Principal Leadership - March 2015 - (Page 46)

WIDENING THE ROAD From limited tracks to pathways of possibility via high-level math Charlyne Maul, Tim Gordon, and Alyssa Alston T hree years ago, Franklin Middle School in Reisterstown, MD, set out to unlock possibilities for students and remove barriers by enacting a team approach to expand involvement and success in high-level math courses. Our data indicate strong gains, and we're using what we've learned to prepare students to master new curricula aligned to more challenging expectations. Middle school math course placements can have far-reaching effects on students' futures. Algebra I provides the foundational skills and abstract reasoning needed for success in rigorous high school math, advanced postsecondary STEM courses, and the workplace (Achieve, 2008). 46 Principal Leadership | March 2015 Its focus on relationships, generalizations, and patterns can facilitate effective lifelong decision making (Usiskin, 1995). We want this preparation for every student. Franklin's population of about 1,300 students is racially similar to that of Baltimore County Public Schools overall: predominantly black and white. However, students in our high-level math courses were mostly white or Asian. We embarked on a vision of diverse, successful, high-level math classes by focusing on course placement and supports for both students and teachers. An Ongoing Process We know that students who are not at grade level when they enter middle school might not have time to reach algebra by eighth grade, limiting their future options. This realization guides the way we scour student records for opportunities to place and support students in higher levels of math. Incoming sixth graders are initially placed in math courses through an iterative process based on elementary achievement data, the sixth-grade math curriculum, progress made by prior students, and conversations among families and elementary and middle school staff. The key is not allowing these initial placements to lock students into a track. Instead, the course placement process is ongoing and fluid. We begin conversations with students and their families about considering a more challenging math class as early as the first quarter of the

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Principal Leadership - March 2015

From the Editor
B ulletin Board
Cases in Point
Healthy Schools, Healthy Students
Military Partnerships: Paving the Way to Success
Designing Futures
Teach to Win
Keep it Simple
Communication: The Unspoken Key to School
Discussion Guide: Communication: The Unspoken Key to School Culture
Coherence and Collaboration: Fundamentals for Common Core Success
Layers of Leaders
Widening the Road
Oregon Students Have PEP!
From Good to Great
Instructional Leader
Breaking Ranks in Practice

Principal Leadership - March 2015