FW schools announce professional development program

From staff reports:

Dr. Julia Aguirre, an associate math professor at the University of Washington-Tacoma, is beginning to work with Federal Way Public Schools (FWPS) on a "comprehensive professional development program that ultimately will impact the district's most vulnerable students." Aguirre's work will focus on developing a culturally-responsive approach to teaching mathematics throughout the district, according to a news release.

The district reports that Aguirre has extensive experience working with local school districts to strengthen their math education, especially for historically underserved populations. Part of her work will include training instructional coaches, interventionists, and teacher leaders at each of the district's K-12 schools. That work will be based on Aguirre's book, "The Impact of Identity in K-8 Mathematics."

FWPS Superintendent Rob Neu said Aguirre will be a valuable asset to the district, especially as the district begins to focus on the aforementioned underserved populations in an attempt to improve outcomes across the whole spectrum of students.

Wanda Brown-Billingsly, Title I director for FWPS, said the inclusion of Aguirre will allow teachers a chance for self-reflection and improvement.

"Much of the discussion and professional development in math instruction has focused on curriculum and content, and has been generated by voices far from the classroom," she said. "What has been missing is the teachers' own reflections on their work and which consider children's diverse needs and the role of mathematics in the lives of children and families."

Along with working with Aguirre, the district is also working with The Learner First organization to build change teams at the district and building levels to focus on the achievement of the district's most struggling learners. This particular work is funded by the Road Map Region Race to the Top grant funds.

According to FWPS, the school district's participation in the Race to the Top program "will initially impact 660 students and 239 teachers in six schools." As already mentioned, the district is pursuing a plan of focusing on student groups that have historically underperformed, with the hope that if more time and instruction is spent with those groups, that "all boats will rise" across the spectrum.

For 2013-14, FWPS' focus will be on:

• Getting 100 percent of 9th grade African American, Hispanic and Native American students on target to graduate by spring 2014.

• Getting 100 percent of African American, Pacific Islander and Latino boys in grades 3,5,8 and 10 to "see math as relevant and meaningful for their lives," and have those children "achieving at or above standard in math by spring 2014."

• Getting 80 percent of English Language Learner students to read at grade level by the end of kindergarten, 90 percent by the end of 1st grade, and 100 percent by the end of 2nd grade.


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