NCSM Insider

Message from NCSM President Katey Arrington


What a wonderful experience was created at NCSM’s 55th Annual Conference in Washington DC last month. Nearly 1,600 leaders in mathematics education gathered to connect, learn from each other, and further each of our professional journeys. I am thankful to those who had a hand in creating this experience and all of those who participated – we are better together! 


In the last few months, including at the conference, I have heard a similar message from math leaders across the country. Collectively, we are feeling a need to not only sustain our impact but to increase our impact.

Math leaders have learned and grown by leaps and bounds in our understanding of what we can do to better support all students. We have evidence and data about strategies and instructional designs that make a difference for more kids and ensure that every student engages in high-quality, relevant mathematics. We also know that, on the whole, our school systems are not leveraging all of that knowledge, and therefore there are students not getting the meaningful education that each of them deserves.


The established knowledge base and understandings we have gained should give us, as leaders, reason to be optimistic for what can be accomplished. So how do we move forward? There are three influential women who can help us plan our actions. 

Katey Arrington and Paul Gray at the recent NCSM conference

First, we can take a page out of Angela Davis’s book. Angela Davis is an American political activist, professor, and author. She in an important character in our history. Angela has fought oppression faced by the black community, women, and the LGBTQ+ community. In speaking about her work, she said, “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.” Do you hear the determination and commitment in this statement? 


The future for our educators and students is shaped by our hands, and we have the influence to make change. We know so much about the right things to do, and we must demonstrate the determination and commitment that Angela evokes in her statement to make the changes we know are necessary. If it we are not willing to draw some lines in the sand and start fighting forward for what we know is right, who will? We—me and every one of you—must commit to changing for the better by changing those things we can no longer accept


Second, we can take some advice from Oprah Winfrey. I don’t need to tell you who she is or list the accomplishments that make her unique. She once said, “Create the highest, grandest vision possible… because you become what you believe.” Oprah, one of the most successful women in history, encourages us to set our vision and expectations not just high but the highest possible, because we become what we believe.


For us to commit to changing for the better, we must alter our expectations for success. Note the word I am using is expectation—not hopes, or desires, or even aspirations. Those words describe what we want to happen. But our hopes haven’t gotten us where we need to be. In fact, our hopes have led us to this point with continued inequitable practices that work for some kids and continue to leave others out. Hopes simply aren’t good enough. 


Expectations are defined as a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. There is a mountain of research about how expectations impact outcomes, and it comes down to this: true and genuine expectations are likely to become reality. When you start with the presumption of an outcome being possible, achievable, and a priority, your actions (consciously or not) align with what it takes to achieve that outcome, and you are much more likely to get it. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. We become what we believe. This is a major mindset shift, from a desire for success for all students to an intentional choice to do things differently to ensure that all students succeed.


We must make up our mind today to raise our expectations for ourselves, for each other as a community of educators, and for our students.


Lastly, we can learn from the notorious RBG—Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court and women’s rights icon. She once said, “Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.” She speaks to us in this quote about our roles and responsibilities as leaders in making change. She reminds us that it is important not only to put effort into the fight forward, but to do it in a way that inspires and encourages others to join the fight. We must increase our impact, and that includes advocating for what we know is right in ways that other educators, parents, and stakeholders can and will come along on this journey of change. In other words, we must lead for impact.


We, leaders in our schools and systems, have responsibilities to create positive change for our students. We must build a sense of urgency for ourselves and our colleagues to implement equitable practices and build our systems to serve each and every student so that generations to come will benefit from the work. Look for and act now on the opportunities you have to make real change—they are there! Baby steps are progress and are important advances, and our students deserve leaps and bounds. Look for the potential in the people and the processes around you, and then have courage and resolve to achieve that potential.


I am setting my expectations high for myself and our NCSM leadership team in providing effective supports and guidance for mathematics education leaders. I am setting my expectations high for our mathematics education leaders to intensify their agency for creating change and to see big differences in schools for both educators and students. Join me and for the next two years: commit to change, raise expectations, and lead efforts for impact. I have set my expectations high, and I am confident about what we can achieve together!


— Katey Arrington, NCSM President



Call for Speakers!

In 2024, NCSM celebrates its 56th Annual Conference, continuing our dedication to the life-long learning of bold mathematics education leaders. 


Join us in Chicago, Illinois, as we focus on Breaking Barriers with Bold Mathematics Leadership.


Conference sessions strands:

  • Disrupting the Status Quo
  • Overcoming Challenges
  • Eliminating Structural Cultural and/or Instructional Barriers
  • Breaking Through: Coaching To Support Change.
The Call for Speaker information may be found on our website conference page. To submit a session proposal, visit this proposal submission link.
The proposal submission site closes on December 1st.  

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