By David Hedges, CORE Senior Education Services Math Consultant

It is almost Trick or Treat time, and I am reminded of my classroom days working with struggling Algebra 1 students. Fractions issues were the usual suspect! I used to tell my students that I was going to dress up as a fraction on Halloween and scare them all. Their choral response was usually something like, “Mr. Hedges, you are so crazy!”

Most of the math my students struggled with was not about Algebra 1 topics. The student struggles were mostly around a lack of fluency or understanding with earlier skills they had been exposed to on their math road to Algebra 1. Check out a prior blog from February 2018 written by Mary Buck, Senior Educational Services Consultant for CORE, about fluency within the Common Core Standards, Number Sense and Fluency.

I always found math to be easy as a K-12 student and went on to complete a BS in Mathematics at the ‘real USC’, University of South Carolina. As successful as I was with math, it was during a math methods course taught by Dr. Randy Philipp at San Diego State University that I had a fraction epiphany – meaning a whole epiphany about fractions.

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By Derrick Love Ed. D, Assistant Superintendent at Priority Charter Schools

Teachers join the profession to make a significant impact on the lives of students and the communities they serve. No teacher wakes up in the morning and says, “Today I want to be a bad teacher.” Their implied mindset is, “I want to be the best teacher ever! But sometimes I simply do not have the tools within my toolkit to make it happen.” The U.S. Department of Education concluded that student achievement could improve by 21 percentile points as a result of teachers’ participation in well-designed professional development programs. Intentional professional development is the key to building and sustaining high-quality teachers in the classroom.

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By Linda Diamond, President, CORE & Dale Webster, Chief Academic Officer, CORE

As many of our readers know, CORE has never wavered from its stance that teachers should be knowledgeable about ELA and/or math pedagogy and equally important, teachers deserve support to implement an evidence-based, standards-aligned curriculum for ELA and math. A renewed focus among educators on implementing a curriculum is a shift from the past several years where many school districts provided teachers with internally-created and loosely-designed units of study. This shift from units of study to adopting standards-aligned materials has been occurring more and more in school districts across the country and is supported by organizations such as the Gates Foundation.

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Our most vulnerable students also require structured materials designed specifically to fill learning gaps

by Linda Diamond, President, CORE and author of the Teaching Reading Sourcebook and Assessing Reading: Multiple Measures

Back in September 2018 I wrote about the importance of selecting and fully implementing a great curriculum with excellent support and ongoing professional learning. This is a huge and important step in accelerating achievement for all students. But is that enough? The answer, unfortunately is “no.” A standards-aligned, high-quality curricula, while significantly improving outcomes for many students, will not be sufficient for those most at risk. Core curriculum is targeted at grade-level standards and will ensure all students have access to robust content, but it will not meet the needs of students who are significantly behind in their skills. Such students will still require a targeted or intensive intervention curricula that is well beyond what a standards-aligned core program can provide.

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By Linda Diamond, President of CORE

A shining light of education left us on February 15, 2019. Siegfried Engelmann, known as Zig to those of us who knew and adored him, was a genius. His expertise was figuring out and “engineering” instruction so that children learned to read and do math successfully and at advanced levels starting in kindergarten. Despite its critics, Zig and Direct Instruction (DI) did more for at-risk students than any other method of instruction.

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By Linda Diamond and Michelle Rodriguez

Numerous recent reports cite the difference in student learning that an effective curriculum can make. These reports include Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Studies, StandardsWork, Curriculum Research: What We Know and Where We Need to Go; Ashley Berner’s report in Thomas Fordham Institute’s Flypaper, August 2018; and Brookings report by Morgan Polikoff,, June 2018. After 25 years of working with school districts to help them select and implement high-quality curriculum, we agree. However, only a couple reports, the Economic Studies Brookings Report by Morgan Polikoff and Ashley Berner’s report, address a critical difficulty—ensuring teachers have sufficient content and curriculum knowledge to use and implement a standards-based curriculum with fidelity.

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Numbers are all around us. Let’s teach children to embrace rather than fear numbers.

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This month’s CORE Excellence in Education Blog focuses on the importance of mathematical fluency and number sense as a critical foundation for entering mathematics in middle and high school.

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Real world math does not always equal relevant math. Relevance is a function of interest.

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CORE’s Excellence in Education Blog post this month is on the importance of clearing out math misconceptions in order to make room for new knowledge. See what happened during one math professional learning session when students were certain about the wrong right answer.

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