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Bill addresses poor math scores with train-the-trainer system

Barbara McLachlan

I am surprised as anyone else that as an English teacher, I am running a bill about the attributes of math and the necessity that students understand it.

But that is exactly what’s happening.

I introduced House Bill 23-1231 last week with Rep. Rose Pugliese from El Paso County. Together, we are addressing the falling math test scores of Colorado students by designing a targeted grant program. The bill passed through the Education Committee with a unanimous vote.

The three-year grants are optional, focusing on students who are struggling after missing a couple of years of math during the pandemic; schools and districts that have several years of low math test scores; students getting ready for middle or high school and pre-kindergarten students who need to learn numeracy.

We are doing this with a train-the-trainer system, training a few people to teach math who can reach out to more people to teach math. Eventually, many people will have the skills to help students thrive, and the training benefits will continue for years to come.

Here’s the plan:

We will be training teachers how to teach the basics of math, and those educators will help others do the same. Research shows that elementary teachers often do not necessarily like mathematics, and hesitate to make math their priority. We also know that when students miss a year of math skills, the next year is more difficult, which makes the year after that even worse. Students begin to feel inadequate and learn to hate math. That needs to change.

The trainings will be offered in person or online, making sure rural schools have the same opportunity for advancement.

Next, we offer to train the parents. During the pandemic, many parents said they had trouble helping their children with math; this bill gives them the opportunity to learn what their students are learning, helping them navigate word problems and complex calculations. They will have access to the evidence-informed curricula their schools are using.

For the first time, we will also train those who have after-school programs, where educators help students with their homework. Groups like local Boys and Girls Clubs and the YMCA offer affordable after-school tutoring, and other groups will be working with their school districts to make sure students are getting the help they need.

This program also offers digital math accelerators for grades K-8, with online opportunities aligning individual work with state math standards. This is for the students who work better on their own, who may only need to focus on one or two math concepts or who don’t have access to after-school tutoring. The state will invest in buying the program to share with every interested student.

We also will be training future teachers of elementary or math-focused classes, as well as preschool teachers on how to teach numeracy with manipulatives, guiding our youngest students toward understanding math concepts.

The Colorado Department of Education will publish a list of evidence-informed curricula for schools to consider, 9th-graders will have access to specific interventions and district schools that have been falling behind will have extra math help to help every student catch up to grade level.

The bill is estimated to reach about 36,000 current educators and 3,000 teachers-in-training who can benefit from additional evidence-based math training. Some 51 districts and 523 schools will be targeted with turnaround plans for math scores, and about 50,000 students will have meaningful after-school tutoring.

We are setting up students for success.

Barbara McLachlan, D-Durango, is serving her fourth term representing La Plata, Montezuma, Archuleta and San Juan counties. She has been a journalist and teacher.