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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Report Overview

author: Linda Free, Sabra Lee
submitter: Mesa Systemic Initiative
published: 02/23/1998
posted to site: 02/23/1998
Mesa, Arizona MSI
Year 2 Core Evaluation Report
based on HRI guidelines and data protocols

September 1996 -- August 1997

Report written by
Linda Free
Field Evaluation Associate
Sabra Lee
Senior Research Associate
Program Evaluation and Research Group
Lesley College
October 1997

This is the HRI evaluation report of the second year of the Mesa Systemic Initiative (MSI). It has been constrained by the lateness with which PERG received data from HRI and the ensuing foreshortened schedule for report writing which made it difficult for the co-authors to spend adequate time collaborating and writing.


The MSI is a plan for science and mathematics instructional improvement in the Mesa Public Schools (MPS) involving 47 elementary schools, 12 junior high schools, and 1,765 teachers in math, science and technology education. Another elementary school will be added next year. The district has enjoyed a reputation for excellent education and has continually done well on the national testing of students. The community is supportive of its schools and has voted to pass every bond election that the district has requested. This has allowed Mesa to build and maintain excellent facilities. There is, however, a small, but very vocal, group in the community who is against any reform in education. They believe in the basic skills and are against any "liberal reform" such as cooperative education, also rejecting national influence on local education in the forms of standards funding, such as Goals 2000, a recent target. Politically, the district has discovered that they can more effectively facilitate change by focusing on results and de-emphasizing "new" innovations.

The MSI design grows out of the philosophy that teachers should be leaders, sources, and facilitators of the change process in order to gain more lasting growth. While professional development is offered through the project, an equally important aspect of the design is the leadership development of resource teachers, mentors, liaisons, lead teachers, and principals. Both site-specific and district-wide training develop these resources. As stated in the Mesa Systemic Initiative 1995 Formal Proposal:

The primary focus of the MSI is to move teachers along a continuum of growth in using hands on curriculum. Activities leading to teacher growth need to be highly personalized and flexible. Multiple strategies and integrated components must be provided. The MSI structure provides the guidance and flexibility necessary to meet individual needs. (proposal)

Project activities are both site-based and cross-district. School teams have primary responsibility for developing local collegial; support systems, scheduling instructional opportunities related to skill building in science and math, and for identifying other special site needs for professional growth. All of this is formulated and described in an annual site plan. The proposal emphasized that sites have two instructional options.

The first will be a general menu of workshops and seminars. This will include topics chosen for extra emphasis such as assessment, equity, and using technology as a tool for instruction. The second option will be for site-based leadership to develop special plans for their homes site(s). (proposal)

Site based teachers are trained and involved both in planning and providing instruction at their schools. The district based resource teachers in math, science, and technology also work with the teachers on site.

In his interview, the PI stressed that the long-term strength of the project lies in the development of the teacher leaders. During the first year of the project, many of these teachers were given training, and are now presenting workshops and working with other teachers to share their gained expertise. They meet with the district resource teachers regularly for additional training and to discuss how instructional improvement is progressing at their schools.

The end of the year status report indicates continued emphasis on site-based leadership teams for the development of site professional growth models during the second year of the project. Efforts were made to model inservice instruction and a presenter model was developed. Mentoring was emphasized for new teachers and served as a support for them. Teacher inservice modules for critical skills training in science and math were developed. Many workshops and training sessions have continued the training of liaisons, other teacher leaders, and resource teachers. In addition to teachers, several workshops and forums were developed for the principals. As instructional leaders of their schools, their training emphasized math, science, and technology instruction to enable them to be good sources of information for their staffs for whom one goal is self-directed growth.

No discussion of professional development activities, the involvement of teachers in MSI, or the impact of the LSC can be divorced from the reality of time as a central and scarce commodity in the school day. Mesa teachers constantly mentioned that they need time to practice what they're learning. They need time to talk with other teachers to analyze what is and is not working in the classroom. On the questionnaires, they indicated that they were given little opportunity (i.e., time) to meet with one another, and principals indicated their recognition of its importance, but time is a rare coinage. Many respondents mentioned that a resource teacher had offered to do a demonstration lesson for them, but they had not found the time to arrange for the lesson. The lack of time is a contributing factor to lack of confidence after exposure to new techniques: teachers said that if they just had time to research or work with someone else, they could more easily change. There were constant references to the fact that teachers knew that they needed to change to more "hands on" methods of instruction and that they could assess without a paper and pencil test more often. This points to the need for a kind of support for teachers that is not feasible given the budget for the program and time in they day.

For the 1996-97 school year, 43,590 hours of professional growth offered by MSI, SSRC, Instructional Technology, or Basic Skills were tracked by the MSI. These hours do not reflect the time spent by mentors, liaisons, lead teachers, and principals working with the teachers on an individual basis to improve their instruction. The professional development opportunities available to MPS teachers are varied and plentiful. The teachers indicated a positive attitude about their opportunities, but finding time to use the opportunities fully is a frustration. Time is a continuing problem, and one that the MSI staff is working to solve through such additions as "Special Presenters". The PI is very pleased that the project is on target with its goals, and they are moving forward in a positive manner to improve effective "hands on" instruction for the teachers in the district.