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The Guam Partnership to Support Student Success in Math

Pacific | September 01, 2023

The Guam Department of Education (GDOE) has made steady progress over the past decade promoting student achievement and graduation rates. In early 2022, GDOE partnered with REL Pacific to establish the Guam Partnership to Support Student Success in Math, which is firmly rooted in the evidence that math proficiency is a predictor of future college and career success.

The importance of math proficiency cannot be overstated, as it equips students with foundational skills essential for academic excellence and future career opportunities. Middle school is a pivotal stage in students' development of math proficiency, particularly for learning math problem-solving strategies, which build on elementary math skills and are a precursor to more advanced math in high school. When discussing partnership opportunities with REL Pacific, GDOE identified the middle school transition period as a high-leverage area of focus to support students in their journeys toward math proficiency.

This collaborative partnership aims to empower both educators and students by promoting excellence in math teaching and learning. The partnership focuses on several key outcomes, including:

  • use of evidence-based resources to support student learning in math.
  • expansion and sustainability of the partnership and math professional learning activities.
  • use of data to inform math instruction and students' math pathways.
Thumbnail image of the Guam Department of Education Five-Year Strategic Plan

The partnership's core members, who represent the GDOE central office and school levels, are committed to achieving the partnership's outcomes by co-developing the plans for REL Pacific projects, which include training and coaching, applied research, and tailored dissemination efforts.

This approach aligns seamlessly with the GDOE Five-Year Strategic PlanI CHalån-ta Mo'na "Our path forward"—by prioritizing the equipping of educators with the necessary tools to enhance math instruction through evidence-based practices, while fostering a culture of collaboration among all levels of GDOE staff. GDOE's strategic plan is deeply committed to student achievement and places evidence-based professional learning opportunities for staff at the forefront.

Training and Coaching: A Collaborative and Strategic Approach for Long-Term Impact

The Evidence-Based Teaching Strategies to Support Elementary and Middle School Students' Success in Math training and coaching project is a professional learning opportunity for elementary and middle school principals, teachers, and instructional coaches to learn about, practice, and plan for the sustained use of proven strategies to support students' math proficiency. REL Pacific and the core partners thoughtfully developed this project to impact long-term systemic change in several ways:

    A teacher standing in front of a large screen and poster demonstrating the use of visual representations to support mathematical problem solving.
    Figure 1: Teachers participating in October 2022 training on the use of visual representations to support math problem solving.

    "This [training] project exemplifies GDOE's collaborative efforts to promote student success in math. By engaging diverse educators and school staff across the system, we create a more supportive and impactful environment for math education."
    —Orlando O. Cruz Jr., GDOE instructional coach

    "Starting with a smaller number of schools ensures sustainability in the long run. We can gather insights, address challenges, and make data-driven decisions before expanding to the district."
    —Sylvia T. Calvo, GDOE school program consultant/project director

    "I really appreciated the inviting and collaborative atmosphere of the training sessions. It made me feel at ease to openly share my thoughts and engage in the learning process. The content itself was incredibly useful and accessible, adding immense value to the entire experience."
    —Participant response in a stakeholder feedback survey

  • The What Works Clearinghouse Practice Guide Improving Mathematical Problem Solving in Grades 4 Through 8 featured in this project includes recommendations and practical tips to apply across middle school grade spans and across curricula.
  • The project audience includes grade 5 elementary school teachers and grade 6 middle school teachers in two high school feeder patterns. Focusing on this transition period is intentional so GDOE can learn from initial experiences, refine strategies, or plan for broader expansion.
  • Principals and instructional coaches are included in the project to observe what teachers are learning, highlight bright spots, and have more informed conversations with teachers.
  • The project spans two school years (SY2022/23–SY2023/24) so teachers, coaches, and principals can experience applying what they learned in the context of a new school year.

Applied Research: Understanding Students' Math Pathways

As part of its commitment to improving math education for the college and career readiness of GDOE students, the partnership is also engaged in an applied research project focused on gaining a deeper understanding of students' math course-taking patterns in high school. This study, Examining Math High School Course-taking Patterns in Guam, aims to provide insight into students' math course choices to meet graduation requirements and prepare for life after high school. By better understanding students' math pathways, educators in Guam can offer efficient and effective personalized guidance and support to address individual students' needs and goals. The findings from this research, which is expected to be published in 2025, will be shared widely to GDOE stakeholders, including school leaders and staff, to foster informed decision making and drive continuous improvement in math education across the district.

Looking Toward the Future

The Guam Partnership to Support Student Success in Math recognizes that investing in math education is an investment in the future of Guam's young learners. Following the pandemic and ongoing efforts to provide continuity of learning for students in Guam, GDOE and the broader community have continued to remain resilient in the face of destruction. Typhoon Mawar, a Category 4 typhoon that devastated the island in May 2023, and additional challenges of addressing deteriorating school facilities led GDOE to delay the start of the school year and assess infrastructural priorities for SY2023/24, while continuing to uphold students' academic and social and emotional needs. REL Pacific is honored to partner with GDOE, whose leaders and educators' commitment to promoting student achievement in math is unwavering, driven by a genuine desire to equip the next generation with essential math skills.

A Note from the Author

In the aftermath of Typhoon Mawar, the incredible strength of the Guam community, including GDOE, truly shines. Witnessing everyone come together during those challenging moments has been genuinely heartening. GDOE's dedication to safeguarding students is evident in their efforts to maintain secure school environments and provide ongoing support. As a resident of Guam, I feel privileged to participate in a collaborative partnership with GDOE, jointly working to support students' math education. The community's resilience in the face of ongoing challenges exemplifies the power of unity, guiding the way for Guam's future.


Mark Yu

Mark Yu

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