Building Mathematical Discourse for English Learners and Students with Disabilities

Each year, the Los Angeles County Office of Education honors some of our most talented educators through the Teachers of the Year (TOY) awards program. We launched the TOY Equitable Innovation Grant program to invest in more dynamic teacher leaders, develop new strategies to help students, share best practices with other educators, and leverage the network of incredible TOY honorees. Each week we will feature grantees highlighting what they have done and continue to do for their schools.

This week’s TOY Blogpost is dedicated to Julie McGough, Dr. Anna Kwak and Stephen Bisuano.

Azusa Unified School District (AUSD) serves over 8,000 students, many of whom face economic challenges. Eighty-one percent of these students are currently receiving free and reduced lunch, 21% are English Learners, and recently, many Kechua immigrants have joined the community adding a greater need for educational support.

AUSD’s most recent SBAC Math Claim 3 scores indicated that the district’s English Learners and students with disabilities struggle with communicating math reasoning. These traditionally underserved students scored approximately 11 and 8 percentage points less than district proficiency.

To increase student achievement in mathematical discourse and address learning loss, educators Julie McGough, Dr. Anna Kwak, and Stephen Bisuano have provided training to teachers on interactive math routines that center on a diversity of thinking and deepening students’ math understanding. The training is part of a six-week professional learning community (PLC) for educators.

McGough, Kwak, and Bisuano each come with their own experience, expertise, and passion. Together, they hope to train educators to better equip students with mathematical language and empower them to express their mathematical ideas as valued members of their learning community. They also hope to bridge the gap between learners in the classroom and at home as the hybrid setting becomes the new normal.

“Many of our students have struggled to participate in online learning classes because they feel unsure of their ideas and are uncomfortable sharing with the group,” says McGough. “In virtual learning, students don’t have physical manipulatives available so many of them are unclear of the concepts and have been limited to learning rote procedures. Math routines provide a way to empower these students to find their mathematical voices while filling learning gaps around number sense”.

The initial PLC cycle was only open to special education teachers to provide immediate support to the district’s traditionally underserved students. Follow-up cycles will open to all educational specialists and general education teachers.

Greater LA and AUSD understand the importance of maintaining quality education and equity in learning spaces. For English Learners and students with disabilities, change comes with building their confidence in the subject matter and their educational experience.

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