EL and Math Department Collaboration Drives Success
There is no doubt that teachers are excited about expanding their use of Ellevation Math as part of their instructional practice.
Prince William County Public Schools (PWCS) is the second largest School Division in Virginia. Located about 35 miles southwest of Washington D.C., it is a highly diverse division that serves over 89,000 students, of which 26% are English learners and 47% are economically disadvantaged.
PWCS recently approved a new strategic plan, which highlights four key commitments to their students, families, and community. One of the key components is organizational coherence, which focuses on removing barriers to communication and facilitating collaboration across offices, schools, and families. This was the foundation upon which the EL and Math departments could build strong collaboration to support English learners in math classes.
Both Supervisor of EL Instruction Christina Lo and Supervisor of Math Instruction Justin Maffei knew they needed to equip math teachers with strategies to support their English learners using an approach that incorporated language instruction into their lessons. While this was happening in language arts classes, there was a need for more support in math. The collaboration between Lo and Maffei was key to the success of teachers and the students they serve.
Ellevation Math gave PWCS teachers the structure and tools they needed to help students learn the language they needed to access mathematics content. Math teachers were able to assign primers to their students in a way that fit into their existing lessons and curriculum. This balance between structure and agency gave teachers confidence that this was not just one more thing to add to their overflowing plates. Teachers also found that Ellevation Math was not just effective for English learners and many are using it for all students.
What They Did
During the 2021-2022 school year, Supervisor of EL Instruction Christina Lo and Supervisor of Mathematics Justin Maffei collaborated to roll out Ellevation Math at the secondary level. With support from their partners at Ellevation, Lo and Maffei designed and implemented a plan that would align with district goals around unfinished learning and support their teachers during a very challenging time. PWCS’s success has largely been due to strong collaboration, direct connections to district goals, access for all students, and building teacher capacity.
Collaboration: EL supervisors and administrators often work in silos when designing curricula and selecting tools to support English learners. This can result in a lack of integration of EL strategies in content areas and further isolation for EL students. Christina and Justin avoided this pitfall by sharing their areas of expertise to best inform the implementation of Ellevation Math.
Connection to Strategic Plan: From the very start, the implementation of Ellevation Math was tied to “organizational coherence”, one of four major goals of the district’s strategic plan. This connection allowed for buy-in and support at the administrative level while also creating a formal connection between Math and EL departments in the district.
Access: About 26% of PWCS’s students are English learners, but Math Supervisor Justin Maffei has been deliberate about recommending Ellevation Math for all students since math is a new language for everyone. This has increased buy-in while simultaneously breaking down barriers between English learners and monolingual English speakers who may also need support in the language of mathematics.
Build Capacity: Usage of Ellevation Math was particularly high in schools that had lower EL populations and therefore less support from EL specialists. In those schools, math teachers found that Ellevation Math filled in some of the gaps in their instruction around academic language.
What They Accomplished
Over the course of the 2021-22 school year, secondary teachers at PWCS used Ellevation Math in grades 6-9 to help students build the academic language they needed to succeed in math. This helped mitigate the regression of language and math skills that many English learners experienced as a result of the pandemic. The focus on academic language also helped math teachers improve their ability to incorporate language instruction into their lessons.
As part of their commitment to ensuring all students have the academic language they need to be successful in mathematics, PWCS is rolling out Ellevation Math for grades 3-5 for the 2022-23 school year. The team is currently awaiting last year’s data to analyze the results, but there is no doubt that teachers are excited about expanding their use of Ellevation Math as part of their instructional practice.