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Discussion: A system within a system: How has the pedagogical stance of your LSC been influenced by your state/local context?

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posted by: Linda Gregg on November 12, 2000 at 10:07AM
subject: Systems-Responses-
Las Vegas, Nevada (Mathematics and Science Enhancement -MASE) is a K-5
LSC. Our effort to address the systems (national, state, district,
school ) that swirl around us is to work to achieve a "balanced" vision
and approach to science and mathematics. Early on we moved to stop
using "reform" language that was misunderstood by many groups,
alienating many educators as well as parents. We focused our work on
students, what we could do to help teachers provide access for all
children to improved science and mathematics. Implementation of Nevada
State Content Standards actually helped the LSC effort as the standards
are primarily based on national standards. State accountability systems
put in place at the same time however, are creating problems similar to
what others describe. To balance assessment, the project schools are
implementing MARS assessment in mathematics and hopefully will implement
a science assessment this year that is aligned with standards-based
teaching and learning. Our belief, based on successful achievement of
students with teachers who implement Investigations as designed, is that
students learning in standards-based situations score as well or better
on multiple choice normed tests than students in nonstandards-based

The national push for accountability by normed national tests surrounds
Nevada's two-year old plan for accountability by the CTB Terra Nova.
Fourth grade is the only grade K-5 that is tested with the Terra Nova.
The state is in the process of constructing assessments for other
grades. Science was tested with the Terra Nova for the first time and
scores published last year. Not pretty - teachers consider it primarily
a vocabulary/reading test. Currently we also have district tests K-5 in
mathematics and reading -- science is in our future. All are multiple
choice. The state field tested their multiple choice tests this year
and there may be one or two open-ended tasks.
We really need to think about what we ask for -- is it possible we are
better off without the normed, multiple choice science tests than with

It seems many teachers have a very difficult time trusting that if they
use standards-based instructional strategies and curriculum materials
their students will know enough to score high enough on multiple choice
tests to keep their school off the needs improvement list. It also
seems that it is easy to slip back into old ways of teaching when
accountability is based on multiple choice tests. As others describe,
literacy is the district priority as mathematics scores have been
steadily improving the last few years. We are, however, concerned
because we are seeing less mental computation K-5 and that was a prime
focus to help students develop flexibility with numbers and sound
concept development with Investigations in Number, Data, and Space.

We feel very good about our approach with science notebooks and
expository trade books to incorporate writing, reading, listening and
speaking with science. The focus is on science as the context for
literacy, without decreasing the emphasis on science. Professional
development in both science and mathematics competes with PD for
literacy not built around science. Science is still not the subject of
choice by most K-5 teachers which is sad - students are natural
scientists. So we just keep working with everyone that sees the
potential of science and new teachers seem to be among the most eager to
learn and implement scientific inquiry. We feel that although we are
not where we want to be and this is harder and taking much longer than
ever expected - we are making slow progress.

Enough for now - - as Gail noted - a report is due. Cheers to all,
Linda Gregg

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