In a three-year period, instruction at Ardmore Elementary has completely transformed and students are making incredible academic progress year over year. We spoke with three fifth-grade teachers — Mireya Frederick, Alissa Zaghian, and Lisa Symonds — to learn more about their progress and what’s driving success at Ardmore.
Frederick, Zaghian, and Symonds each discussed several key drivers for their school’s success. Below we’ll share some of their reflections on the cohesive instructional support they’ve received from their leadership team and ANet, and the building-wide unity they experience at Ardmore Elementary. For more of their story, see the complete case study here.
In Bellevue, WA, Ardmore Elementary School teachers Mireya Frederick, Alissa Zaghian, and Lisa Symonds each describe a sense of unity throughout the school as they’ve transitioned to standards-based mathematics instruction. They say Ardmore’s cohesive atmosphere feels unique; teachers are operating with a common vision for student learning across all K-5 classrooms in the building, not just within teaching teams or grade levels.
Mireya Frederick says the collaborative, building-wide approach to adopting standards-based instruction — and the impact it’s had on students — is a teaching experience unlike what she’s known elsewhere.
“Something I feel like I’ve only experienced here at Ardmore is that it’s the whole building. When we first started this with ANet, [I thought,] ‘This is going to take awhile’ — and that was a little bit challenging, like we’re going to have to wait a few years for this to trickle down.” But providing grade-level instruction becomes “a lot easier every year as the kids move up,” Frederick shares. “Everyone’s working toward these practices and it’s making every year a little bit easier, where we’re not having to spend six weeks teaching a whole skill.” Instead, Frederick says, her approach can be to see where students left off from the previous year and then dig a little deeper. And that, she adds, “has been really cool to see.”
Ardmore’s leadership planned professional learning intentionally, focusing on coherent, school-wide, meaningful development for teachers.
In the 2018–19 school year, the first year of Ardmore and ANet’s partnership, Principal Anne Reece introduced standards-based math instruction at the school. Principal Reece and her team focused heavily on supporting teachers to unpack and introduce grade-level expectations in their instruction. With the support of their ANet coach, they launched professional learning (PL) for teachers in the fall of 2019, focusing initially on strong standards-based planning methods. PL continued throughout the year to intensify teachers’ understanding of the standards and grade-level instruction and to support them in making pedagogical shifts in their practice.
Alissa Zaghian describes a “click” that happened for teachers in the second year of their ANet partnership. She even remembers the specific day that she noticed teachers starting to see and understand deeper connections across grade levels:
“We had a PD in the building, and it was all of the teachers, K to 5. And we took the standards that were on the ANet assessment, specifically for math and ELA, and we wrote them up on butcher paper and we posted them around the room.” After each grade level team wrote out their standards separately, they traveled around the room as an entire staff. It was then, Zaghian says, that teachers began to recognize the progression of the standards. For example, they saw some standards in primary grades would progress, and then lose focus, and then emerge as a main focus again in fifth grade. “We started understanding the standards that we really, really need to focus on,” she says, “and [asking] how we can take it beyond just our grade level so that the kids are more prepared.”
Lisa Symonds, too, reflects on Ardmore’s cohesive approach to instruction across grade levels — which is a result, she notes, of the adjustments they’ve made to teaching and planning.
“So often in teaching, we tend to get stuck in our own little grade-level bubble or, with the way the building is laid out, our own little corner or hallway. With these changes in our planning and in the way we’re thinking about teaching and the way students are learning,” Symonds says, “that really has brought a unity to Ardmore.” Now it’s not just fifth grade, fourth grade, and kindergarten all focusing on separate things, she explains. “It’s looking at what they are doing in kindergarten and how it gets built on in first and second grade. And that helps us in upper elementary to see what the students are learning in those lower grades to then [determine] how we are going to take that to the next level.”
Ardmore’s efforts over the past three years have led to compelling results. Teachers have successfully shifted to standards-based instruction in math and student outcomes are improving year over year. For more of Ardmore’s story, including teacher reflections on the transition to standards-based instruction and their dedication to understanding and prioritizing their students’ needs, read the complete case study here.
Learn more: ANet is a nonprofit dedicated to providing all students, regardless of circumstance, with a high-quality education. Our work is guided by our vision for educational equity, our commitment to anti-racism, and the voices and experiences of our partners and their communities. Visit us at www.achievementnetwork.org.