BELLFLOWER – Bellflower Unified has assigned 10 expert teachers to intensify instruction in math and English language development, providing classroom teachers with additional support for students, lesson plan development, coaching and other instructional supports.
The teachers on special assignment, known as TOSAs, share new perspectives and advanced techniques, guiding classroom teachers in boosting their effectiveness at communicating key standards to students.
Bellflower Unified added three TOSAs at the start of the 2016-17 school year to assist with elementary and secondary English language development for English learners – one of California’s priorities. The positions are funded through Title III, a federal program targeting English language proficiency.
The seven math TOSAS started in November and December. Funded under new flexibility for federal Title I funds targeting the needs of low-income students, they focus exclusively on Bellflower Unified’s seven Title I elementary schools.
“We are leveraging our federal funding so we can provide additional resources where they will benefit our students the most,” Superintendent Dr. Brian Jacobs said. “While our test scores show real promise, they also indicate that additional help in math instruction and English language development can help us to narrow the achievement gap.”
For English language development, each TOSA supports multiple schools. They provide regular training for teachers in afterschool sessions and provide ideas during grade-level teacher team meetings and at collaboration sessions called professional learning communities.
During these sessions, they might demonstrate lessons, help plan lessons or brainstorm with teachers about ways to enhance delivery of lesson content. For example, they might suggest ways to help English learners orally use explicit math vocabulary to explain how to reduce fractions.
“Our TOSAs help teachers provide students with a framework for discussing subjects using increasingly robust academic vocabulary,” said Stacey Larson-Everson, assistant superintendent of educational services. “If they can’t talk about a topic, it’s extremely difficult to internalize the concept and difficult to write about it. It’s all about raising the caliber of what they are saying.”
The effort takes place in every subject, as well as in breakout sessions focused on English language development. Students learn to support arguments by explaining how they arrive at conclusions.
Larson-Everson said this is an especially opportune time to add the TOSAs because Bellflower is piloting a new curriculum for teaching English language development and English language arts aligned with California’s new framework for both topics, created as part of the rigorous California Standards.
“This is a good time for us to really build knowledge with our teachers,” she said.
The math TOSAs help teachers tackle multiple changes in curriculum brought by the new California Standards. In addition to providing similar training and lesson plan help as the English language development team, these TOSAs join teachers in classrooms – reducing class sizes in grades four, five and six to about 17:1 and ensuring all students receive instruction tailored to their understanding.
Both groups are studying student data to ensure critical concepts are effectively communicated.
“Not every math lesson is created equal,” Larson-Everson said. “There are critical components we need students to understand because they are building blocks for advancing to the next level.”
Larson-Everson said she hopes to see the impact of the intensive instruction as quickly as this spring’s state standardized testing in math and English language arts.
BUSD_TOSA_1: Teacher on special assignment (TOSA) Eugina Thomas helps students understand fractions in first-year fourth-grade teacher Lupe Moran’s Ramona Elementary School classroom on Feb. 14. Thomas is one of seven TOSAs assigned this fall to support classroom teachers at Bellflower Unified’s seven Title I elementary schools.