The Aftermath: Two site leaders’ visions for student success in math
November 13, 2023
The following article was written by Felix Jones, Martin Gomez, Ed.D., and Sergio Flores, Ed.D.
Prior to 2019, schools across the U.S. were enhancing math achievement through additional instruction, tutoring and teacher training. Despite progress, low achievement persisted, especially among disadvantaged and minority students. The pandemic worsened matters, causing substantial learning loss. The National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reported a seven-point math score drop in 2022, reversing a 50-year upward trend. With the urgent need to increase math proficiency while addressing social-emotional concerns associated with the pandemic, schools are broadening their focus beyond academics to address holistic student needs.
Educational publications have spotlighted learning loss, underscoring the importance of addressing it. This article delves into how two site leaders have maintained a focus on math despite challenges. Middle school leader Felix Jones at Almeria Middle School emphasizes numeracy support, student relationships, and well-being. Upland High School Principal Martin Gomez centers on engagement and teacher collaboration, while combating student apathy and adapting instructional practices.
Almeria’s middle school strategy encompasses teacher development, math interventions and social-emotional support. Teachers prioritize literacy, math and relationships. I-Ready is employed for math intervention. Teacher collaboration on rigorous standards and data-driven lessons enhances teaching quality. Success criteria and understanding checks are emphasized, supported by external consultants. Math discourse and strategic questioning are also promoted.
Gomez at Upland High emphasizes engagement and diverse instructional approaches. The school embraces National Council of Teachers of Mathematcis practices, using structured engagement strategies and walkthroughs. Gomez ensures all teachers handle foundational and advanced courses for enhanced collaboration. To address learning gaps, Upland High School introduced an intervention period within the school day. District-supported math TOSAs and academic leaders assist in PLCs, enhancing teacher collaboration and data analysis.
Both site leaders emphasize holistic student support. SEL integration aids emotional well-being, along with strong teacher-student relationships and self-awareness practices. Supporting teachers with innovative best practices is crucial. For instance, math instruction that counters learning loss through “just-in-time” reviews is favored over days or weeks of review “just-in-case.”
Policy makers and educators grapple with nationwide math performance issues. Site leaders must act swiftly to address both academic and student well-being concerns. A strong collaboration between teachers and leaders, focusing on learning goals and innovative practices, is paramount. The challenge extends beyond individual schools, involving a national shortage of STEM-ready graduates. Convincing students to pursue more math-intensive paths is essential. What schools need is strong leadership centered on math. In order for student math proficiency to increase, it needs to be a strong focus just as reading and literacy are in most schools.
Recommendations for improvement:
Site leaders: Deepen math understanding, participate in instruction and celebrate successes.
School districts: Provide flexible, research-based curricula, set high math expectations, empower leaders and offer professional development.
State Department of Education: Develop rigorous math standards, aid teacher recruitment, provide financial resources and foster math-centric networks.
In conclusion, as schools confront math achievement issues exacerbated by the pandemic, leaders are playing a pivotal role in addressing both academic and holistic student needs. Collaboration, innovation and commitment are crucial in overcoming challenges and preparing students for college and career, including high paying, in-demand STEM careers.