EdCuration Blog: Learning in Action

Twin Rivers USD Boosts Student Math Performance and Confidence with Swun Math Job-Embedded Coaching and Curriculum

Dec 9, 2022 2:45:46 PM / by EdCuration Staff Writer


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Image source: Twin Rivers YouTube channel


Dr. Lori Grace, Associate Superintendent of School Leadership at Twin Rivers USD in McClellan Park, California, found that Swun Math’s ongoing, job-embedded coaching and training (along with their corresponding math curriculum) completely shifted teacher efficacy and confidence in her district, while drastically raising student outcomes. After spending years searching for the right tools and supports to increase math achievement district-wide, Swun Math was a clear choice and the proof is in the data.

Key Metrics of Success

  • District-wide improvement in math instructional coherence and teacher confidence
  • Increase in students’ academic language, discussion, and engagement in mathematics, as well as parent confidence in supporting their young mathematicians
  • After years of plateauing results, students demonstrated a 4% increase on the SBAC, with current indicators pointing to even more growth in coming testing seasons

A Closer Look

The Partner

No stranger to leading significant change management, Dr. Lori Grace has worked at every grade band across multiple roles during her decades-long career in education, including intervention counselor, district 504 coordinator, high school assistant principal and principal, and Sacramento’s Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction prior to her current role as Associate Superintendent of School Leadership at Twin Rivers. The district’s student population includes over 70% of students on free or reduced lunch and over 25% English Language Learners. 

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Image source: U.S. News

The Goal

As the district’s leader of all things teaching and learning, Dr. Grace was troubled by the state-level 12% gap in performance between ELA and Math, as well as her district’s plateauing math results in recent years. She found that educators felt far more comfortable with ELA content and instruction, attributing this preference to stronger preparation and focus in ELA during their teaching programs and careers. Dr. Grace and team needed the right tools and supports to amp up teachers’ math instructional confidence to boost student achievement across the district.

The Barriers

After three years of implementing a carefully selected math curriculum in Twin Rivers elementary and middle schools, Dr. Grace and educators were left disappointed with little to no growth in student achievement. Having seen success at the high school level with a program offering ongoing coaching, Dr. Grace knew that her elementary and middle school educators needed more professional development and ongoing support for math instruction. She also knew that she needed to avoid the one-and-done workshop approach where, after adopting a new initiative or program, teachers are unrealistically expected to implement rapid and significant changes with little support outside of an initial orientation.  All too often, in-classroom coaching is disjointed and frustrating for teachers fielding conflicting feedback from their peers, TOSAs, instructional coaches, and administrators. On the search for job-embedded, apprenticeship style, in-classroom coaching, Dr. Grace vetted endless math curricula and coaching providers.

The Solution

Swun Math is, first and foremost, a professional development company. Their approach emphasizes job-embedded training with highly skilled coaches equipped with strong pedagogical and content knowledge. Swun Math reflects all the most recent research around effective professional development  – regular coaching sessions, lesson demos with small group debriefs, and collaborative data chats, all rooted in data-based instructional practices. On top of a tried and tested approach, Swun has a history of measurable impact on student outcomes across the state of California. For these reasons, Dr. Grace was confident in her decision to adopt Swun as a mathematical instruction approach. However, with a newly adopted math curriculum already in place, she and colleagues were hesitant to fully adopt the curriculum, and opted for only the professional development and pedagogical appraoch. That changed when, after their initial Swun orientation and training, teachers quickly approached Dr. Grace and other leaders pleading for the student workbooks and corresponding curricular content. After just two days, the district was on board with Swun Math and the Swun team. 

After a successful two-day introduction, Swun coaches met monthly with every single teacher in grade-level groups for two-hour intensive training and planning sessions. As an added layer to ensure consistency and impact, the Swun model also supports instructional leaders and administrators with multiple lesson design and coaching sessions that promote instructional coherence. Swun ensures that teachers and leaders share a mirrored mental model of what impactful math instruction looks like. Further, the Swun team offered parent and family education sessions, with many parents declaring, “This is the most impactful parent session that I have been to!” With numerous thoughtful tiers of support, the Swun team helped Twin Rivers take on a unified approach and philosophy to improve math achievement for students. Dr. Grace reflected on her recent doctorate completion specializing in creating system-wide instructional coherence and witnessed those best practices before her eyes as she and her team implemented such a comprehensive approach with Swun.

The Results

The Swun Math impact was clear in classrooms, in teacher collaboration, and in the data for Twin Rivers. The first change was a shift in strong instructional coherence across classrooms. During observations, leaders could distinctly recognize where educators were in a given lesson design. Teacher confidence in math instruction was palpable. Dr. Grace shared, “Teachers were talking about math instruction in a way that was vulnerable and honest,” setting the stage for continued improvement. She compared the prior three years of math program implementation to Swun Math, admitting that she saw the same amount of professional growth in teachers in just six months with Swun as she did during multiple years of a previous program. 

Even more notable was the impact on students. Student talk, use of academic language, and evidence of cognitive routines all drastically improved. In fact, Dr. Grace attributes more orderly and peaceful classrooms in part to Swun Math’s emphasis on vertically aligned cognitive routines from primary to secondary grades. Students’ mathematical confidence grew as they engaged in regular math presentations, an integral trademark of the Swun approach. After several years of flat-lined math results, Swun implementation led to an overall 4% increase on the SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium). Unfortunately, Dr. Grace and team were derailed by the pandemic shutdown and, based on clear indicators of significant growth in math, firmly believe that without the pandemic, the district would have seen the greatest improvements in math achievement yet. While still waiting on their most recent testing results, Twin Rivers students were able to bounce back more quickly than their peers. While the district has much to celebrate, Dr. Grace believes the best is yet to come. 

Perhaps most compelling is the personal and sustained partnership that formed between the Swun team and Twin Rivers USD. Within the first month of distance learning, Swun coaches transformed every lesson into animated videos that served as crucial resources for students, teachers, and parents. Every teacher had an on-call Swun coach available for support and co-planning, whether math-related or otherwise. Swun also provides a professional learning community for all Swun teachers across the state (representing seven districts and over 170,000 students), which was a critical resource during remote learning, allowing like-minded educators to collaborate and problem-solve in real time. Dr. Grace shared, “I never felt like [Swun was] a curriculum or professional development contractor. I feel like they’re part of the Twin Rivers family… I know the coaches care just as much as we care about how students are performing and doing. They’re willing to put the time, effort, and energy behind this work and they really mean it.”

Make the Switch to Swun

Looking for effective, job-embedded professional learning and coaching for your elementary and middle school math educators? On the hunt for a comprehensive math curriculum that deepens students’ conceptual understanding and creates instructional coherence across classrooms? Try a free pilot of Swun Math today!

Topics: Mathematics, Classroom Management, Professional Learning

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