TESS School Documentation Summary
Purpose of the Study
Winchell Elementary School 1996-1997
For Fresno Unified School District's TESS project, developing systemic reform of mathematics pedagogy and content in a district of this size (approximately 79,000 K-12 students) with multiple LSC implementation levels has been a voluminous task. The implementation evaluation of TESS indicates significant positive changes are occurring throughout the district. Yet, research in classroom implementation of reform indicates that a considerable amount of time is necessary to implement pedagogical changes consistent with current standards for mathematics education. For this reason, a school documentation case study was conducted in 1996-1997, to study the characteristics of a school in the midst of systemic reform of mathematics.
Winchell Elementary School was selected because the school was felt to be further along in the development of standards-based curriculum and instruction in mathematics than many schools in the TESS project, primarily due to a cohort of teachers who have embraced the principles of reform in mathematics education. A teacher from the school was selected to conduct the case study, which included four types of data collection in 1996-1997: (a) teacher interviews, (b) a questionnaire using Likert response scales, (c) classroom observations, and (d) informal group discussions with lead teachers.
Four study questions framed the investigation. These questions and summarized findings are reported in the following paragraphs.
What is the Extent of Teacher Involvement in Mathematics Professional Development?
The 1996-1997 school year was the second of three years of intensive professional development in mathematics funded by the LSC initiative. All teachers were scheduled to complete 10 days of training in 1995-1996 and 5 days in 1996-1997.
The self-perceived interest in participating in professional development appears to lessen with experience, with 1st to 12th year teachers showing more enthusiasm than their more experienced counterparts.
In What Ways Has the LSC Mathematics Professional Development Changed Instructional Practices?
Winchell teachers used predominantly traditional instructional practices prior to the LSC award.
As of 1996-1997 all teachers now use: cooperative learning strategies, manipulatives (to different degrees), and indicate a higher degree of comprehension of the NCTM Standards.
In What Ways Has the LSC Mathematics Professional Development Changed Assessment?
Standardized test results continue to be used predominantly at the school site to make decisions about student progress and placement.
Most primary (K-3) teachers have embraced the use of alternative assessment strategies, while most intermediate (4-6) teachers view these as instructional augmentation activities.
Several teachers report changing beliefs about instructional practices as a result of scoring a local 4th grade mathematics alternative assessment.
Do Winchell Teachers Feel Supported at the Site-Level as They Implement Change in Mathematics Education?
Teachers who indicate a high degree of mathematics anxiety spend less time planning and teaching mathematics lessons.
In response to a felt need for support from mathematics leaders, several lead teachers conducted demonstration lessons in the classrooms of teachers requesting support in 1996-1997.
There is a lack of agreement among teachers about the level of support for mathematics reform among site administration. Several felt this to be lacking, while several others did not. A new school administration team was appointed at Winchell for the 1997-1998 school year, due to retirements and transfers.
While time intensive, the case study approach has proved valuable in providing a more detailed picture of systemic reform than is available using other data collection methods with samples of the overall population. The positive findings regarding changed practices may be an effect of a 'critical mass' of teachers at the school who are convinced of the benefits of systemic reform, or are involved as teacher leaders in mathematics in the district. Barriers also continue to exist, lending support to the hypothesis that systemic change is a long-term process, even in schools with a high degree of implementation.