New England Regional Center for the Interactive Mathematics Program Annual Report
This project has as its main goal the dissemination and implementation of the reform mathematics curriculum of the Interactive Mathematics Program (IMP) throughout New England. During the four years of the LSC grant, we plan to establish focus schools throughout the region which have lead teachers trained in and teaching all four years of the IMP curriculum, and have the remaining teachers trained in and teaching as much of the curriculum as possible.
Thus we plan to establish these schools as strong centers for implementing reform mathematics and pedagogy which can serve as resources for neighboring schools. We are also providing an opportunity for the students in the focus schools to become better problem solvers, better communicators, and better at applications while learning concepts in algebra, geometry, trigonometry, pre-calculus, statistics and discrete mathematics.
Our system for training is for teachers to attend a retreat the spring before they will be starting to teach IMP. At the retreat they begin their introduction to the philosophy, curriculum and pedagogy and start networking with experienced IMP teachers. Next, teachers attend a week of workshops in the summer in the curriculum year they will be teaching. These workshops again cover curriculum and pedagogy. During the school year teachers attend follow-up days ( 4 to 6 depending on which year of the curriculum they are in). Co-directors also visit teachers in their classes to provide support and feedback. Ideally this cycle continues for four years.
Major Accomplishment 96 - 97
Prior to the 96-97 school year, the New England Regional Center (NERC) was assisting seven schools in implementing IMP. Six of these schools are in Massachusetts and one in Connecticut. As a result of having received the LSC grant, ( along with grants from the Noyce Foundation and the Balfour Foundation), we expanded to nine new schools in 96-97, including our first two schools in Vermont. The summer of 97 brought an additional ten schools into the IMP family and started us in our first school in Maine. Thus we are presently supporting IMP in twenty-six schools.
Prior to the 96-97 school year there were 31 teachers trained and teaching one or more years of the IMP curriculum. During the 96-97 school year 54 teachers participated in a week of summer workshops and in follow-up sessions and taught a year of the IMP curriculum. In May of 1997 these teachers attended a two day retreat to reflect on the past year and plan for the future, as well to start becoming leaders for the new IMP teachers. During the summer of 1997, 96 teachers attended a week of workshops in IMP.
This expansion has also been made possible by working together with and/or giving workshops for the Center for Innovation in Urban Education (CIUE), the Center for Enhancement in Science and Mathematics Education (CESAME), the Massachusetts SSI (PALMS), the Maine SSI (PRISM) and the Vermont Institute for Science, Mathematics and Technology (VISMT).
An unanticipated effect we are having is on pre-service education. Students who are interns or student teachers in our focus schools are being encouraged to observe IMP classes and attend IMP workshops. As a result many are seeking employment in schools that are implementing reform or are urging the schools that hire them to do so.
Another unanticipated effect is that almost all teachers who are teaching both IMP classes and traditional classes report that they are changing how they teach their traditional classes. They are rewriting the curriculum to make it more "impy". These classes are becoming more student centered. Teachers are creating collaborative group projects. Teachers are using portfolios as a means of assessment.
An exciting aspect of our program this year was that our lead teachers from cohort one ( the group that started in 1994) have become facilitators at our workshops. Prior to the LSC we had incorporated teacher/leader sessions into the cohort one workshops and began to team with these teachers while presenting introduction to IMP workshops to new teachers. During the summer of 1997 five of the cohort one teachers teamed with the co-directors as facilitators at our summer training workshops. They did excellent work and are now ready to facilitate workshops on their own.
As for the LSC's effect on students, schools are beginning to report a variety of test scores in which they compare IMP student performance to matched groups of traditional students. The results are favorable. In each school that has done an SAT score comparison, the IMP students did slightly better than the others.( This data is obviously on juniors who we started teaching prior to the LSC.) In additon, one of these schools administered a problem solving test to IMP and non-IMP juniors. The IMP students did significantly better than their counterparts.
Also one school that started IMP under the LSC, administered the CTBS 6 test (Terra Nova) from McGraw Hill to their ninth grade IMP students in the spring of '97. The IMP students achieved statistically significantly better in four of the strands and statistically the same in the remainder of the strands.
The biggest lesson learned is that change is and needs to be a gradual process. In schools that decided to go all IMP many parents and students were upset. Hostile students and parents can stand in the way of the curriculum being effective. It is better to give parents and students an education about reform and a choice. As the curriculum and pedagogy proves itself, more parents will sign up their students and eventually the school can increase the number of sections of reform math classes.
Another lesson learned is how important school-year follow-up is. The teachers constantly comment on how valuable the follow-up workshops are not only for the training, but for the sharing and mutual support. We also find that teachers will not contact us up about issues of concern, but by visiting them or by chatting during periodic phone calls, or e-mailing, the teacher will share concerns that we can help them with. This appears to be an essential element in implementing reform mathematics.