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Curriculum Matters: Roadmap for Successful Math Instruction

Meeting the new standards and raising achievement

The path for raising student performance to meet or exceed the new math standards has proven elusive for many schools and districts. After two, three or more years of flat or declining student performance, some educators are beginning to wonder if their students can ever achieve the new standards.

This web seminar featured educators and administrators who have cracked the code and implemented a new math program, Eureka Math/EngageNY Math from Great Minds, with impressive success in districts large and small.

Jill Diniz

Director of Mathematics

Great Minds

Matt Tingle

Title I Coordinator/Math Coach/Teacher

Brevard County Schools (Fla.)

Jill Cowart

Math and Science Instructional Team Lead

Louisiana Department of Education

Francisco Villegas

Director of School Transformation

Partnership for Los Angeles Schools

Jill Diniz: The core of our mission is setting and supporting high expectations for all students. The double-digit increases in student growth that you’re going to see today are not uncommon with our curricula. Matt, tell us what kind of success you’ve seen in the last year.

Matt Tingle: Harbor City was one of the lowest schools out of 58 in Brevard County. We actually didn’t even start Eureka Math until November, when I met with the staff and explained that I’d found what I thought would be a good tool for teaching math. Then our third grade increased by 10 percent, our fourth grade by 38 percent, fifth grade by 21 percent and sixth grade by 22 percent. We went from being one point from a D school to just missing an A by three points. I’d also like to point out that in our fourth grade, one teacher chose not to implement Eureka Math. When the 2017 results were reported, the two teachers who had implemented Eureka Math had no level 1 students, and the teacher who chose not to implement had six.

Jill Diniz: Francisco, tell us a little bit about your organization.

Francisco Villegas: Our mission is twofold: to transform the schools that we work with and to revolutionize school systems to empower all students with a high-quality education. So we look for scalable solutions that can be implemented districtwide.

20th Street Elementary School is new to our network. The only change we made at the school was that we brought in Eureka Math and provided ongoing training for the teachers throughout the year. On the Smarter Balance summative assessments, the state of California grew by only 1 percentage point from 2015-16 to 2016-17, as did our district. But 20th Street grew by 19 percentage points in just one year of using Eureka Math. Across our whole network using Eureka Math, our growth was 7 percentage points.

Jill Diniz: Jill Cowart has data from one of the districts in her state that’s been using Eureka Math for three years. 

Jill Cowart: Curriculum does matter. This particular district, Lafayette Parish, is in the heart of Cajun country. Year over year, from the time that they implemented a high-quality math curriculum, Lafayette has consistently improved at every grade level. Not only have the students and the teachers seen improvements in the first year of implementation, but the improvement has happened again and again and again. This is just one example from our state in which the district leadership, with support from the state, with support from Great Minds, has truly taken on Eureka Math, has owned it and has seen great improvement by their kids.

Jill Diniz: I want to put forth my set of three curricular myths that keep us trapped using programs that maybe aren’t what they could be for our students:

1. A good teacher doesn’t need a high-quality curriculum.

2. All curricula are more or less the same.

3. Teachers can simply pull additional resources to turn low-quality curriculum into high-quality curriculum.

Jill Cowart: I definitely agree that each of those has taken center stage in different places across our state, particularly the perception that great teachers are great teachers and can pull things from all over and can come up with a coherent and cohesive curriculum from the comfort of their home.

Matt Tingle: We had the same teachers, the same grade levels, and the only thing that we changed was switching to Eureka Math. That says something about all these myths. Just changing the curriculum had a huge impact at our school.

Francisco Villegas: The same is true in our case. We didn’t change the principal, we didn’t change the teachers, all we did was change the curriculum and it made a huge difference.

Jill Diniz: What has the impact been in the classroom?

Francisco Villegas: I saw a huge shift in the teachers focusing on helping students understand the mathematics they were learning versus just showing them procedures they must follow whenever they see this type of problem. What I’m seeing is students developing into problem-solvers.

Jill Diniz: How are teachers spending their time now if they’re not digging for new resources and trying to fill gaps in their curricula?

Matt Tingle: Most of our teachers are now working together as teams, and spending a lot of time on the Great Minds website looking at the data suite. They’re watching videos, learning how to implement. Our teachers became more excited about teaching math.

Jill Diniz: Jill, how did you come upon Eureka Math and decide that it’s worthwhile for the state of Louisiana?

Jill Cowart: Our team chose curriculum as the greatest lever to pull because of scale. We’ve all seen over the past decades in education that we cannot rely solely on teacher training or professional development to create great teachers who can suddenly teach in a coherent way. 

Eureka Math provided the tool that could help to scale out across the state to ensure that kids who are being taught by 60,000-plus teachers are actually receiving the mathematical reasoning and mathematical modeling that they need to be successful.

Jill Diniz: Student performance certainly won’t improve just by chance. You absolutely have to make change and to be deliberate about it.

To watch this web seminar in its entirety, please visit: