Updated Curriculum and Network for School Improvement Drives Math Achievement at CPS

September 2019

Cincinnati Public Schools is preparing students for life beyond high school – and student success in mathematics is critical. Mathematics proficiency, especially in the middle grades, dramatically boosts learners’ prospects for graduating high school and having success in college or career, leading to economic mobility.

CPS is increasing mathematics achievement and reducing racial and economic disparities as part of the District’s three-year strategic plan and the adoption of an updated mathematics curriculum district wide by Fall 2020, in consultation with StrivePartnership, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Teaching Lab, and a significant financial investment from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Keeping students on track in mathematics starts with assessing their success at key academic milestones: Kindergarten readiness, third grade, sixth grade and Algebra I. Studies show significant disparities in mathematics proficiency and achievement among certain groups.

In 2017-18, only one-third of eighth graders scored at proficiency on a standardized test. Nearly four out of five African-American males and economically disadvantaged students, regardless of race and gender, failed to reach proficiency. Mobility is another factor; when students move from one school to another, lost instructional time sets students back and impedes learning. These disparities aren’t only impacting CPS; other schools in the region show similar results for these populations.

CPS has recognized this inequity is a barrier to the academic success of all students. CPS’s updated mathematics curriculum to ensure that all its 36,000 students, regardless of circumstances, will have the advantage of curriculum and instructional practices that will drive higher achievement by the 2020-2021 School Year.

“Although the city’s focus on early grade learning has shown some improvement in kindergarten readiness and third-grade reading for urban youth, middle-grade mathematics achievement has remained fairly stagnant,” said StrivePartnership Executive Director Dr. Byron White.

Consequently, the organization has identified mathematics proficiency as one of its focus areas for providing education backbone support to districts and communities.

CPS expects the introduction of a newly adopted curriculum will be critical to closing those gaps. “The level of achievement will grow exponentially if we can reduce that learning gap by eighth grade,” said Dr. Dawn Williams, CPS mathematics curriculum manger. “If we do that, we’ve leveled the playing field.”

StrivePartnership has developed a Network for School Improvement in 8th -grade mathematics, seeding the effort with a grant from the Gates Foundation. The work is a subset of the district’s larger quality improvement process, which is highlighted in the recently adopted CPS Strategic Plan under “Optimized Capabilities – We Get Better.” Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is leveraging its professional expertise with expert coaching and consultation to advance the district’s commitment to continuous quality improvement, learning what works and how to improve every day.

In August, staff from StrivePartnership and Cincinnati Children’s joined more than 60 CPS mathematics teachers and administrators to celebrate the progress made through the Network for School Improvement over the past year. Partners in the network anticipate that the collaborative soon will produce the results they seek in 8th -grade mathematics and, ultimately, Algebra 1. This video, produced by Walnut Hills High School 10th -grader Xander Wynn, captures events from the celebration.

“By preventing or filling gaps in mathematics education by eighth grade as a community, we know that students will be well on their way to high school, college and career success,” White said.

CPS is approaching the curriculum adoption intentionally. In 2019-20, proposed curricula from competing sources will be tested in pilots at every grade level, taught by teachers who have spent the last year training with coaches. Teachers and learners will provide feedback to administrators and the adoption committee will provide its recommendation for the best of the pilots to the school board as soon as January, Williams said.

Once the curriculum is chosen, the district will roll out support teams and specialists to train mathematics teachers. They’ll employ continuous improvement practices that Cincinnati Children’s has tested and perfected to master proficiency.

After the 2020-21 launch, CPS’s teaching professionals will have professional development sessions quarterly and the opportunity to check in with the support team throughout the school year. The national nonprofit Teaching Lab will provide instructional support and deepen content mastery strategies for 8th and 9th grade mathematics teachers, through the Network for School Improvement grant.

“The support of these nationally renowned partners will pave the way for our CPS students to increase their achievement in mathematics, and that increase in achievement will also drive their overall academic success,” Williams said. “The pay-off of the months of research, quality improvement, and intervention strategies will result in more students graduating with more proficiency in mathematics – and that’s a win for the students, the District and the entire region.



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