Giving Compass' Take:

• Carolyn Jones shares how one school implemented a teacher training program that dramatically improved the test scores of their students, especially for the lowest performers.

• How can philanthropy support research to determine the most impactful teacher training methods? 

• Find out how encouraging kids to make mistakes to improve math outcomes.

One elementary school in California says it has found the key to turning around persistently stagnant math scores: Heavy investment in teacher preparation, to improve not only classroom instruction but also the overall climate of the school.

San Francisco Unified’s John Muir Elementary, where almost all students are low-income, African-American or Latino, used grant money from the district to hire substitutes so every teacher could be freed up to participate in Common Core math training. Teachers visited other schools, attended workshops, read up on the latest teaching techniques and critiqued each other. Eleven teachers even went to Japan to learn how math is taught there.

After teachers began implementing what they learned, John Muir Elementary doubled its math scores in just three years on the Smarter Balanced assessments, the standardized tests on Common Core math and English that California students in certain grades take each spring. In 2014-15, only 18 percent of students met or exceeded the state math standards. In 2016-17, 35 percent did.

The improvement for African-American students was especially dramatic. Three years ago, just 10 percent met or exceeded the standards. Last year, 43 percent did. Latino student scores also improved, especially among the lowest achievers: Three years ago almost half scored in the lowest bracket, “standards not met.” But by 2016-17 the number shrunk to 25 percent — about equal to the statewide average.

Read the full article about teacher training by Carolyn Jones at EdSource.