on November 22, 2001
Effective Communication of the SMT Vision
Greetings from Jerry Valadez, Science Coordinator. We are the TESS
program in Fresno, California, which is in year 5+ of the
implementation. Fresno Unified is a very diverse district of 80,000
students that speak 101 languages. District-wide we are 34% English
Learners. In addition our district is identified as one of the largest
districts in the country with high numbers of children living in
As a K-8 science and mathematics reform effort in a large urban district
the effective communication of the vision across key stakeholders has
been a challenge. Like anything else in our professional or personal
lives, if it is important we must strive to create time and schedule
into the calendar for it to happen. Following are some strategies we
have tried over the last few years to foster clear lines of
communication and consistently share the vision.
1. Teachers on Special Assignment (TSAs): Full-time coaches and mentors.
It has been important to create a professional development program to
focus on development of a culture to support the reform effort of the
TSAs, including time for them to communicate between themselves,
teachers, and school sites. It has been like building a caseload. Each
TSA over the years has created a clientele base that fosters
communication across all lines. Teachers know whom to call. As some of
the lead teachers that have been part of the effort chose to enter
administration the communication continues. The key now is trying to
sustain the TSA positions at grants end, given the economic constraints
of the state and district. Sustaining each caseload is critical to
sustaining the vision.
2. Lead Teachers (science and math) at each school site have been
identified and supported to promote the implementation of
standards-based science and mathematics. A Memorandum of Understanding
(MOU) has been developed that details the role and functions of the lead
teachers. It stipulates the specific tasks and communications that must
be completed to receive the stipend and compensation for being a lead
teacher. This has been very effective in assisting with timely
dissemination of information to classroom teachers.
3. District-wide supported web site communications. The school district
has gone completely paperless in communicating calendars and events.
Principals have communicated to staffs that all teachers must go to our
web based calendars to get information on workshops, institutes, and
Some teachers still use the excuse that they did not know about
available professional development, but for the most part it is working
well. Our workshop attendance has been fairly good.
4. Developing an electronic culture of web based information systems has
helped with communication. It has not helped with providing time to
participate in the communication. Until the school day is restructured
so that teachers have time to correspond it is going to be difficult.
For example, some of our schools are piloting the Power School
information system. This is where all students grades and scores are
posted for parent access via the web. Works great, but now parents
expect teachers to post every grade every day. This time has not been
built into their day and it is making for a major problem. Eventually
the expectation is that all classrooms will be on-line.
5. Extensive opportunities to network with teachers and principals are
provided. Currently time in built into the teachers contracted year (2
days) to participate in district supported and standards-based
professional development. Most teachers have been participating in 2-5
days. This means that at every opportunity we must be prepared to share
the vision, clarify the communication, and meet the teachers needs.
6. Development of a Parent Trainers in Science and Mathematics: A
district team of parents is supported by the project to conduct outreach
activities with parents and school sites. Family Science and Family
Mathematics events draw from 25 to 400 parents and students at a time.
The Science and Mathematics offices work closely with the parents,
provide training, and support events with curriculum and materials.
This is important in making sure the same vision is shared across the
district through parent communications.