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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Report Overview

submitter: Reaching Every Teacher: A Systemic Approach to Increased Student Achievement K-12
published: 02/05/1998
posted to site: 02/05/1998

Part I: Annual Overview

Reaching every teacher was designed to be a teacher centered, school based model of professional development for all teachers of mathematics in the Waltham school district. Our goals are:

  • To increase our teachers' content knowledge of mathematics
  • To enhance our teachers' confidence in their mathematical ability
  • To create cross grade communication
  • To identify the "big ideas" of algebraic thinking
  • To create a process for selecting and implementing a new K-12 curricula

During the first year of the project every teacher attended 10 half day seminars, 10 morning seminars for the middle and high school teachers and 5 morning and 5 afternoon seminars for the elementary teachers. This recipe increased cross grade dialogue, among our K-12 faculty by blending our middle and high school teachers with two groups of elementary teachers. For the first half of the year we did mathematics together. We presented problems involving patterns, functions, proportional reasoning, algorithmic thinking, structure and properties of operations. We broached most problems in cross grade groups and then moved to grade level grouping for related discussions. There was certainly an initial reluctance to participate in the cross grade discussion, especially among the elementary teachers. It did not take long for most of them to overcome this, however, and by the second and third seminar the conversations were spirited and productive. A good example of progress along these lines involved one teacher who is everybody's favorite person, but outspoken and traditional to the core. At her first seminar she announced very loudly that she would attend. She would work in groups, but she would have nothing to say and she would never be part of any presentation. Two seminars later during a very quiet moment in a workshop she burst out with, "Oh my God, I can do this-what fun." A short while later she was at the overhead explaining how her group approached the problem. The staff felt that this was a significant milestone.

There was also some discontent among the elementary teachers surrounding the fact that the first few seminars did not produce materials for the classroom. We felt strongly, however, that it is important not to try and upgrade teacher content knowledge with student materials. We were careful to explain our goals, but the message took awhile to sink in, and during the second half of the seminar series we did create some grade level lessons for teachers to try out with their students.

Our workshop sessions on student thinking were received well from the outset because most teachers understand the need to do this better. They all make attempts at it, but these are most often haphazard and consume time that teachers feel they can ill afford. They appreciate the fact that we are working with them to create strategies that are efficient.

Since no educational reform effort can hope to succeed without support from all constituents, we were aggressive about inviting parents and building administrators to the seminars. We gave the principals the responsibility of securing parental participation and they produced parent attendance at about eighty percent of our seminars. We know this effort was successful because the parents wrote very thoughtful and positive reflections on our feedback forms.

Prior to securing funding from NSF we were able to get a small grant from NYNEX to enable us to work with a cadre of teacher leaders. We call these people our Liaison Teachers. There are 26 of them and they span all grade levels and buildings. We met with the liaisons monthly during the year and for three days during the summer preceding the grant period. They helped plan the seminars and now serve as conduits to the building administration as well as resource people for the rest of the teachers. Starting in September and continuing through this school year our seminars are designed around trying out new curricula. The liaison teachers spent three days this summer selecting lessons for our teachers to try from three reform curricula, Investigations, Everyday Math and Trailblazers in elementary; Connected Math, Seeing and Thinking Mathematically and Math in Context in middle; and The Interactive Math Program (IMP}, UCSMP, Connected Math and CORE PLUS in high school. The liaison teachers had to select lessons that would fit into the sequence of our existing curriculum given that the seminars are spread evenly throughout the school year. This was a formidable task and so far their work has been right on target.

We ran two very successful all day principal workshops where we did much of the same thing we did with teachers. These were designed in part by our liaisons with input from the rank and file. They were very well received. Principals actually welcomed the opportunity to participate in substantive curriculum work. The culture in Waltham has been for principals to serve in a role that emphasizes building management, but the new Education Reform Law in Massachusetts pushes principals into the educational leadership role. Our workshop gave them some very valuable experience.

One of the most successful aspects of the program was our Industry Volunteers in the Classroom (see MITRE bulletin). We recruited 47 industry people from businesses in the Waltham area. They were trained for two days and made on sight visits to their buildings prior to assuming teaching duties. They replace middle and high school teachers on workshop days and each of them is attached to the same teacher for the entire year. About three quarters of them are teamed in pairs. The program mitigated our substitute situation and has produced exceptional public relations for the businesses and our system. It also insures an uninterrupted continuity of instruction during the ongoing workshop period.

We believe that the program had a very good first year. Our Liaison Teachers have gained much needed confidence concerning their ability to sustain the program into the third year and the faculty in general has confidence that we are leading them in a direction that is compatible with the new state frameworks.