This summer, the Bank Street Education Center will conclude its partnership with the NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE) Pre-K Explore program after five years of professional development and coaching support for early childhood educators. The collaboration focused on helping pre-K teachers and leaders implement Building Blocks, a 30-week curriculum that encourages young children to understand mathematical concepts in developmentally appropriate ways.
Led by an expert team of Bank Street coaches and facilitators, the College’s work with NYC Pre-K Explore has enriched math teaching and learning in thousands of pre-K classrooms across New York City. As the partnership comes to a close, Bank Street is excited for the opportunity to reflect on the successes of the program and how hands-on teaching and learning grounded in the developmental progression of children helps support students’ math understanding and skills.
“The Building Blocks curriculum embeds math learning into daily activities, providing meaningful learning opportunities for mathematical thinking and reasoning in ways young children can understand,” said Tracy Fray-Oliver, Vice President, Bank Street Education Center. “We are grateful to have partnered with New York City in this effort to deepen early math learning through a hands-on program for our city’s pre-K educators.”
At the core of the program’s coaching model is a reflective three-step cycle, which involves planning and goal setting, observation and recording, and reflection. Much of this process took place during in-classroom visits throughout the school year, during which time coaches observed teachers as they conducted small-group math lessons. Later, the coaches and teachers would meet to reflect on the lesson, ask questions, and determine student-focused goals for the next visit.
In 72 percent of classrooms, coaches reported average growth in the culture of math throughout the classroom; specifically, coaches observed a 24 percent increase in the use of math language and concepts throughout the day.
“My proudest coaching moment was around February when I received a message from a teacher. It said, ‘He counted to five!’ She didn’t need to say anything else, we both knew what it took to get there,” shared Helen Poje, Coach, Pre-K Explore, Bank Street Education Center.
In addition to one-on-one coaching support, the program regularly convened educators at professional learning sessions to further their understanding of key concepts, like developmental trajectories in math domains such as counting, geometry, measurement, and patterns and how to “mathematize” a child’s day and integrate math into curriculum, among other topics.
Each session typically began with a keynote presentation by Building Blocks founders and husband-wife team Doug Clements and Julie Sarama, followed by breakout sessions and interactive activities. Additionally, educators were invited to attend an annual summer institute, which ranged from a one-day workshop for returning teachers and leaders to a three-day event for new teachers and leaders.
“Research shows when educators receive well-designed professional development at an average of 49 hours spread over six to 12 months, they can increase student achievement by as much as 21 percentile points. This is why in addition to coaching, teachers and leaders received ongoing professional learning sessions,” said Milenis Gonzalez, Project Director, NYC Pre-K Explore, Bank Street Education Center. “This not only allowed teachers to use their experiences in the curriculum to contextualize their learning, but it also provided leaders with a framework to actively support their teachers in the classroom.”
Since its launch in 2015, the project has reached more than 3,000 classrooms, 6,000 teachers, and 59,000 students through four cohorts. Next year, Cohort Five will continue to implement the program through the Division of Early Childhood at the NYCDOE.
“When I think of Pre-K Explore, I think of the tremendous impact we’ve made across the city—the relationships with teachers and children and how we, as coaches, went above and beyond to support their growth and understanding,” said Michelle Tompson, Coach, Pre-K Explore, Bank Street Education Center. “Most of all, I am grateful for the opportunity to do this work and the relationships and friendships that were developed with this amazing group of professionals.”