The District of Columbia Public Schools started the implementation of the Common Core State Standards in 2011 – 2012. The implementation of CCSS in high school mathematics was difficult and frustrating for many teachers. The scope and sequences for Algebra 1 and Geometry, which set the pacing of the year’s courses, required teachers (and their students) to jump around in the 2004 copyrighted textbooks that were issued by DCPS. In Geometry, for example, the material from Chapter 1 was followed by material from Chapter 10. DCPS instituted Paced Interim Assessments of students which occurred every six weeks and were aligned to these scope and sequences.
As a high school math teacher, I repeatedly pointed out the problems with this approach to central office staff. I met with three of the district’s leaders at a Student Achievement Partners conference in NYC which I was helping to facilitate. Out of these discussions, a plan was formed which led to the creation of DCPS’s Common Core Math Corps (CCMC). Six teachers from across the school system were asked to rewrite the scope and sequence for each course for the following school year.
I was asked to be part of the team to rewrite the scope and sequence for Algebra 1. The six of us met each other in March 2012 and started to work immediately. Our main goal was to write an Algebra 1 scope and sequence which was compatible with the sequence of topics in the existing 2004 textbook. An additional goal was to write a scope and sequence for 8th grade students who were studying Algebra 1. These students had to be prepared for both 8th grade CCSS tests as well as Algebra 1 CCSS tests. I became the de facto leader of the group and also met with the publisher’s representatives at central office. It was at one of those sessions that I became acquainted with a CCSS aligned set of paperback books by a major publisher. I recommended that DCPS purchase these books for each Algebra 1 teacher, as well as an additional paperback book on functions. My recommendation was accepted.
We debuted the Algebra 1 scope and sequence at the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year. I and another member of CCMC led the professional development sessions for teachers in August and continued to lead them throughout the year. While there was initial reluctance from many Algebra 1 teachers about our plan, there was gradual acceptance throughout the year. The main initial objections were two-fold: We were not starting off the year with a review of arithmetic and, in fact, we were starting the year with a six-week study of a topic that had not been prominent in the existing DCPS standards: functions. Our example of teacher leadership was welcomed by our colleagues throughout DCPS. Instead of having staff from central office or outside speakers provide the professional development sessions, they were led by us, DCPS teachers. This teacher-led professional development program has continued. This past spring, I headed up a small team of teachers to write a scope and sequence and unit plans for a CCSS-aligned Algebra 2 course.