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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Report Overview

submitter: Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Systemic Change in Science Initiative
published: 02/24/1998
posted to site: 02/24/1998
Minneapolis Public Schools
Systemic Change in Science Initiative

Annual Progress Report to the National Science Foundation

Annual Overview

Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Systemic Change in Science Initiative

This Local Systemic Change project in Minneapolis aims to reach up to 1,600 grade K-8 teachers in 75 elementary and middle schools over a five-year term. All MPS K-8 teachers will receive a minimum of 100 hours of professional development in science and 300 leadership teachers will be involved in 240 or more hours. The professional development is expected to provide participating teachers with the science content knowledge and instructional skills they will need to implement the district's new inquiry- and standards-based science curriculum for grades K-8. Principals from the district's elementary and middle schools will undertake professional development to enhance their leadership skills in the alignment of science curriculum, instruction and assessment in their schools. A coalition of science professionals including MPS teacher leadership, district administrators, higher education faculty, informal science educators and representatives of local corporations and community organizations is leading the Minneapolis initiative. An important goal of the Local Systemic Change initiative is to build a science program that makes it possible for all teacher to access and use local community science resources.

Another major goal of the project activities is to change the belief systems that have perpetuated the public perception that science is not for all children. The district has a major initiative to recruit and retain teachers who represent the diverse groups in the schools' student population. One component of the Minneapolis project is to develop stronger linkages between MPS and the state's higher education institutions that train the majority of future Minneapolis teachers, with the goal of moving preservice teacher training in science closer to the MPS standards for science curriculum, instruction and assessment. The services of the district's science centers which have traditionally provided hands-on science instructional materials only to elementary school teachers are being expanded to include coordination of science professional development for the district and materials distribution to middle school teachers. The centers will serve four regional clusters of schools (approximately 18 schools per region), each governed by a committee that sets the direction and budget for science professional development and instructional materials for that region. Principals and leadership teachers at the school sites will determine the scope of services offered by the centers as part of a "buy-in" plan to be implemented over the five-year term of the project.

During this reporting period, the Minneapolis Local Systemic Change initiative management team focused their efforts on post-award project planning and start up implementation activities. Sixteen elementary and two middle schools were identified as "science focus schools," where the entire teaching staff has committed to intensive science professional development during the 1997-1998 academic year and planning for how to complete the 100 hour requirement over the next several years. There will be 4 cadres of focus schools over the term of the grant, until all of the elementary and middle schools have participated. Focus schools receive the new science instructional materials the district is purchasing over the next three years and the services of a regional science liaison who helps coordinate on-site professional development and facilitates the training of 3-5 science leadership teachers at each site. The leadership teachers will continue as instructional leaders at the schools after they are no longer focus schools and the regional science liaisons move on to the next cadre of focus schools. At the end of the grant when all schools have undergone the more intensive science professional development required to implement the science program reforms, the cadre of over three hundred leadership teachers and the regional liaisons will continue their professional development leadership and coordination activities.

Over 400 new science kits -- mostly FOSS, with some STC and Insights -- were purchased and placed in the focus school classrooms this fall. An inventory of individual teacher professional development needs was developed for use in the project. The entire teaching staff at each of the 16 elementary focus schools and all middle school science teachers completed the personal needs assessment. The results are being used by the regional science liaisons to profile science professional development needs for entire schools and help the schools develop plans for their staff. The school plans are setting the scope and direction of individual teacher professional development plans. Focus school teachers are now beginning to implement their personal science professional development plans.

More than a dozen different types of teacher workshops were offered under the project from June through November, on topics such as strategies for implementing the science inquiry standards, exploration of the elementary science kits, cooperative learning in the diverse science classroom, cognitive coaching, teaching science and math to children of poverty, and implications of brain research on science instruction. All new elementary and middle school science teachers participated in orientations on the science centers and project goals. A reporting form and a computer database for tracking professional development were designed and are being used to monitor the number of participation hours for each staff person and the nature of the activities.

Nearly 200 teachers participated in October and November in the new LSC science kit study groups. Over 40 MPS science leadership teachers began a special course of training on how to lead workshops, and nearly 20 of them have already used this training as group leaders for the science kit study groups. Seventy-nine percent of teachers in the focus schools began science professional development activities under the initiative. Steps were taken to link efforts under the LSC project with other MPS standards-based reform initiatives, particularly the Edna McConnel Clark grant for improving middle school student achievement. In addition, project staff conducted the most in-depth review of the middle school science program in the last 20 years, setting the stage for a curriculum adoption planned to begin in the summer of 1998. A concerted effort was launched to recruit scientists for very specific activities, such as involvement in the science kit study group.

Several district policy changes made in fall 1997 are strongly supportive of the Local Systemic Change initiative goals. The 1997-1998 Minneapolis teachers union contract defined standards for effective instruction which are aligned with the national science standards for instruction. The contract also aligns the district improvement agenda with the school improvement agenda and teachers' own professional development plans so that each teacher's training must be aligned with standards implementation. In addition, the contract spells out tenure requirements in relationship to professional development requirements, laying out criteria for documenting what a teacher has to accomplish during the first three years in the district. The district adopted a new regional administrative plan that organizes the schools into geographic regions which overlap with the regional science centers and sets up a management structure and mechanisms for fostering local community and neighborhood involvement in the schools.