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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Overview

submitter: Teachers As Agents Of Systemic Change (TAASC)
published: 11/19/1998
posted to site: 11/19/1998
Local Systemic Change (LSC)
PI Annual Progress Report - Year 2
Teachers as Agents of Systemic Change (TAASC)
November 10, 1998
Jack Price, Co-PI

Part I. Annual Overview

Teachers as Agents of Systemic Change (TAASC) is a local systemic initiative that affects all of the grade 6 - 12 mathematics teachers in four urban, multi-cultural school districts near California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly). The project, run through the Center for Education and Equity in Mathematics, Science, and Technology (CEEMaST), makes use of identified mathematics teacher-leaders at each of the secondary school sites in the districts to assist in the professional development of the target teachers in improving content knowledge and renewing pedagogical skills.

The second year started after the August, 1997, workshop for the teacher-leaders with a meeting of the District Advisory Committee (DAC). Plans for the school year were developed and dates for professional development for principals, parent/community leaders, teacher-leaders, and their colleagues were agreed upon. This included the one-week summer institute scheduled for August,1998, at I-Poly High School on the Cal Poly campus.

The 68 teacher-leaders from the thirty-four schools met five times during the school year for all-day professional development activities which included mathematics content, pedagogy, and leadership activities. After each inservice day there were follow-up sessions at the schools with the colleagues of the teacher-leaders. These workshops were conducted by the teacher-leaders, in many cases, with the assistance of the project staff. In addition 89 teachers, more than a third of the target teachers attended the CEEMaST spring conference.

At the suggestion of the Teacher Advisory Committee (TAC) assistant principals as well as principals were invited to the professional development meetings for the principals. At the suggestion of the DAC, two parallel days were scheduled for these meetings so that the principal could attend on one day and the assistant principal on another. As a result there were attendees at one or the other from all 34 schools.

An equally enthusiastic set of parents attended the informational meeting for them and as a result additional sessions were held in a number of the project schools. For the coming year, two meetings will be held, one at each end of the project area, in order to accommodate better the needs of the parents.

With the assistance of the TAC, after-school courses were proposed for all target teachers. Six content classes were held during the winter and spring, 1998, serving as additional opportunities for all teachers in the project to receive content professional development. The courses, taught by the two Co-PI’s, met once a week for two hours for five weeks each: Informal Permutations and Combinations, Introduction to Discrete Mathematics, Proportional Thinking, Making Sense of Numbers, and two sections of Geometer’s Sketchpad.

The TAC also assisted in the development of a survey requesting the kinds of courses needed in the one-week summer workshop. It was agreed that every participant would take three two-hour courses of his/her choosing for the week in August. The classes included repeats of some of the after-school classes; but in addition, History of Mathematics, Fractals, Integrated Science and Mathematics and many more were taught. A complete schedule of classes is appended. The workshop enrolled 120 teachers, nearly half of the target teachers, one-third of whom were teachers of color. In an evaluation carried out (appended) 87 of the 120 responded and only two said they were not interested in attending next summer. There was an overwhelming request for the one-week workshop rather than the two-day that had been scheduled. It appears as if we will be able to hold the whole week in summer, 1999.

What have we learned? First, when high school teachers are converted they have much to offer to their colleagues and to the benefit of the project. Those particularly on the TAC have truly become stalwart boosters of TAASC. Some were calling us the day before the summer workshop began to get their new teachers registered in the workshop Secondly, outside forces often conspire unintentionally to undermine the efficient working of the project. The class size reduction initiative in California is a case in point. Since every person who can fog a mirror has been hired for full-time positions, few are left for substitutes. While this has not hampered greatly the work with the teacher-leaders, it has caused districts to rethink the ways that they can release the majority of their colleagues. We have gone to afterschool and Saturdays in some cases. Finally, we have found that the project staff cannot do everything. Fortunately, we have strong teacher-leaders who have been able to take up the slack and we have been able to call upon colleagues in the mathematics departments in Cal Poly and other universities to assist when needed.

At the end of the summer, the original teacher-leaders had at least 192 hours of professional development and their partners, 162. The remaining target teachers ranged from 60 hours to 16. Great effort will be expended this coming year in boosting the number of hours for the target teachers. This will be aided by the ability to conduct a week-long workshop prior to the start of school rather than the two-day originally budgeted. In all, the project is well on schedule, on budget, and seemingly successful to this point. The matching funds as a percentage of NSF funds spent have exceeded the proposal.

Part II: Progress Report Narrative

During the second year of the project, the teacher-leaders, now 68 in number, continued to meet bimonthly. Each meeting was designed to include a mathematics presentation and a presentation dealing with pedagogy and/or major issues in mathematics education and leadership. They were rotated through the four districts so that each had an opportunity to host. In October, the mathematics activity dealt with a developmental approach to teaching probability. Further, mathematics activities suitable for celebration of Christmas, Kwanzaa, and Hanukkah were carried out and distributed to the teacher-leaders. The 1997 NCTM Yearbook, Multicultural and Gender Equity in the Mathematics Classroom, was distributed and discussed. In the afternoon the teacher-leaders formed groups from their own districts and began a series of articulation meetings that were continued, at their request, throughout the year.

The remaining four meetings of the year continued the same pattern with the exception of the November meeting which was held in conjunction with the California Mathematics Council-Southern Section meeting in Palm Springs. There more than 400 workshops are available for the more than 4000 attendees. The school districts provided the time and, in most cases, the registration fee. Where the registration fee was not forthcoming, the Center was able to provide some assistance. A general meeting of the leaders was held on Friday evening of the conference; otherwise they were free to explore the sessions of greatest need or interest.

In February, the mathematics activity focused on what mathematics is. Participants were taken through a rote learning of how to differentiate polynomial functions and addition of fractions as well as a topological analysis of the letters of the alphabet written in block form. Though the first two were easily identified as doing some mathematics even at the procedural level, the topological analysis involved mathematical processes at a deeper level. These experiences also prompted a discussion of the place of topology in the high school curriculum as well as the role of relational understanding in mathematics. Further, Dr. Barbara Wells, UCLA Professor of Mathematics, discussed with them student assessment and the use of the MDPT with their students. As a final activity, the groups were asked to respond to three questions: 1) Name one thing that you are doing differently in your classroom now that you were not doing last year; 2) Now that you have changed your ways, how have you worked with student resistance to change; and 3) What is the next big step that we could take to help insure better student achievement? In response to the first question, the answers were fairly common: more discovery lessons, more relating mathematics to the real world, more hands-on activities, more use of technology. The second question was answered in part by saying the students didn’t know that they had changed (which on reflection seems right) and that there is no resistance because the students like the way they are being taught. The major response to question three was: limit the number of strands per grade level and acquire mastery as opposed to exposure.

At the March meeting, attended by our NSF program officer, the mathematics activity was Stylometry, the use of statistics to determine authorship. They discussed the grade12 TIMSS report and viewed a video of the Prime Time Live (ABC) report on it. They then had time to move into district groups for articulation meetings. In May, the mathematics session was devoted to Madison Project activities, generally involving functions, finite differences, and algebraic thinking. Again the leaders met by school district and responded to four additional questions. These questions were: 1) From what you have learned as a TAASC participant, what has worked in your classroom (26 suggestions); 2) What has worked to engage your colleagues in the change process (30 suggestions); 3) What is an obstacle to change in your school (30 blocks); and 4) How can your district or TAASC help you facilitate change (23 suggestions). (The questions and their responses are appended.) From the responses we could see that the leaders were starting to make some inroads with their own colleagues. In Azusa and Charter Oak we had nearly 100% turnout of the target teachers for the professional development days provided by the districts; Pomona and Hacienda-LaPuente, being much larger, districts attempted their days by quadrants (high schools and their feeder middle schools) and these were less successful. In addition to these professional development activities above, 89 of the teachers attended the 12th Annual CEEMaST conference at Cal Poly on May 2.

This second year we attempted after-school classes to make available the summer workshop activity to the target teachers. At the suggestion of TAC, two different courses ran in parallel for three sessions of five weeks each. In January Making Sense of Numbers was taught in Azusa and Non-Formula Approach to Permutations and Combinations was taught in Pomona. In March Learning Geometry through the Geometer’s Sketchpad and Introduction to Discrete Mathematics were taught. In April/May Geometer’s Sketchpad was repeated and Proportional Thinking was introduced. These courses were taught from 6 - 8 p.m. but did not enjoy the same level of response that the previous 4 - 6 p.m. classes had. We believe that the opportunity to go from school to the class and then home outweighed the necessity to provide classes for coaches or others who were occupied immediately after school. This year all of the courses will be scheduled for 4 - 6 p.m.

Scheduling the administrators’ workshop on two days in December was a good decision. Representatives from all of the schools attended. They were led through a mathematics activity, the TIMSS report, an update on the California Standards-setting process, and a leadership training activity. All reports were positive from both the principals and the district administrators. The two days were continued in the third year.

In the same manner, response was good from parent/community members who attended the parent informational inservice. They also were put through a mathematics activity in the same way that their students would be expected to learn. this was followed by a discussion of what was happening in the world of mathematics, in the state, and then in their districts and schools as a result of TAASC. They wanted additional meetings and math nights at their respective schools. Some of the schools seized on this opportunity to have a greater number of parents involved. As for the project, we are scheduling two days this year.

Aside from the rapid strides that many of the teacher-leaders have made, the greatest success for the year appears to be the one-week summer institute held in August prior to the start of school. Early in the spring a survey, developed with the assistance of the TAC, was sent to every target teacher asking them to choose from a list of 15 possible courses. Returns from 120 teachers (nearly half of the total faculties) indicated a final list of 12, with three sessions repeated. (Class schedule is appended.) Each person took three courses, two hours a day for the five days. Three quarter units of credit were available at their cost and approximately 30 teachers took advantage of the possibility. this indicated that they were there not for the credit. We were receiving calls from principals and from teacher-leaders up to the start day of the workshop trying to enroll new teachers to the school. This was another indication of the regard in which the project was held.

The courses were taught by the project staff, by visiting professors, by teacher-leaders. One course in graphing calculators appeared to be too far advanced for some of the class and so a teacher-leader was drafted to split the class and start at the beginning: "this is how you turn it on." A second teacher-leader helped split a Geometer’s Sketchpad course. Teachers who had attended the summer workshop in 1997 were concerned that there was no time for all of the attendees to meet since they were on their own for lunch. Next summer, there will be a lunch commons for everyone to encourage the informal give and take collegiality. Only two of 87 respondents to an evaluation form felt they would not attend a session next summer. There was a great outpouring of support for a one-week session next summer instead of the two-day previously proposed. With savings in parts of the budget, it appears as if we will be able to hold a full one-week workshop next summer.

Content courses met some resistance on the part of the middle school teachers. They wanted "things" that they could use in their classrooms. At the outset of the summer workshop, instructors were asked to stress to the teachers that there were essentially three reasons why we needed content courses: 1) to learn some content new to them; 2) to learn some new content that they might teach to their students; and 3) to learn some new ways of teaching familiar content. Each of these reasons became part of the instruction that was given during the summer.

Throughout the year some sixty teachers were served by the listserv established in the Center. It was used to relay information to the leaders and to serve as a bulletin board for discussion. For example, one teacher asked for help on a student reading list and received many suggestions almost immediately. Others shared comments on readings that were sent out or downloaded suggestions from the web.

The enthusiasm on the part of the teachers and the administrators has built over the first two years. The first semester we had 34 teachers; for the 1997 summer institute, we had 61; this summer we had 120 for significant extended professional development. What is more, the districts are beginning to realize that they have a treasure trove of well-trained leaders who can help them sustain the growth that they have experienced in the first two years of the project.