multicultural Libraries
Students are more engaged when they see themselves in the books they read. IFL partner, Syracuse City Schools, has worked to better represent all their students by expanding their multicultural libraries on a global scale.
Raising the Score: Structuring a school for a student-centered math intervention program
Changing the system changes the outcomes is the premise by which one school approached reorganizing their resources to maximize mathematics interventions. This meant getting everyone on board to increase and improve mathematical understanding for all learners. This article is the second of a two-part series the explores one school’s efforts to change their system of mathematics intervention to better meet the needs of every student (and every teacher) across all tiers of instruction.
Letting The Students’ Work Lead: Designing a student-centered math intervention program
If you want the results to be different, then you must do things in a different way. For one school, this meant taking a hard look at the types of opportunities provided to students to think and reason about mathematics across tiers of instruction. They knew that wanting to increase and improve mathematical understanding for all learners, meant systemic changes related to the instructional materials, teaching practices, and school scheduling. It also meant that everyone had to be on board! This article is the first of a two-part series that explores one school’s efforts to change their system of mathematics intervention to better meet the needs of every student (and every teacher) across all tiers of instruction.
IFL Partner in Australia: Is there a better way to teach mathematics?
Working with numbers and mathematical representations! Read about the success that one of our partners is seeing in the land down under.
Planning for High-Level Comprehension
Comprehension work is critical work when we engage students with a text. Understanding and enacting the steps for planning a high-level comprehension task will help teachers provide students instructional opportunities that set every student up for success.
IFL Partner Sees Success Amid Chaotic Year
Coinciding with the one-year anniversary of COVID shutting down classrooms across the country, Warner Arts Magnet Elementary in Nashville shares the trials and tribulations they faced, what kept them motivated, and how the IFL work has been a “life-changing” experience that played a key role in providing a quality education.
Building Allyship Among Educators
As educators our goals are to inspire, motivate, and empower the students we interact with every day. Can any of these goals be truly accomplished when we have educators in our schools that feel disenfranchised, alone, and unsupported by their colleagues? Becoming an effective educational ally is a journey that requires substantial self-reflection, a strong sense of self-identity, and a willingness to step up and advocate for a colleague.
Mathematical Representations: A Window into Student Thinking
Representations are windows into student thinking and reasoning. In a time of virtual classrooms, using visual representations is more complex, but as important as ever. If a teacher values students’ thinking, they need to consider how to make it possible for all students to represent that thinking. This article addresses the use of representations and the questions that help students connect representations to deepen understanding of math concepts.
IFL Partner Captures Connecticut Superintendent of the Year Award
Dr. Paul Freeman, a life-long educator and long-time partner with the IFL, was recently recognized as Connecticut’s Superintendent of the Year. In this article, he reflects on his career and the choices that lead to a more inclusive learning environment. He also recognizes dedicated work of teachers and the whole school community to move toward a more equitable system.
Translating Accountable Talk® Practices Between In-Person and Virtual Teaching
A story about the art of teaching and the process of translating and refining practice to ensure rigorous learning opportunities for students through collaboration and productive talk.
A New Take on the Learning Walk® Routine to Get Smarter About Teaching and Learning in the Cloud
Many school districts have moved to virtual or hybrid models of instruction and we recognize that using the typical Learning Walk routine, which asks district and school leaders to visit classrooms and provide targeted feedback, doesn’t quite fit in a virtual space. However, we also recognize the need to continue to support district leaders in helping teachers provide high-quality instruction to every student.
Principals Leading with a Coaching Lens
Before becoming building principals, we were instructional coaches, each of us having coached either mathematics or ELA. Instruction was always the focus of our coaching work. After several years as principals, we realized that though supporting teaching and learning was a component of our work, it was no longer the focus. Once we came to that realization, we knew that we needed to make some changes.
Teaneck’s Advantage: Educational Excellence Through Rigorous Teaching and Learning
At Teaneck Public Schools (Teaneck, New Jersey) we are focused on establishing common instructional practice across all classrooms that is designed to increase our students’ opportunities to engage in demanding curriculum content in both mathematics and English language arts lessons.
The Principles of Learning in Action
The Guilford Public Schools’ vision is that of a professional learning community where instruction invites effort and supports academic rigor for all students and educators. To that end, our daily work in classrooms is rooted in and supported by the Principles of Learning (POLs).
Clear Expectations and Self-Management of Learning: Moving the Principles of Learning from Theory to Practice
In thinking about the work we have been moving throughout our district, we are extremely proud of the way our teachers have been incorporating Clear Expectations and Self-Management of Learning, two of the Principles of Learning that are inextricably connected.
Using Student-Centered Classroom Routines to Improve Comprehension of Complex Texts
The Networks for School Improvement (NSI) work taking place among Dallas ISD (DISD), the Institute for Learning, the University of Pittsburgh School of Education Center for Urban Education, and the Learning Research and Development Center, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, has largely focused efforts on improving instructional rigor, providing better supports for English language learners, and improving cultural relevance.
Using PLCs to Build Teacher Capacity to Implement High-Leverage Practices
Propel Pitcairn, one of the Institute for Learning’s newest partners, went through the process of an organization-wide curriculum adoption for both math and English language arts last year. As a result, the teachers will now be regularly using high-level tasks, which dovetails with the network’s vision that students will do the thinking.
Implementing Accountable Talk® discussions in math
“It definitely makes my heart smile when I hear a teacher say, ‘I just stopped what I was doing because the student knew more than I did and just took over!’ or ‘I began to feel frustrated because we were not able to work through the content the way that I originally planned, but I learned so much about what they know and have experienced by re-framing some of my questioning and allowing them to create the questions too.
Increasing High-Quality Student Talk
The Institute for Learning (IFL) and Schenectady City School District have worked collaboratively for several years, and this year, we continued our ongoing partnership with a focus on using improvement science methodology to “get better at getting better.” District-wide, there is a focus on using improvement science to work on persistent problems of practice.
Agency and Voice: A Push for Greater Equity and What it Looks Like in Math
In her article “Framing Equity: Helping Students ‘Play the Game’ and ‘Change the Game’” (2009), Rochelle Gutiérrez lays out the four key dimensions of equity: Access, Achievement, Identity, and Power, which sit on two axes. Access and Achievement create the dominant axis, and Identify and Power create the critical axis.
Student and Teacher Agency: One District’s Reflection on Taking Action
Learning Forward and the National Commission on Teaching & America’s Future conducted interviews with teachers and school administrators to understand the disconnect between professional learning that teachers need and want and what they actually experience.
Tests of Change Lead to Meaningful Student Engagement in Mathematics
There is no shortage of professional development (PD) available to teachers, but PD alone is rarely enough to result in a change of practice.
Differentiation Across Tiers of Math Instruction
What does it mean to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of every learner in a mathematics classroom? Giving different students different tasks does not yield a common learning experience; therefore, the availability of holding rich mathematical conversations with the whole class is lacking.
District Uses Improvement Science Principles to Increase Math Scores
When a district successfully shifts their trajectory of students’ performance, many people ask how they did it. New Brunswick Public Schools’ use of strategic decision-making, grounded in improvement science principles, and greater collaboration across role groups resulted in impressive gains in mathematics scores across the district.
A District’s Perspective: CFC and Differentiation
Coaching, at its best, bolsters district goals while supporting individual needs, gracefully weaving coherence and differentiation into a tapestry of continuous learning. With Content-Focused Coaching® (CFC), both the culture and the instruction are positioned to evolve in ever-increasing complexity through the interdependence of people—coaches supporting teachers through individual conferring and teachers supporting one another during PLCs that are truly collaborative pursuits.
Working Toward Rigor: Implementing High-Level Math Tasks
Designing for academic rigor in a thinking classroom starts with the choice of task with which students will engage. Likewise when striving to improve student achievement, we ask our school partners to begin by analyzing the tasks students experience. If we want students to truly understand mathematics, as opposed to a series of tricks, sayings, and acronyms, then we have to ensure they have a regular diet of high-level tasks that require thinking and reasoning about mathematics.
Increasing Cognitive Demand and Focusing on What Students CAN Do
As the supervisor of humanities (at the time) for New Brunswick School District, I have had the opportunity to work with the Institute for Learning (IFL) for the past 3 years, and one of the areas on which we focused during that time was increasing the cognitive demand in the classroom.
Searching for the Root Cause: An interview with Bridget Goree, NSI Coordinator for North Dallas High School
Campus Network for School Improvement (NSI) coordinators learn to discover and understand the root causes of a problem of practice and find that understanding the problem takes time and requires a cultural shift. In this interview, Bridget Goree, an instructional coach at North Dallas High School, shares her own experience learning to approach this work. She discusses three considerations—what to stop doing, what is important to do, and what they are learning to build.
Math, a Journey of Understanding
Recently, the Institute for Learning was selected to bring its expertise and extensive experience with instructional coaching to mathematics educators in the state of Tennessee. More specifically, IFL provided instruction around coaching moves that support high-quality teaching, resulting in improved student learning.
New Brunswick Realizes Increases in ELA, Math Metrics Through IFL Work
New Brunswick Public Schools (NJ) is a continuing partner with the Institute for Learning (IFL). Over the last 4 academic years, the district has seen definite growth across grades 3 – 10 in both English language arts and mathematics, as measured on the NJ state assessment tests.
PDSA Cycles Reveal Hard Truths About Deep Science Instruction
Paterson Public School’s Guiding Coalition, a working group in academic services composed of content area senior staff, began its journey with improvement science in the fall of 2016. As we examined the various issues that we faced in curriculum and instruction, one flash point was the extraordinarily low state achievement test scores in science on the Grade 8 and high school biology assessments.
Building a Coaching Model that Works
Through a three-year Institute of Education Sciences (IES) grant with the TN Department of Education, the Institute for Learning (IFL) and researchers at the Learning Research and Development Center explored and studied coaching in mathematics.