Teacher Training Results in Math Gains and Building Successful Online Curriculum


Tunkhannock Area School District

Learning-Focused was asked to become a professional development partner by the superintendent of the Tunkhannock Area School District, who had worked with us in her previous district and knew firsthand that we would be able to help her achieve the following district improvement goals:

  • Focus curriculum and instruction toward a standards-driven model
  • Examine how teachers were incorporating High Yield Instructional Strategies
  • Make proactive improvements to remove barriers to student learning

The Initial Plan

The partnership began in 2018, with The High Performance Learning-Focused Lessons training with selected teachers throughout the district. Tunkhannock then progressed to prioritizing their curriculum through the Mapping Power Standards Into Lessons training. The initial plan was for a steady adoption and training beganing with third- through eighth-grade math teachers.

This occurred just before the COVID-19 shut down in February of 2020.

Despite COVID interruptions to widespread training, the district still saw tremendous value and success from the lessons and pieces they were able to implement. Particularly in two areas: effectively building content for their online curriculum and year-over-year grade-level mathematical gains using Activating Strategies and Error Analysis in their online lesson plans.


Success #1: Effectively Building Content for Online Curriculum

Mapping out content did not happen overnight. It took multiple meetings with a Learning-Focused trainer on in-service days, which only occurred once every 3-4 months. Over Zoom, the math coaches and teachers worked on a structure to utilize the curriculum workshop to develop their online courses using Canvas. They began mapping out curriculum, standards, created learning goals, and selected power standards.

When the math team went to build online content over the summer of 2020 in preparation for the new school year online, this planning made it so much easier. Before the school year had even started, they had identified and planned the content that needed to be taught up until Thanksgiving..

"When we went to put content together," explained District Math Coach Annette Shreve, "it went into place nicely. It was mapped out. The grade levels that didn't map out these areas struggled much more as to what to put into their online learning content."

The district continued with the training. During the 2020-2021 school year, four days were in person, and one day, Friday, was virtual. The team used Fridays to meet with teachers and bring in the whole grade level. Recently, the K-2 teachers were getting ready to pick out a new textbook. The team successfully was able to look at the standards to make sure they would meet their power standards ahead of sending the curriculum to the rest of the staff and board.


Success #2: Incorporating Error Analysis into Online Lesson Planning Leads to Annual Math Gains

The Learning-Focused team worked closely with the 5th-grade math group to develop a new protocol for incorporating Error Analysis in online lessons. Before this, the online teachers were finding that what the students were getting was not enough. There was an over-dependency on worksheets, not enough instruction, and the teachers building the content overworked and tired.

The team began building content based on the following series:

  • Adding in a 5-question activation strategy, plus a word problem, plus a fluency problem.
  • Then a video lesson, a practice worksheet, and an answer key so the students could check their work and get immediate feedback.
  • Lastly, an Assessment Prompt was used. Historically an exit ticket had been utilized. This was changed into an error analysis question that students had to respond to verbally; they would record themselves explaining the problem.

Growth and Success Using Error Analysis and the Activation Sequence

The team noted this series was successful due to the following:

  1. Increased Understanding

    If the students could explain the error problem, the teachers knew they understood it.

  2. Retrival Practice

    The students either had a worksheet online (for younger grades) or a quiz (for older grades); the quiz didn't count for a grade, but gave the teacher instant feedback, which was key.

  3. Decreased Stress

    The students knew every day what they had to do – there was no guessing. They followed the same sequence for every lesson: activating strategy, video lesson, a practice, and an assessment prompt.

  4. Effectiveness

    While some educators think mixing it up is best, the consistency made it easier and more effective for the online students.

Although the initial content was met with doubt about the students' ability, the new protocol was successful. At the end of the year, the state average on 5th-grade math decreased by 5 points and theirs went up by 2 points. In addition, when they looked at the lessons that included Error Analysis, the students had the highest average than the previous years. The 5th-grade math teachers now all constantly use Error Analysis. They champion the strategy for its simplicity and its ability to ensure that students really understand the specific pieces when solving problems.


Learning-Focused was Instrumental to Gains: "The Pieces We've Pulled in Have Been Invaluable."

Would Annette recommend the Learning-Focused framework? Unequivocally yes!

"I think the work that you did with us was extremely valuable and definitely made building our online courses easier, " said Annette. "I'm currently building content to use with 1st-grade cyber students that follow the format Learning-Focused helped me with this summer. So far, they are loving it. It is definitely more rigorous than what they were giving their students, but they feel they have a better understanding of what their students can and can't do because of the error analysis question for each lesson."

Annette suggests a slow and steady approach as the process can initially be overwhelming. "You have to take it slow, and make changes and adapt. The Learning-Focused team was extremely helpful in making this work for us. Don is amazing and always willing to answer questions. If you take pieces, adapt, and add them in, you will see improvement and gains!'

Annette Shreve

Contact us to discuss
a partnership that empowers
every educator.