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ELR Illustrative Example: Student Discourse

English Learner Roadmap Sample from Garden Grove Unified School District on Using Actionable Evidence in Math to Improve Student Discourse.

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Illustrative Example Overview

In 2014, the Garden Grove Unified School District, as part of its work in the Math In Common Community of Practice Network, embarked on a multi-year project to increase the quantity, quality, and equitable distribution of student-to-student collaborative conversations taking place during math in their kindergarten through eighth grade classrooms. They believed that if the quality and quantity of these conversations improved for English learners, then increased student learning of math would result. Their journey began with participation in an online course,Constructive Classroom Conversations, offered by Stanford's Understanding Language (UL) initiative, in which Garden Grove’s Teachers on Special Assignment (TOSAs) learned how to gather and analyze samples of student discourse using UL's Conversation Analysis Tool (CAT).

Emma Druitt, Director of Garden Grove's kindergarten through eighth grade math department, and her team of TOSAs created their own version of the CAT and began to collect baseline data in classrooms to measure the quality of student mathematical discourse. Over time, they continually refined the discourse tool to meet their specific needs. Responding to the initial data collection, her team created a Summer Math Institute, in which 40 math teachers co-taught for two hours a day (one kindergarten through sixth grade teacher paired with one seventh through twelfth grade teacher), and received two hours of professional development (PD). During the PD time, teachers learned about the district's conversation tool (the Academic Discourse Tool for Mathematics), engagement strategies, and how to train their students to collaborate with each other.

Excited by the results of the summer program, Druitt and her team lead a team of teachers throughout the academic year in ongoing PD as part of their Discourse Collaborative and continue to collect data to monitor the effectiveness of the professional development. The district has documented changes over time in the quality and in the distribution of student-to-student mathematical conversations that are collaborative and focused on the lesson content. The district is monitoring change in the math California Assessments of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) for student subgroups. They have shared their process with other math educators through presentations at the California Mathematics Council conferences as well as through the Math-in-Common district collaboration. They continue to use the observation tool to develop cohorts of math teacher leaders to enhance this work.

Principles, Elements, and Priorities Addressed

Principle Two: Intellectual Quality of Instruction and Meaningful Access

English learners engage in intellectually rich, developmentally appropriate learning experiences that foster high levels of English proficiency. These experiences integrate language development, literacy, and content learning as well as provide access for comprehension and participation through native language instruction and scaffolding. English learners have meaningful access to a full standards-based and relevant curriculum and the opportunity to develop proficiency in English and other languages.

Element 2A: Integrated and Designated ELD

Language development occurs in and through subject matter learning and is integrated across the curriculum, including integrated ELD and designated ELD (per the English Language Arts (ELA)/ELD Framework).

Principle Three: System Conditions that Support Effectiveness

Each level of the school system (state, county, district, school, pre-school) has leaders and educators who are knowledgeable of and responsive to the strengths and needs of English learners and their communities and who utilize valid assessment and other data systems that inform instruction and continuous improvement. Each level of the school system provides resources and tiered support to ensure strong programs and build the capacity of teachers and staff to leverage the strengths and meet the needs of English learners.

Element 3A: Leadership

Leaders establish clear goals and commitments to English Learner (EL) access, growth toward English proficiency, and academic engagement and achievement; and maintain a systemic focus—beyond compliance via the EL Master Plan and English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC) and District English Learner Advisory Committee (DELAC) regulations—on continuous improvement and progress toward these goals.

Element 3C: Assessments

A system of culturally and linguistically valid and reliable assessment supports instruction, continuous improvement, and accountability for attainment of English proficiency, biliteracy, and academic achievement.

Element 3D: Capacity Building

Capacity building occurs at all levels of the system, including leadership development to understand and address the needs of English learners, professional development and collaboration time for teachers, and robust efforts to address the teaching shortage and build a recruitment and development pipeline of educators skilled in addressing the needs of English learners, including bilingual teachers.

Local Control and Accountability (LCAP) Priority One: Basic (Conditions of Learning)
  • Rate of teacher misassignment as relates to equity, professional learning, resource alignment, and teachers.
  • Student access to standards-aligned instructional materials as relates to curriculum, instruction, and resource alignment.
  • Facilities in good repair as relates to culture and climate and resource alignment.
LCAP Priority Two: State Standards (Conditions of Learning)
  • Implementation of academic content and performance standards adopted by the state board for all pupils, including English learners as relates to assessment, curriculum, equity, instruction, and professional learning.
LCAP Priority Three: Parental Involvement (Engagement)
  • Efforts to seek parent input in decision making and promotion of parent participation in programs for unduplicated pupils and special need subgroups as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Four: Pupil Achievement (Pupil Outcomes)
  • Performance on standardized tests, score on Academic Performance Index, share of pupils that are college and career ready, share of English learners that become English proficient, English learner reclassification rate, share of pupils that pass Advanced Placement exams with three or higher and share of pupils determined prepared for college by the Early Assessment Program as relates to assessment, curriculum, equity, and instruction.
LCAP Priority Five: Pupil Engagement (Engagement)
  • School attendance rates, chronic absenteeism rates, middle school dropout rates, high school dropout rates, and high school graduations rates as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Six: School Climate (Engagement)
  • Pupil suspension rates, pupil expulsion rates, and other local measures including surveys of pupils, parents, and teachers on the sense of safety and school connectedness as relates to culture and climate, equity, and family and community.
LCAP Priority Seven: Course Access (Conditions of Learning)
  • Pupil enrollment in a broad course of study that includes all of the subject areas described in Education Code (EC) section 51210 and subdivisions (a) to (i), inclusive, of EC section 51220, as applicable, as relates to curriculum, equity, and professional learning.
LCAP Priority Eight: Other Pupil Outcomes (Pupil Outcomes)
  • Pupil outcomes in the subject areas described in EC Section 51210 and subdivisions (a) to (i), inclusive, of EC Section 51220, as applicable as relates to curriculum, equity, and professional learning.

Evidence of Effectiveness

The Characteristics of Examples Page includes information on the criteria used to evaluate illustrative example submissions.

Standard 1 (supported by an existing research basis)

The work is motivated by engaging students in the mathematical practices in the California State Standards around discourse. They rely on the work of Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey from San Diego State University, who have published on the importance of collaborative conversations. In the area of mathematics for English learners, they rely on a foundational paper by Judit Moschkovich.

Standard 2 (local metrics of system implementation and adult learning outcomes)

The district math leaders created a Discourse Collaborative and a Summer Math Institute, and recruitment and participation is registered. Observers are trained in the use of the Academic Discourse Tool for Mathematics that record the level of mathematical discourse in classrooms.

Standard 2a (local metrics of student learning supports and processes)

Observations using the Academic Discourse Tool for Mathematics enable analyses of the level of quality of the discourse and mathematical understanding observed in classrooms. The results from the first two years indicate a large shift in the quality of mathematical language used by students.

Standard 3 (student learning outcomes)

Consistently strong student math scores on the CAASPP that exceeded expectations for Garden Grove were noted in a report that analyzed data for districts participating in Math-in-Common, a collaborative learning network. While the report is a comprehensive look at the district culture that may have supported the outcome, the role of this initiative in how “a focus on student math discourse now deeply permeates the thinking of staff throughout the district.”


Focusing on Student to Student Math Discourse External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 4:50)
In this video, Emma Druitt describes her department’s initial journey into collecting student discourse samples from their kindergarten through grade eight mathematics classrooms. She discusses the reasoning behind a focus on math discourse and what the district learned from these first data samples.

Initial Data Collection and Professional Development External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 2:39)
In this second video, Emma Druitt discusses the group’s initial findings on mathematical student discourse using their adapted version of the CAT, and the sustained PD efforts that they undertook to improve upon their initial data findings.

Targeting Continuous Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (Video; 4:03)
In this third video, Emma Druitt discusses the changes that her team made to their discourse tool to include mathematical understanding and the results that they achieved during their second summer math institute.

Garden Grove Discourse Tool for Mathematics External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
This resource is an observation tool that can be used to evaluate mathematical discourse in classrooms.

Student Discourse for Mathematics PowerPoint Presentation External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
This presentation contains information on student discourse in mathematics and is used to train educators.

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Last Reviewed: Tuesday, February 27, 2018
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