From the NCSM President
Suzanne Mitchell
Spring 2012

Anyone who is responsible for and can influence others is a leader. Every leader is better at some things than others. The best leaders know their strengths and shortcomings and thrive on continuous improvement. What can you do to improve your leadership skills? Ask yourself these four questions that will help you begin your own personal improvement as a mathematics leader: How can I show up and participate as a leader today? Will my constituents recognize me as a leader? What can I communicate today that will influence others to support solid mathematics instruction for ALL students? Who can I help today to become better at their contributions to mathematics education? As leaders, we should approach every encounter with a commitment to listen, learn, and hear the overt as well as the underlying message. Do something out of your normal routine. Stepping out of your comfort zone offers some of the best learning experiences.

Think about people that you know who are successful. The one ingredient above all characteristics of a leader is the belief that you will succeed. It is called self-efficacy. Belief in your ability to achieve what you seek as a leader is the biggest part of actually getting there.

Self-efficacy is a trait you can acquire in four ways:

  • Cumulative - With each success, you add a new layer of confidence in yourself.
  • Observation - When you see someone similar to yourself succeed, you realize that you can do it too.
  • Attitude - Self-efficacy is controlled by our attitude. A positive attitude enhances your belief in your abilities.
  • Encouragement - Encouragement from others is a positive motivator and something we also need to pass on to others.

As a mathematics leader, you must keep abreast of the newest information on the horizon. The recently released report Supporting Implementation of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics: Recommendations for Professional Development offers nine recommendations for professional development aimed at ensuring the effective implementation of the Common Core State Standards. This report can be accessed in the Common Core State Standards section on the NCSM homepage. Support for teacher learning should be at the core of any professional development related to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM). In developing their research-based recommendations, authors Paola Sztajn (North Carolina State University), Karen Marrongelle (Oregon University System), and Peg Smith (University of Pittsburgh) built on shared, existing knowledge recognizing that effective professional development should (1) be intensive, ongoing, and connected to practice; (2) focus on student learning and address the teaching of specific content; (3) align with school improvement priorities and goals; and (4) build strong working relationships among teachers. The recommendations are intended to help districts and states in creating, sustaining, and assessing professional development systems that support practicing mathematics teachers in implementing CCSSM, ultimately enriching the learning of all K-12 students. The new standards environment presents new challenges. Leaders must help administrators, teachers and parents understand that standards alone will not ensure success. Professional development for teachers is critically important. The nine recommendations and the report were produced with the support of a National Science Foundation RAPID Grant (#1114933) titled "System-level Professional Development: Articulating Research Ideas that Support Implementation of Professional Development Needed for Making the CCSS for Mathematics a Reality for K-12 Teachers."

The nine recommendations for CCSSM-related professional development (CCSSM-PD) in the report are as follows:

  1. Emphasize the substance of CCSSM-PD
  2. Create and adapt materials for use in CCSSM-PD
  3. Design CCSSM-PD based on features that support teacher learning
  4. Build coherent programs of CCSSM-PD
  5. Prepare and use knowledgeable facilitators for CCSSM-PD
  6. Provide CCSSM-PD tailored to groups that play key roles, in addition to teachers
  7. Educate stakeholders about CCSSM
  8. Continuously assess CCSSM-PD
  9. Create CCSSM-PD consortia

The Executive Summary for the Mathematics Curriculum Analysis Tools is ready. Be sure to look on the NCSM website for the Curriculum Analysis Tools and the professional development module that supports the tools. Effective professional development is the key to successful selection of the curriculum and instructional tools that are needed by teachers. Your leadership should provide the direction and the research necessary to design programs and select materials that require focus, persistence and consistency over time. Selecting the best curriculum materials for instructional use is a PRIME consideration for all mathematics teachers and leaders. The three tools and the professional development guide include:

Tool 1 - Mathematics Content Alignment rubrics for grades K-5, 6-8, and 9-12

Tool 2 - Mathematical Practices Alignment rubrics

Tool 3 - Overarching Considerations in Equity, Assessment, and Technology rubrics

Facilitators Guide - Professional Development Facilitators Guide and PowerPoint slides.

I hope to see all of you at the 44th NCSM Annual Conference, April 23-25, 2012, in Philadelphia. The conference theme is "Life, Liberty, and Mathematics for All: NCSM Leads the Way. Plan NOW to attend in April.

Suzanne Mitchell, Ph.D., NCSM President, is the Executive Director of the Arkansas STEM Coalition and teaches mathematics at Arkansas State University. She can be reached at 501-690-1518 or .

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