Transcript of Kay Merseth's presentation
Thank you. Let me by way of introduction just say that this is probably the worst configuration we could possibly do for a case discussion. To give you some sense of the ideal versus what we have here, the ideal is our classrooms that you might find at the Harvard Business School, which of course has all this money. They can build anything they want. They have amphitheater style classrooms with what's called a pit down in the bottom where the professor works with multiple blackboards that go up and down, and all sorts of things. You're in swivel chairs, so at no point are you looking at the back of anybody's head, necessarily. You can go all the way around, and the professor facilitates the discussion and the conversation.
But we, with some creative help on Carlo and Diane's part, we've got these microphones around on the tables and I understand that three or four of them or five of them can be on at once. And so if you just kind of develop a pact with the people at your table that you won't strangle each other to get to the microphone, we should be able to have some interactive discussion.
But as they say, in the best of all worlds, you'd be able to see each other's facial expressions. You'd be able to see each other's body language. You'd be able to see the interactions. But I think you'll get a pretty good sense of cases.
Let me just give you a little background before we leap into the case. If you haven't read the case, start reading now, because we can't talk about it if you haven't read it. So while I'm going on waxing eloquently up here, read.
Cases in general, if you don't know, have been used in professional education for many, many years in law, business, and medicine to some degree, as well as public policy and education. Now we find them being used more and more in the field of education. And one of the reasons for that is that it's a very effective tool to look at practice. If you did read the "Time and Time Again, Again," case, you realize it's all about the real world. This is a real situation. These are real people. You may well have identified yourself in there, and I'm here to tell you I don't know your individual stories. But the ideas and the experiences and the dilemmas and the frustrations are ones that I see time and time and time again.
But this is a real situation. We've changed the names. We've changed some of the facts. But generally, it is real. Cases enable you as participants to be able to experience this situation vicariously. And the neat thing about that is we're safe. We're not going to harm any kids in this room by what we're about to say in the next two hours. We can try on different clothing, if you will, or different hats or different perspectives and determine whether that was a good move or not a good move.
And so the vicarious experience of reading cases, of learning about making decisions, of analyzing, weighing priorities and strategies is really wonderful. Because as I say, nobody gets hurt in the process.
Another reason that they're so lively and useful is that they are real. Maybe you know a Sally Elmore? Anybody ever met a Sally Elmore? Yes. And maybe you're feeling a little bit like an Alison Tansy. So there's that notion. And then as I said before, we're all safe. The point here about cases, and I said it a little bit in the introduction, is they depend on a community. We talk a good talk, but we don't necessarily walk the walk around building community. This is a particular pedagogy that simply won't work if people don't listen to each other, if people don't begin to learn how to disagree, and if people don't learn how to build on each other's ideas and stories and perspectives. So in its own way, it's teaching a way of thinking and a way of being. In its own method. In its own pedagogy. And this, I think, is very important.
It also depends, as I said before, on constructivism. Each of you read this case, maybe on the airplane. Maybe you're reading it right now. You read it last night, this morning, whatever. You each took your own understanding from it. You laid it onto your own scaffolding. And hopefully as a result of this conversation that we're about to have, your ideas may change a little bit, and you may hear a suggestion that you hadn't thought of before. Or you may say, "Nope. By God, I knew I was right and now I'm sure I'm right based on the discussion that I've heard."
And ultimately, you're all going to grab your suitcases and your coats and rush to the airport so that you don't get stuck in Washington and you take your learning with you. And this is a beautiful example, really, of constructivism. You start by yourself, you come together in a group, you try to make sense. We may try to push some edges of your thinking, and then you all go and make your further sense of it. So that's the second C.
And then the third C of cases is that they are complex. And boy, is this one ever complex. It has got so many different strands and so many different ways that it's-- We could do this as Susan Snyder just said, teach this, just this case, for an entire semester. But we're going to do it in less than about an hour and a half.
Now, cases as I said before, are best when they are discussed. And this case was written specifically for discussion. It doesn't show really good practice, it doesn't show really bad practice. It just shows what is.
A lot of times in the academic world, there's a confusion around the term case studies. I want to just make this clear for those of you interested in the topic: "case studies" often is a phrase that's used when people study a situation, where they go in, they look at it, they analyze it, they give you all the goods and the bads, and there it is, all one package.
Well, here in this kind of case, we purposely don't tell you what we think is good or bad. We sort of plop it in your lap, and we say, "Oh my God. You're Alison Tansy. What do you do now?" And so that's a slight difference. I think the best advice I can give you about cases is whenever anybody says the word "case," or "case studies" or "case method of instruction," you should ask them "What do you mean?" Because it's a word that's used freely and often in very different ways.
There are cases specifically in math and I think in science. I'm not as familiar in the world of science as I am in mathematics, but they exist both in print and in some instances in video. Some of the work you saw yesterday with Deborah, with her video clip, is also a very productive use of real situations.
There are various folks who are writing them. Some of you may have heard of Carne Barnett out in California at WestEd. She has a whole collection of cases at the elementary level focusing on rational numbers. She's also doing some very exciting, cutting edge work thinking about kids using cases in mathematics. So put that on your screen, because that's going to be pretty neat stuff.
Barbara Miller at EDC is a person doing similar work. Deborah Shifter has done something related to cases. Jean Moon with Exxon and Lesley College has done some work here. Judy Mumme out in California at one of the LSCs also has an additional project on video cases. And as you know, Deborah Ball and Maggie Lampert have been videotaping their classes for a number of years. It's really quite an exciting area.
Tell me about science. Do any of you know of cases a la this sort of style that exists in science?
__: I think James Kobala has just published a book of different cases of secondary and middle school science.
KM: Okay. Great. Well, get your radar screens up because I think it is really quite an exciting and productive method.
Let me say a little bit about case writing, in case any of you are interested in it, and then I'll finish up with case teaching. And those of you that are reading seriously hopefully will finish by then.
Case writing. It's hard to do. The case that you have in front of you as sort of an example on the continuum is about as complicated as they get. There are many facets, there are multiple layers that we can do. Thanks to Carlo's and Diane's support, you can use this case anywhere. You can use it to paper your bathroom if you want to. You can reproduce it and use it with your own groups. That's totally fine with us.
But the reason that we kept it as complex as we did was that we could imagine you using it and us using it with different groups of people. You could use this case with a group of elementary teachers. You could use this with a group of high school teachers. You could use it with a set of district superintendents. You could use it with local parents.
There's a spot for everybody in this case. And that's why we kept it as complicated as it is. So on the spectrum of cases, this is out there. This is hard. This is complicated. The cases that I use in my graduate courses at Harvard tend to be more in the range of ten pages, not 21 pages. They're still complicated, but they're not quite as long. And so the math cases that we have written-- I should say that we're in the process of developing 22 secondary math cases, all focused on issues of instruction and pedagogy. Those range more like ten to fifteen pages. So if you're worried about the length, and "Oh, God, how could I ever get teachers to read this," just know you've got one way out there on that side.
Cases are relatively hard to do, though not impossible. And I think people in this room should give them some consideration, because you're all in touch with rich experience, and that's where these come from. But for my taste, cases like this are most productive if they have four strands or four characteristics in them.
First of all, it's pretty easy to find the math or the science. If you wanted to just talk about functions you could have a wonderful discussion right here about functions and about the mathematics of it. Second, what I always like to put in is the teaching, the pedagogy. What do you think about Sally's moves, her actions, her decisions, her questioning in the classroom? What do you think about how she approaches certain kids, what she says to them, what she doesn't say, and so forth and so on? So the second strand is pedagogy. The third strand is context. We all live in a context. And as was mentioned this morning in your presentation with Jane, context matters. So this case is replete with a context of parents and a district assistant superintendent who's a bit in a squeeze play. It's terribly important to have there. Our last strand that we like to have, and in some of our math cases we have even more, is student thinking, student words, students trying to make sense of whatever it is that they're doing. It's being able to read what the students say that really can impact teachers' practice. You can say, "What do you think this kid was thinking when he said this?" And as all of you know, particularly with beginning teachers, we're so eager to get the right answer that we don't stop to think about when we get the wrong answer what it is the right answer to.
And so in keeping these four pieces present, and if you think about doing this yourself, I think you'll find that the case will work actually quite well. And it's quite exciting.
We're going to use this case to practice our decision-making skills and our strategy design. But cases also are a terrific way to get people to reflect on their own work. And so if you're leading a project and you really want to get some teachers to think about what they're doing, get them to take a small vignette from their classroom and write it up. And just in the process of writing it, you'll find that there's a tremendous amount of reflection that is stimulated by the course of writing the case.
This anathema to me, but a lot of people like to use cases as exemplars-- "Here is the perfect lesson, the perfect way to teach sampling, the perfect way to look at translation of linear equations." I don't do that, but there are folks in the world of the case method literature that think that's an appropriate use of cases as an example. "This is perfect. This is what you should always do." Well, I've taught long enough to know that there are no "alwayses" that work in teaching. But in any case, you should just be aware that those all exist.
You may have a sense now, but if you don't, I'm a very in your face case method teacher. Okay? And I want to apologize before we start. Because I don't want to offend anyone, but I want to tell you why I do this. The reason that I do it is I think by pressing you, by questioning you, by peppering you with, you know, issues and comments, what ifs and why nots, I will get you to think more carefully and more deeply about what it is that you're saying.
I sometimes work in Minnesota, and I find that in Minnesota with "Minnesota nice," they don't know what to make of me from the east coast. But the idea is it's all in good fun, and it's really to try to get you to think more carefully and think more deeply. So please don't be offended.
There are many different styles in case facilitation. You almost can have a case that doesn't have a facilitator if you have a small enough, cooperative enough group. Again, I don't teach that way. But it's possible to work things out and to have a discussion.
But what the case method teacher can do that I like to do is I've got an idea here about where we should go with this case, but I want to take it from you. I want to hear what your issues are. And I suspect your issues are going to map a little bit onto my issues. And then we'll get rolling and make some sense of this.
But you can go in ahead of time and just say to a group, "What do you want to talk about?" And issues will bubble up and we'll go from there. But as I say, this is a very difficult physical arrangement for us. And what I'm going to be doing, which is not what I always do when I'm teaching in smaller settings, I'm going to be asking you to do some talking at your table, around some questions that I will pose. And then we'll turn the mics while we're talking at the table, then we'll turn them on and start popcorning around the room with different ideas and different approaches and different strategies.
Our objective is to figure out what the best action might be in a particular situation. So that's by way of an introduction around cases. And just before we start, are there any questions or any issues? Or concerns or confusions? Anything?
All right. Well, fasten your seat belts. Because here we go. And I will keep track here on the overhead, but what I write on the overhead is not worth writing down. It's mostly for me to follow the conversation and to follow the discussion. And if any of you want to move in a little closer, that's great. And if some of you want to leave, that's great, too. (Laughter)
Usually when I start out, I want to get some sense of the overview of the context and so these are the questions that I'm interested in talking about. What's going on here? Who's here, who are the players? What are the key things? If you were telling a friend that you just read this case, and they said, "Well, Kay, what's it all about?" Ed? What would you say?
__: I would say that you have a charge given from the superintendent to the assistant superintendent to purchase the best materials in math that you can possibly find. This is a district with four middle schools, one of which has particularly bad problems with their test scores.
And so she has to get the best materials that she can. In the process of doing so, she keys in on the NSF developed materials, standards based materials, and realizes that in order to pull this off, she needs to have a staff development program to go along with it.
So she starts the staff development program by selecting teachers from each of the middle schools, Sally Elmore being one of them. And she's ready to go ahead with her professional development program when Sally Elmore calls her and tells her that she's going to drop out.
KM: Okay. That's a great, great opening. Some other context? What do you think is going to become important as we talk about this case? Howard?
KM: Igor! (Laughter) Who's Igor?
__: Igor is the presumptive professional developer.
KM: Have you met a few Igors in your day?
__: I have indeed.
__: Too many.
KM: Too many. Okay. Alison has an Igor. When she hired him, she just went and got him. We don't know much about how that happened, but it happened. Okay. Other context issues? Other things that you think are going to be a big deal? Yes, please?
__: The principal who is a newcomer to the building who will accept any idea.
KM: Okay. Jack Mann. Never met an idea he didn't like. Okay. This is a frenetic, energetic, lively-- They put him in that building because the building was lethargic and dying. They had high absenteeism. A lot of staff were turning over, so they wanted to give it a boost. And they put Jack in there. So, is that a problem for you?
__: Not necessarily. It's just another piece of the puzzle.
KM: Another piece of the puzzle. He wants to keep everybody happy. Doesn't want Sally to get hurt. But on the other hand, he wants his test scores up. Whatever it takes. Okay. Other issues? What have we missed?
__: We have a community that's worried about fuzzy math.
KM: Fuzzy math! I love it! Yes! In what way are they worried?
__: There is a public concern over it because of the test scores, but it is split and part of the most vocal community is driven by the test scores themselves, and the nature of what's needed to improve. There's a politician, a Mr. Reynolds, I believe.
KM: Jack Reynolds. Great guy.
__: Yes. We've all got one of those.
KM: Yes, I'll bet you do. What's Mr. Reynolds thing in life? What's his message?
__: Getting elected.
KM: Getting elected. Okay. Number one, but substantively around the math? What does he think?
__: Well, he's looking for the same kind of math that he had and the community can identify with that.
KM: That's right.
__: What is this? This is not our understanding of mathematics. Who are we trying to kid here?
KM: That's right. Jack actually has a problem with the smell of constructivism. It reeks of constructivism and there was a picture of him in the newspaper like this holding the math standards. Do most of you have a Jack somewhere in your lives? Whoever that person is, this is Jack in this case. Anything else? Any other key issues or concerns or worries you think we might just need to get on our radar screen?
__: The community is getting some support from a group called Mathematically Accurate Now, I believe.
KM: Yes. Mathematical Accuracy Now. And what is that?
__: I believe it's a national organization that has made inroads in the community.
KM: Sound like anybody we've heard of?
KM: No? We won't say the word, but okay. They're out there. A group of research mathematicians looking at this stuff saying, you know, "What do you mean you don't have to learn basic skills? What do you mean these kids can make up different ways to do addition?" You know, this Mathematically Accurate Now group would have been upset if they'd seen what Deborah put on the board yesterday about the subtraction. You know, where we got 19 as the answer. Okay, so we've got that player there. Anything else that you think is just really, really important to keep in mind? Way back here?
__: There was the cynical colleague at the school, Nicole--
KM: Nicole! How could we forget Nicole?
__: Who seemed to reflect the attitude of low expectations.
KM: Let me ask your name?
KM: Carmelo. You made an inference here, what we call a value judgment about Nicole that she-- What was it? Low expectations?
KM: Can anybody imagine what Nicole would say to Carmelo? Where's a Nicole? Are you a Nicole?
__: I'm afraid I've forgotten Nicole.
KM: You've forgotten Nicole. Who's remembered Nicole here? Have you?
__: I do. I can--
KM: Okay. Get on your microphone and talk to this guy that says you have low expectations.
__: If you had to deal with the kids that I have in my class, you would understand. They can't do it. I don't have materials to work on as low a level as they are, and there is no support from you administrators for us people out in the field. So stop with the comments. (Laughter, applause.)
KM: How did I know to choose Nicole? Yes, sir?
__: Well, I want to know what you've really done to try to reach these kids, and have you looked at maybe some other strategies that you could use in the classroom?
KM: Go for it! Go for it!
__: Igor's strategies are not going to work with my kids.
__: Well, I'm not saying Igor's strategies--
__: Igor is who you've given me to work with. He's the guy in charge. I mean, he's insulted me. He's made me feel like an idiot. He's told me that everything I've done in the seven years I've been teaching is just no good, and it's not getting results. And I have kids who have made progress. They just don't make as much progress as the rich kids at the other end of town.
KM: I don't know. I think Carmelo needs a little help.
__: Actually, I'm sort of-- I didn't quite know my role there. (Laughter) Should I have been the teacher Sally or an Alison?
KM: Well, I don't know. You can be yourself!
__: Well, then I would question all of your-- Where's the research? Where is the--
KM: Where is the evidence!
__: Where is the proof of what you're saying to me--
__: You expect me to do research--
__: If you're going to test kids, then I'll say, yes, the kids are going to fail. Categorically. We can tell you that. You don't even have to teach them. Just tell me if they have free lunch or not, and I'll tell you if they're going to do well on the assessment. So if we're going to try to be a little bit more open-minded about it, then let's try something new. Let's be open minded about it. We're not going to say we're not going to give standardized tests, but let's try something new. I'm not going to stand for more of the same.
KM: Okay. Yes! (Applause)
KM: Whoa! Now you're talking! Very well done, you two. Thank you. When I was reading the case over this morning, I thought, "I didn't put in the union." But they're out there. Well, I'm sure you've seen Nicoles of the world. Iris is another teacher who rather liked being pushed, and she found this okay. Is there anything else that we need? Yes, sir?
__: Belief systems as far as--
KM: Whose belief systems?
__: Belief systems of Igor's participants. He is challenging them to stand up for something and then browbeats them for having stood up for something. So there's a whole conflict about what you do with belief systems once you introduce them into discussion.
KM: Well taken. And remember yesterday. Deborah talked about how we have these assumptions that I found very provocative that we all take for granted. For example, that professional development should teach the way we want teachers to teach. Well, I mean, clearly Igor is not a great exemplar. But you know, is that really necessary? So we've got some belief systems here. Yes, ma'am?
__: Belief systems of administrative departments that think you can take an elementary trained and experienced teacher and move him or her into a totally new teaching situation, especially a specialist like math. And that they will do well without any kind of intervention.
KM: Okay. It's the old breath test, right, which unfortunately we're going to have a lot of in the next 10 years in math and science. Can you fog a mirror? If you can fog a mirror, you can teach middle school math! (Laughter) Right? So you've got some belief systems on the part of administrators. I can see you're not an administrator, are you?
__: I'm actually a principal.
KM: Oh, you are? Oh. A little self-incrimination. Yes, sir?
__: I see everybody on a different page and there's not any process that I see there to get them on the same page.
KM: Okay. Give me a for instance that we haven't talked about yet. Who's not on the same page?
__: The fact is, everybody's on different ones.
KM: I know. Well, give me one example?
__: Well, the superintendent wants materials and doesn't have any concept of implementation, and there's no one there to tell her what it takes to do this program.
KM: Well, don't you think Alison's supposed to do that?
__: Yes, Alison should have done that. And in fact, NSF is missing because NSF shouldn't have given the LSC to that kind of district unless they did have their act together. (Laughter)
KM: It didn't happen to anybody here in this room, right? Yes. Good point.
__: Along that line, it's interesting that on page six it indicates that a part of what is generated is press to advance and develop middle school math was the elementary school's focusing on the new math and at the same time at the middle level, they're concerned that the sixth graders are entering sixth grade without basic computational skills. Right away there's some kind of tension that's built into this.
KM: Okay. Let's shift just a little bit now. I think we've got most of the players out there. Most of the people, and we had a wonderful little--
__: How about the students?
KM: How about the students? What a thought!
__: Let us not forget the students.
KM: Let us not. What about the students?
__: Well, they bring their own belief system about what mathematics should be and shouldn't be. And I think some delay actually in discovering that their teacher is somewhat on some difficult terrain.
KM: Good point. And this is also well taken. All these great discussions, but we don't talk about the students, and that's a wonderful, wonderful reminder.
__: Can I just say that you're all forgetting the important stuff here because we've got this comprehensive reporting from the state on the TABS test. We don't even know if our people are correcting it correctly and how about the new student report cards? You know, the reporting student progress? RSP? You got your priorities wrong here.
KM: And you're from the district, is that--
__: Oh, obviously!
KM: Yes! Are you a superintendent? Assistant superintendent? Something like that. Oh, yes. An important, important, not to be neglected idea here, which just builds on this morning, is that the world is into accountability. Let me be the first that's told you, if you have not heard it before, accountability is not going away. It is not, and as misguided and malicious and pernicious as, and the nasty things that we see happening, it's not going away, folks. There are too many political agendas tied to it. Too many governors have staked their reputations on the performance of the schools that it's here to stay. I have a colleague, Richard Elmore, who talks about accountability as "the blind beast of accountability." And it's coming to grab us by the you-know-what. Key, key point.
This is one of the questions I asked you to think about, and hopefully we'll get to it. How do you play the standards and accountability environment and pressure and need to perform with the agenda of math and science reform? How can we think as a group to take what is, which is this drive for performance and accountability and make it work for us to reform how we teach math and science?
My big fear is that they work at cross purposes and you'll end up with teachers teaching to the test with very little knowledge and very little depth. And yet, if a kid doesn't get to graduate from high school, it's a tough, tough choice. So you're absolutely on the money. Go ahead.
__: If I could say just one other thing. Besides all these issues, some of us might have described the case as the description of a normal day. And the real issue for an Alison Tansy is where is her support? What's going to enable her personally and physically and mentally to just survive through this over an extended period of time? Aside from all the educational issues?
KM: Good point. Okay. And we could go there in a big way.
__: There's also the issue of instructional sequence. I thought Sally did a pretty good job there. A lot of people would say "Let's just do the problem on the board."
KM: What do you mean instructional sequence?
__: How Sally talked to the students about this whole slope thing.
KM: You liked that?
KM: Okay. We're going to come back ... (inaudible) Yes? One more?
__: What does our teacher know and what does she not know? What about what she is teaching and how she's teaching it? So content, curriculum, instruction, and assessment.
KM: Oh. Who invited this guy? What?
__: That's what they say about me all the time! (Laughter)
KM: Yes! Okay. Content. As we heard from Deborah yesterday, what content do they need to know? What do they have to do? How deep? How much? How long? It reminds me of a quote from my colleague Joe McDonald, who teaches at NYU now but who used to be at Brown with the coalition. It's my favorite quote about teaching. He says, "How much clutch and how much gas?" When do you push, when do you pull back? When do you do this, when do you do that?
I want to get to the present problems. What are the issues that you think have got to be dealt with immediately, or this whole thing is just going to implode? Those of you who've got an idea, you might turn your microphones on so you can jump in, and I'll see your red lights.
You're thinking about what are the issues, what are the immediate pressing concerns that we need to think about, the action that we have to take? Then we'll develop some different strategies.
While you're thinking about that, I forgot that I always like to start with a math joke. And so I want to tell you a math joke. There was this mathematician who was out in Austria. He was attending one of the international conferences. And he was in Austria, and he was out walking in the idyllic countryside, and he saw these sheep grazing in the countryside. And he went up to the shepherd, and he said, "If I can tell you how many sheep there are in your flock, could I have one?" And the shepherd sort of looked at this guy, who was kind of weird looking, and he said, "Well, sure," he said. You know, and he thought to himself, they're down in the crevasses, in the valleys behind, there's trees, the guy will never get it right.
So he said, "Sure, you can have one." So the mathematician goes out and he looks and he peers and he comes back, and he says, "I think there are 472 sheep in your flock." And the shepherd says, "By God! That's right! Go take your sheep!" So the mathematician goes out, hikes up over the countryside, and he comes back in a little while. And he's got this animal with its legs dangling around his neck, and it's struggling, and he's just about to walk off, and the shepherd says, "Just a minute!" He said, "If I could guess your profession, could I have my animal back?" And the mathematician's like, "Geez, there's no way this guy's going to be able to tell what I do." So he said, "Sure!" And the shepherd says, "I think you're a mathematician." And the mathematician says, "How do you know?" He says, "You give me my dog back and I'll tell you." (Laughter)
Now, I don't know if you've heard that before or not. But as you may have noticed on LSC-Net, I have an article called, "How Old is the Shepherd." And it relates to that. I also told this story once in New York City at the Courant Institute of Mathematics. Very fancy, highbrow place. This is a true story. I told the joke, and everybody enjoyed it, and about two weeks later I was in my office at Harvard, and I got this call. They said, "Dr. Merseth?" I said, "Yes?" "This is Dr. So-and-so, and I heard you speak in New York." And he said, "I've been thinking about that story that you told." And I thought, "Oh, God." And he said, "You know, if there were 472 sheep, then he counted the dog as one of the sheep, so there were really only 471." True story.
So, presenting problems. Problems that if we don't deal with them we're in deep do-do. Okay. I see one red light here. What's a presenting problem?
__: Lack of management structure. There does not appear in the case to be a real management link between the superintendent, the curriculum person and the principal, or vice versa. There seems to be very little collaboration. I basically call it absentee management.
KM: So you're talking about within the district, there does not seem to be a-- It seems like a dysfunctional family, if you will. They're not working well together. Okay. That's one. What's another issue? Anything that worries you? Yes, ma'am?
__: Well, I was struck by the lack of quality control. If this professional developer is having such a struggle with his teachers, why isn't somebody out there sort of getting a sense of what he's actually doing, and trying to act on that instead of just letting it happen?
KM: Okay. I'm going to just paraphrase this as "Igor is a problem." All right? But you're appropriately pointing that there's more to it than just Igor himself. Okay. What about this side of the room? Any issues? You can't find a problem here we should solve?
__: Well, I think that getting back to the lack of management, they needed to do a needs assessment before they just went out and decided, well, let's just do this.
KM: Who's they?
__: I would think the administration. They didn't speak to the teachers or speak to--
KM: Well, now wait a minute. Alison went and talked to them all and asked them when they wanted to have the workshops.
__: But they didn't do a needs assessment of--
__: NSF requires data as part of the proposal. (Laughter)
KM: So they did it already, I guess. They did it already. I've got a red one back here.
__: There's no communication with the parents up front, so the parents are reacting, at least some of them. And so now Alison has to react.
KM: Okay. But doesn't that often happen in school districts? That school districts are reacting rather than proacting? Okay. But I want to get our needs assessment down here.
Let me just push back a bit on this needs assessment. Are you suggesting that maybe there wasn't a problem?
__: I don't think they had a clear definition of what their problems were, or are about. And they didn't contact all the right people. They contacted some people and took those ideas and ran with them.
KM: And who didn't they contact?
__: I would say the classroom teacher and also the principal.
KM: Okay. All right. Right back here? What's the action that you think we've got to take tomorrow?
__: This isn't an action for tomorrow, but I think there's a misuse in understanding of research across the board.
__: The community member talks about U.S. students using calculators versus the foreign students. And then Alison goes and looks it up in her report. The superintendent says, "Use the research to find the best materials," but must not have read the body of research about professional development to support it. Also, Abe Morgan, who's a character we missed in the beginning.
KM: Yes, thank you!
__: He does his own independent research on tracking and determines that it's worthless and unintelligible and even if he could understand it, there's probably enough evidence on both sides to make it moot. So everyone has their own little pocket of research that supports what they want to say.
KM: Good. We're going to come back to that one, because that's huge. Yes, ma'am?
__: Yes, there's poor Sally. She's going to quit tomorrow.
KM: Sally's going to quit tomorrow.
__: She's decided getting married and moving out of state will be much better than going to these meetings and having to feel like a fool and not knowing what to say to her students. And so she's not even worried anymore about her daily practice.
KM: She's ready to cash it in. Okay. Sally is an immediate problem. I saw a red light over on this side? Right there. Please?
__: One immediate thing that needs to be addressed is this report for the superintendent that Alison has to do.
KM: Anything else, that you just feel like if we don't deal with this-- Yes, sir?
__: It's sort of an extension of the powerlessness of Sally. By extension, her colleagues as well. It's another example of top-down reform superimposed on a group of people who somehow got to implement it without any participation in the decision-making process.
KM: Okay. So in terms of immediate action, is there something there we have to do right away?
__: Well, I think you've got to start over again!
KM: Ah! It's a little hard. We're on this toboggan and we're going down the hill. Is there a comment here?
__: I'm worried about the other teachers that Sally's going to influence.
KM: Aha. So Sally quits--
__: What's that going to do?
KM: What's that going to do? Okay. Yes, ma'am?
__: The children in the classroom? Someone needs to get to Sally before those children begin to feel that they don't get it or that they're not smart enough. And worse, that Sally begins to internalize that in her practice, too.
__: The principal has noticed some things about this teacher that he needs to now pull her aside and see what's going on with her professional development.
KM: Okay. All right. I see a couple-- Yes, a couple more, and then we'll go.
__: We need to figure out a way to get substitute teachers or the whole thing will fall through.
KM: Substitute teachers. Okay. That's a very first, immediate step. The workshop is tomorrow. Sally's about to quit. So a very nice, very short term step is substitutes. I'm sure there's plenty of knowledge in this room about substitutes. Yes?
__: I'm a little bit concerned that there's not any leadership in Sally's building in the teacher corps. There are ten teachers there. Five are new. Sally's probably the one that's bought into the standards based professional development and the curriculum. And she's sinking. Not much professional development, and then not much buy-in from ten teachers.
KM: Okay. These are all great ones. I want to take us to one first, just by fiat here. The facilitator fiat. But we'll get to most of these.
So let me ask you to turn all your microphones off. At your table, consider this question and in about three minutes, I want to hear from different tables. Here's the question. What advice would you give to Alison for her preparation of her school committee report? You're Alison's your best friend, okay? You've known her for years. You know her background. You know her story. What would you tell her to do? On page 15 is the meeting, and page 16 is where she gets asked to do this, just so you can find it quickly. It's page 15 and page 16.
(Speaker going amongst tables doing exercise.)
KM: Just in the interests of looking at lots of different issues, I want to pull back together. I have a couple of different tables in mind. One is this table right over here. Would you please tell us what advice you would give to Alison for her preparation of her school committee report? Go ahead.
__: There were several things that we talked about for Alison's report. One being that she needed to gather data from the exemplary curriculum project that she has adopted since there's supportive data, which she could add to her report. Since there were comments made about the international studies and comparisons, she could also gather data from that report.
We also said at our table that because there needs to be support from the board on professional development, if she uses the data from the exemplary programs, she needs to talk about the fact that these programs were done with professional development that led to the student achievement gains that are shown in their reports. The curriculum selection committee, the process that was used in the adoption of the curriculum materials. We also suggested that if it's an oral report, that she bring people who have had experiences with her and talk about the positive programs and what's happening with children.
KM: Okay. So one is the use of data, which I'm sure was on everybody's list. Although I've got some questions about that. The other one is to explain the curriculum assessment adoption process.
Let me get just a few more strategies out here, and then we'll kind of look at each one. Could I hear from this back table back here? It was one of the best strategies I've ever heard. Yes, it's you guys. Don't look around. This is great. Listen up.
__: I think they've asked us to do that because we said we would show the Beckman film to--
KM: Tell people what that is in case they don't--?
__: To set a tone where it's just the words that go across the screen. The moving experience. And then we were going to have them light candles and all leave in silence. So that we could get past the first meeting.
But actually, we have some things-- Explaining the adoption process, bringing people in with positive experiences. Also having the student voice present in the meeting. Because when students are present, sometimes people are more rational in the kinds of attacking and remarks that they will make.
Having a strategic plan ready to address some of these things, and also being well versed in the literature on change and actually indicating that some of these things were expected. But having a clear plan for how to address them.
KM: Okay. Can I just ask you to unpack this a little bit? In the strategic plan, what do you mean?
__: Well, the plans for professional development. How that is going to be laid out, integrating the superintendent's concern about having selected the best curriculum. Also talking about assessment and the relationship there. But letting everyone know that she has a plan and is ready to address these concerns. Also bringing in some evidence of things that are already working.
KM: Okay. One more table? Anything that we don't have on here? Yes, please.
__: The strategy that she used in writing that proposal would be key to bring into this discussion with the board.
KM: Such as?
__: Well, she had to have sold NSF. If you can sell NSF--
KM: You can do anything!
__: That's right!
KM: Okay. Yes, ma'am?
__: I also think she should take a close look at her own district's TABS test scores. Instead of looking at the performance piece, look at the computation. What's happened to their computation scores, also make the connection between how far along their own implementation is, where the kids are within the new program, and where they're not yet.
KM: Okay. How far along--
__: So they can dispel the myth about the students who already graduated from high school and can't make change. They are not products of their new curriculum, they are results of the traditional curriculum.
KM: It was the old bad one that made that kid that couldn't do $1.98 for whatever. Yes, ma'am?
__: We were talking about how with this group it may be wiser to just check to see who's behind this group, address what their specific concerns are.
KM: Oh, you sound like a political subversive over here. No wonder you guys sat on the edge! (Laughter)
__: The idea is not to give them any more ammunition, but to find out where they're coming from. Give some simple, direct, non-jargon responses to the questions they're asking. And then saying that we will roll out a plan to address all of the concerns that you have as a larger audience and at another time.
KM: Okay. I wonder about that. The first thing that came out, which is probably on many of your lists, is data, data, data. Go get the data. Show it's good. But I wonder if -- and if we have not yet seen this with the Mathematical Accuracy Now group-- that data meets with data. You can go and tear your heart out to find the study and somebody else will come in with another study that says directly the opposite.
__: We talked about the highest priority as having individuals who would be there to balance the things that are said. Somebody who is at the level of a Reynolds can come in and be on her side. I don't think you can convince the people who are adamant about being against this. It's the people who are in the middle you need to reach over. You need to bring in key individuals-- parents, another superintendent, someone at the state board-- who are supportive of this.
KM: Okay. I like the cut of your comments, because it's got a strategy to it. I have a theory about school reform. Face more or less any faculty, and you're going to have a third of the people who will follow you over the hill no matter what you say, where you go, what you want to do. They'll do it. You've got a middle third that are on the fence, that are just sort of not sure. They could go either way. But they could be had, if you will. They could be convinced. And they're open-minded enough to listen. And then you have this last third. No matter what you do, they're not going anywhere. Okay? And so it becomes almost a strategy of triage. Do you ignore that bottom third and go for the middle third? Because then you can have two thirds and have a majority. And so focusing your strategy on perhaps the middle group, the people who are still open to this idea might work. Yes, sir?
__: We felt that she should present a compelling example of the mathematics in the curriculum to show that it wasn't fuzzy, a counter example to the charge of fuzziness.
KM: Okay. But again, I'll push back and say for every sharp example she could show, don't you think people could come up with a fuzzy one? No?
__: I think at that moment there is this charge of fuzziness in the air. Unless she can say, "Look. Look what we're asking our seventh graders here."
KM: Okay. Concrete data.
__: Reassure them.
KM: Okay. Good. Yes, ma'am?
__: I think that in response to your idea on triage, three groups, one of the things that concerns me is that no matter how we seem to get into these discussions, they turn into rhetorical, web spinning debates. And perhaps one of the strategies might be that we need to figure out what it takes to actually understand how to get to a middle ground. Because what basically happens is people just get more and more divided.
__: And so that middle group might be persuaded, let's say, by having a much more rational conversation in which the concerns of the ones that will "never change" for whatever reason are actually addressed from more like the perspective that I think Deborah Ball is talking about. We don't really know that these curricula, or whatever components we want to pick on, are actually going to work. There is a way of working together to figure that out as opposed to fighting about whether they're going to work before we even know it.
KM: Right. Right. That's a good point, and it's an honest comment. And one I really appreciate. And I know you're all under the gun, and NSF's under the gun. And California, Massachusetts now. I mean, the question is, can you find a rational, reasonable path to get people to talk to each other? Because you're absolutely right. And this is my worry about using data. In some ways, yes, it's got to be there. No question about it. But it can just start to escalate. And as I said, for every study you bring in on this side, somebody'll knock it down and say it's not good statistics. If you can think about ways to get people to sit down and say, "Now look. This is about kids. Let's start there. This is about kids. And this is about what they're going to have to be able to know and do in the next 100 years. Let's just take a deep breath and see if we can do this." I may be naïve. But I worry about the contentiousness, because I just see it boiling all over the country. Yes, sir?
__: If you're talking just specifically about the ... (inaudible) I'm not sure that's the place to do it. I think the meeting's a nice balance with some rational presentations, but there's this whole emotional healing for what people are thinking or have that they need to do. The rationality afterwards--
KM: Good point. Good point. It's sort of immediate action and a longer-term strategy. I mean, we've got the immediate action with the candle holders back here to take care of the emotions. But you're right, you know. It's going to be charged.
Do you think Alison should contact some of the PTA parents that were there that were against it? Before she goes to the school committee? Any kind of prior political working on her part? Or just write the best report you know how to write and deliver it as clearly and succinctly? What do you think? Yes, sir?
__: I'm not sure what she should do, but she won't. She has very high initiative, but thinks it all has to come from her. And pretty poor judgment, I think, in trying to do all of that. You talked about her poor political skills. I think her leadership skills are not-- And she does need some support. She does need a guru to help her, or a mentor to help her through this process. I think she'll write that report and have it on the superintendent's desk all out of her head. Probably Monday morning.
KM: Okay. What do you think? Let's take your lead in this and let's look at Alison for a minute. Is Alison a bad leader? Good leader? You've asserted that she was pretty bad.
__: I thought she needed some-- She doesn't have the skills.
KM: Okay. Did Alison lack the leadership skills? David?
__: She really dropped the ball on that. This whole thing started because teachers came back and were excited about something. And then she took it, wrote the LSC, got the money, and when you read on page 16 that she met Igor for the first time after this happened, you realize that it was like, "Been there, done that, got the money. It'll work." And she had no support system to help her follow through on how this was going. She had way too many responsibilities. There wasn't a project director whose sole responsibility was to make this work.
She had all these other balls in the air. So this one fell miserably. And one of the things I would say that she needs to come out with the idea of a strategic plan. What was the strategic plan for the professional development? And the first thing, you should get rid of Igor and you acknowledge that you didn't have a professional development plan. Other than what you told NSF you were going to do.
KM: Okay. Well, yes, but we know what those are like, right? Yes? I'm going to come back to you.
__: I think what you can say for sure is that she doesn't have the experience. I don't know that I would say she definitely lacks the skills. She may be able to gain those skills. But she certainly doesn't have the experience.
__: Certainly she can gain those skills. But doesn't have them, or she wouldn't do it that way. Her behavior indicates to me that she needs development. Every administrator who thinks they have all the answers is automatically going to set up not only that bottom third against them, but soon turn that middle third against them. Because you show disrespect for the professional input of those teachers as to what that project should be. She reacts to their symptoms, their complaints, and doesn't get at the underlying problem that would surface if she dialogued in some fashion with those teachers and parents and children.
KM: Okay. We're going to stay on this for a minute, because I think there's some disagreement. Go ahead.
__: I think she didn't realize that she became part of the problem, not part of the solution. And she created more problems by not having the expertise or not having enough people where she wasn't taking all the problems or the attacks or having to explain what she was doing. She didn't educate enough people with her, so that it was not solely her. And again, in some situations, she became part of the problem, not part of the solution.
KM: Okay. I'm hearing a lot of sort of, "Poor Alison." I know I've got one Alison back here, and I've got another one right here. Let's go with you first. Is it true that Alison was doing too much? Had too many things to do? Didn't dialogue enough? Needed to consult more people? If so, how? How does she do that?
__: I see Alison as someone coming from a smaller district that doesn't have the math specialist assigned. So she's in charge of all the curriculum. What she did is she took the initiative to get the LSC grant. They're implementing these exemplary materials. Where did she go to get professional development? The publishers of the material. They say we're going to provide professional development leader for you. She's never seen this person, she's trusting that she's getting someone who's high quality, who knows how to talk with the teachers.
KM: Didn't happen to anybody in this room, I'm sure.
__: And so she was trusting.
__: She sat in one of the workshops, which is she took the time to do that. And now the question is how is she going to react to the feedback that she also saw in person and her group principal that in fact she hasn't done her professional development, and if she doesn't fix that really soon, the whole project's going to go down the tubes.
KM: Okay. So, you don't see it as an issue of naïve political skills, organizational skills. She just chose the wrong person?
__: She does all the work, doing what made sense to her, which was contracting the publisher who wants those materials to continue to be used and who she thought was going to provide high quality development, and it didn't help.
KM: And it's an easy mistake. Where's she going to find the time?
__: Well, that's a different question.
KM: Go ahead. Well, go ahead.
__: All the suggestions we've been making and we're talking about Alison's skills or experience or political naïveté. On the list before, you had proactive versus reactive.
__: This is all stuff that should have been done before. So when any of these people came to the board, the board would have said, "We've already seen all the evidence. We were part of this decision. We know it's going to be there." It would have been stopped at the gap. The superintendent would have signed off, knowing what was planned.
The immediate problem of a core staff developer, that becomes minimal rather than jumping into this whole thing of whether we should be doing it in the first place. Not having done it proactively, it doesn't work at a five minute board presentation because you don't have the chance to do all the kinds of things you've been saying. And the suggestion that that would have to be done later on, or filled in the gap is probably good.
And at that board meeting with the superintendent, that's when I would probably bring in not the university person or the data or the research, but the person with the money-- Forgive me, the NSF person, that comes in and says, "You know, we're giving you this $3 million over these years because we know this works and has results. But if you don't want to do it, you don't have to take our money." And I guarantee that in most boards, they would say, "No, we're committed and we'll--" ... (inaudible) (Laughter) It would be over at that kind of session.
KM: Okay. So you bring in the funder.
KM: Okay. Joyce says all you have to do is fly her there and she'll be there. Okay? All right. We're looking, and just to pull the shade for the moment on the case discussion, if you see where we've been, we've worried about Alison and evidence. We've begun to talk. Unfortunately, we don't have a ton of time. I would want to push each one of you, as I tried to as you spoke, to really give me a concrete "what does she do first," "what does she do second," "what does she do third." And then we'd look at it and analyze it and worry about it and try to come up with what we thought was a good solution. Ideally we would build from all the different tables and all the different points of view.
My worry, just in speaking to this particular point, is again this use of data. I mean, we are in a data driven environment, and we have to use data. But data's not going to take the day. It just is not because it's just one measure.
So I like the idea of bringing some data, bringing some kids, bringing some teachers, bringing another superintendent in. Talking to the board ahead of time. Doing your proactive get out there in front work. Because these issues are real. They're going to come up. And so you need a multi-faceted strategy.
Let me take you to a second question, which was one that you had on here that I think is terribly important and relevant to all of you. And I'm sure you have some ideas.
Given Sally's level of math understanding, and the fact that she's a fulltime teacher, what kind of a program would you design for her in the ideal? In the best of all circumstances. You've got a person whose math knowledge is at best a little shaky. Fragile, as Nick said. What would you do for her in the ideal, first question.
And the second question is what do you do for her in this situation right now, fulltime teacher, tired. All the ongoing angst of that. So take a moment at your table. Turn your microphones off and let's see if we can come up with two or three ideas about this. What do you do about the Sallys that you all know and love?
KM: I'm going to kind of keep moving, pushing us on. So my question is in the ideal, and this is just dream big. Because that's how we actually do get our good ideas, what would you do to help Sally? How would you try to design a program for her in the ideal? Yes, ma'am?
__: We thought that Sally and the other teachers need in- class support so they can see the programs working with their students. So we thought a demonstration teacher or Alison going in and demonstrating a lesson with Sally's students, so she can see that this can work.
KM: Every day?
__: Well, she needs to get around to all ten of the teachers in that building.
KM: Okay. In-class demonstrations? Over what period of time? Forever?
__: Whatever it takes.
KM: Well, that's not good enough for me.
__: Until they're ready to go into professional development--
KM: How do you know you're done?
__: I haven't found that end yet, so I don't know.
KM: That's right. So forever?
__: I'll know it when I see it.
KM: Okay. Yes, ma'am?
__: I'm concerned that if you do that too much, all you're convincing Sally is that I, who come in and demonstrate, can do this, and Sally, you can't.
__: We've not found that to be true.
KM: Okay. Another idea?
__: In the ideal, I would reduce the workload.
KM: Yes? Let's go to Deborah Ball for a minute. You know, I'll grant you I magically just gave Sally half days for the rest of the year. Exactly what would she do?
__: She would go through the contents. She'd be working in the units. ... (inaudible)
KM: But I'm troubled by what does it mean to work through it? And what does it mean to do it? And when are you done? And I think Nick, you may have something-- Yes?
__: ... (inaudible) But going at a desperate pace and having someone have to lead something that-- She was in a learning situation and doing what she is going to be expected to do. But taking the time for her to do it without having to think about teaching is right.
KM: Aha. Okay.
__: And also, it's sort of like looking at the math and then also stopping looking at the pedagogy that went along with it. But not being responsible for teaching that exactly right then.
KM: But you would use these same materials?
__: These same materials in my class, yes. Use the same materials. And you might be able to modify them. You know, I think teaching wouldn't have to do it from everything that ... (inaudible) but it depends on the units, I guess. But it would be the idea that teachers really experience what they are-- What the material's designed to be experienced is and to be able to then analyze both the mathematics and going beyond what's in the unit--
KM: Right. Okay. There you've vindicated yourself. Because I was going to say, is it enough to sort of be two pages ahead of the kids?
__: No, no. In fact, that's a whole ... (inaudible) When the teacher then goes to teach something, the teacher already knows down the line ... (inaudible) But it's not just learning and then doing it with the students the next day. Because then you're a page or two ahead.
__: It's much more getting a sense of this and the mathematics involved with this. So experiencing that and having sessions about where that goes and then ... (inaudible)
KM: Okay. Yes. Over here?
__: My comment is that it appears to me that she is an elementary teacher that's at the beginning of the middle school class. I'm assuming it's an eighth grade class, because she's teaching linear functions.
KM: That's correct.
__: In the fall--
KM: That's correct.
__: And so this is a real advanced group of students at the middle school level.
KM: Yes, it's the upper--
__: I don't think her problem is her instructional strategy. She sounds like she really understands the constructivist approach. Her problem is content knowledge and she needs to take 101, math 101 and math 102 at the University of Washington in the Math Ed. department.
KM: Okay. University coursework. Reactions? I've got a light on at this table.
__: I think that she needs to go back to basics. And I don't know--
KM: Isn't that math 101?
__: It may be too high for her. What if she doesn't have access to the University of Washington? What if she's in Presque Isle, Maine, or some place like that?
KM: Okay. There's a bit of a caveat there, but I want to stay with this question about university and is that a good idea. Is that going to give her what she needs? Go ahead.
__: I don't think that's going to give her what she needs. And I think if we go back to an ideal environment would be, I don't know if you were here for Lillian McDermott?
KM: I was not. I'm sorry.
__: Find somebody like Lillian (laughter).
KM: I don't think that's possible.
__: And engage her in the school year in professional development but focus on the curriculum. But then in the summer program, that is not a university program, at least what we think of as a stereotypically university program and that Lillian was referring to where people go through and they walk out and they don't really understand fundamentals. But instead have a program that engages her in thinking more deeply about the fundamentals and that's content.
__: And the difference in philosophy there, the teacher preparation in ... (inaudible) deals more with knowing the mathematics of the curriculum you're going to teach. The underpinnings of fundamental ... (inaudible) which to me is not what we do in university coursework here. So therefore, I don't think that would be particularly helpful.
KM: Okay. It's an important nuance here. Yes, go ahead.
__: We wanted to hook Sally up with a mentor who is an experienced exemplary mathematics teacher with that experience in teaching this particular curriculum level.
__: With half days off, too. Work closely with them.
KM: Okay. Good. I want to stay just for a moment back here, though with university coursework. Because I do think that, you know, sticking them in math 101 is not going to do it. And you make an important distinction, which is understanding. And Nick and I both experienced it at Harvard in our master's programs. A fellow, some of you may have heard of Edwin Meese, who had a book which was called "Elementary Math from an Advanced Standpoint. And it was, you know, the basic stuff. Fractions, decimals, you know, whatever. And yet he went deep about why it was the way it was. Why it worked the way it did. And it was really quite a wonderful course. That's the kind of course that I think we need to teach.
__: Well, in the ideal, I believe that we would have someone working with the teacher based on the curriculum, and then part of the LSC I'm sure would be some coursework, but looking up what the mathematics is that she has to teach, and how she's going to go about teaching it. One thing that we're missing, I believe, is that Deborah spoke about yesterday-- focusing her also on what children are likely to do. Because one of the things I found, she had difficulty with was figuring out what the mathematics of the child--
KM: Right. Good. And that's one of the reasons that in the cases that I like to use, I have the student work, student words there. Because that's so critical. Obviously, you can't predict what a kid is going to say. But you can have some sense if you've taught long enough. That they're going to probably bring-- I mean, like this confusion about rates of change versus absolute change. And you know, to have anticipated that, then really gives you power.
__: Yes, I just want to defend Sally a little.
__: I think it could be Sally knows more than we're giving her credit for. Here's an elementary school teacher who realizes she's got a little confusion about this discreet value of linear function, which is a bit confusing. Can we do more? Can we do half a marble? I mean, these are things she hasn't considered. The university course probably wouldn't help consider that. I would like to advocate for working within the curriculum and teasing out these issues. Not simply how to implement them. Teasing out the mathematical content issue. Seems to me that could be embedded in local development--
KM: Could be done on site.
__: And immediately. With her colleagues. Because she has pedagogical instincts that probably the other 11 or 12 colleagues do not have.
KM: This is true.
__: Capitalize on those.
KM: And that's why Jack wanted her there.
__: The direction I was going, the one I wanted to tell you was the issue of designing something for her I think is an issue to consider. Because there's personal crisis right up front. I think one of the things we talked about here was in the conversation with Sally, mapping the natural supports that Sally believes she has around here would be a good place to start.
KM: Yes. Yes.
__: Transition to more of an empowered position for Sally relative to her own special development. So that from there, if you were in charge of her own professional development and designing a program for yourself, given your circumstance, what kinds of things are close by? And then from there, what could the building with your colleagues, the building, the district, the community be doing to better support you in that role? And depending on who you are, how can I help.
__: But be clear that she's a professional and it is her development she's planning and she's got contacts and there are resources out there that she may need help--
KM: Okay. Point well taken that, you know, we have done a kind of top down piece of work here. And you know, the come back would be do you think Sally knows enough to know what she doesn't know? But I'm glad you brought that up, Peter. Okay. Go ahead.
__: I don't think we can take Alison off the hook here. But if Alison doesn't understand Sally's problem, she's never going to be able to implement this program effectively. In other words, she really must get together with Sally and understand the nature of the support that Sally needs and build from there.
Another thing I'd just like to throw in, although you'd have to wait for it, is a possibility of a summer institute-- Not just for Sally, but for a range of teachers who probably have similar problems as Sally-- which is really designed around the implementation of this curriculum.
KM: Yes. Yes. Good. Let me share with you an article you may or may not know about. This is Ed Silver and May Kay Stein and Margaret Smith-- they have a piece that's in the current fall issue of the Harvard Ed. Review, and it's about staff development. The title of it is The Development of Professional Developers. And essentially, their argument is-- And they're math people-- Is that we're talking about a new way of teaching. And therefore, we need to be talking about a new way of doing professional development.
Some of the things you've already nailed, already, in your comments. These two columns are comparing the old traditional in-service and the new. And one of them is, which you all got on, this focus on building capacity to understand the subject matter, and then using a variety of formats including the provision of in-class work, which many of you talked about, around knowledge and beliefs. That's an important piece that I think we have to address.
Sally has some feelings and beliefs about the way math is and the way it should be, and the way it should be taught. We need to hit those head on, as we know from our own teaching. If you don't hit these things on, people hold onto them. So we need a co-construction of an agenda right to your point by teachers and a professional developer over time. Exactly the last comment that was just made.
You need to pay attention to the particularities of context, because they play an important role. You know, before, and this came up earlier, you buy these materials, and along comes a staff developer who can do it generically for any district, whether you've got two teachers or 500 teachers. And it makes a difference. The context makes the difference.
And then finally critical issues. The focus is on developing the instructional program and the community in addition to the teacher, and then obviously leadership training is a very big topic.
I highly recommend this article to you. It's new thinking for me. New ways of delivering professional development. It's The Development of Professional Developers by Mary Kay Stein, Margaret Smith, and Ed Silver. And it's in the current issue of the Harvard Ed. Review, volume 69, number three.
__: I was just wondering if Harvard has a web site, and if the Harvard Education Review on the web site?
KM: I do not know.
__: We think it is, but I think you have to be a subscriber, actually.
KM: I don't know. I don't know. Well, we'll figure it out. I mean, this is a good example of good stuff that's out there. We've got to get the paths of communication so that it works and we can all work together on that.
All right. Well, my time is waning, so I think I want to sort of show you a couple of other questions that we could have spent some time with.
One of them is this larger systemic enduring change and asking you, what are the elements that you think have to be present in a district to create enduring, solid, systemic math and science reform? And I know NSF thinks about this. I know you think about this. And so the first one is kind of like in the ideal, like we just did with Sally. But then in the real, with Alison, does she have these elements, these necessary factors?
We could spend quite a bit of time on that. Another topic that we could talk about is this whole issue around standards. For what purpose are they? For whom are the standards? Who's the audience? You know, standards are written for politicians. They're written for teachers. They're written for other teachers. They're written for students. They're written for parents. They're written for communities. And it matters who the audience is in this standards stuff.
I'm quite worried about a train wreck between this reforming effort that we have under way and this standards and standardization and some very simplistic views about how we implement the standards that I think are going to create a real rub. In the case you read a bit about the report cards, that's just the tip of the iceberg. But what do you do? We have plenty of cases in Massachusetts where kids are getting As and Bs in upper middle class communities like Newton and Lexington and Concord. And they're failing the state competency exam.
Now, you think the parents are going to sit still for that? No. Because those As and Bs get those kids into Harvard and Princeton and Yale. And so there's a huge issue cooking here that we have yet to figure out.
But I'm sorry that we don't have more time. A question I want you to think about as you're riding home, however you're traveling, is can we really help a teacher like Sally become an effective math teacher? Can we really do it? What will it take? Can you teach her enough math or the right math? Does she have it? What do you need to structure? I know you're all believers, but I just want to push you a little bit on this.
The second is what I just said, the role of standards in accountability in math and science reform. The third one is the within district realities. These relationships that were nailed early on between the superintendent and the principal and the assistant superintendent and the school board and the parents. That stuff is real. And probably Alison's not going to last long in her job, unfortunately, unless she does what you suggested, which is to offload some things.
And then finally, the role of evidence in public discourse. Our reaction is to go get the data. And while I think that's very important, and you need it in your back pocket, I don't think it will win the war. You've got to have it. You've got to know where to get it. But I don't think in and of itself is sufficient.
So let me stop and ask for any questions or comments or reactions, tell you where to reach me. It's very simple. It's just Kay_Merseth@harvard.edu. This case was supported by NSF and by Merck and it's my understanding you can copy it and use it, and if you have any other issues about copying or whatever, you should talk to Carlo. So are there questions or comments? Anything I can clear up for anybody? I wore you out?
__: I have a comment.
KM: Yes, David? Please?
__: I wanted to get in Igor's corner.
__: I don't know why we're willing to try and save Sally but not Igor.
KM: All right.
__: He knows the math.
KM: Okay. He knows the math. This is true.
__: He's not tenured.
KM: He's not tenured. (Laughter) Okay. Well, thank you very much. This is a great group. I really appreciate it. (Applause)