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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Overview

submitter: Minneapolis Public Schools (MPS) Systemic Change in Science Initiative
published: 12/10/1998
posted to site: 12/10/1998

Science Works!

The Local Systemic Change Initiative of the Minneapolis Public Schools

1998 Progress Report to the National Science Foundation

Part I: Annual Overview

This Local Systemic Change (LSC) project in Minneapolis, called Science Works!, 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 need to implement the district's new inquiry- and standards-based science curricula 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.

Science Works!, has five strategic goals:

  • Adopt a standards-based, hands-on science program and make it available to all Minneapolis students.
  • Give teachers the materials they need to teach hands-on science.
  • Give teachers the knowledge and skills they need to teach hands-on science.
  • Use achievement tests that measure student understanding of science.
  • Link community science resources with the schools so that all teachers and students can use them.

The services of the district's two science centers, which traditionally distributed and refurbished hands-on science instructional materials for elementary schools, are being expanded to include coordination of science professional development. The centers are serving five regional clusters of schools, each governed by a committee that sets the direction and budget for instructional materials and services for that region. Principals and leadership teachers at the school sites are determining the scope of services offered by the centers as part of a "buy-in" plan that is being implemented over the five-year term of the project. This governance plan is considered to be crucial to the sustainability of the science centers over the long term, and thus to the institutionalization of the LSC reforms in Minneapolis schools.

During most of this reporting period, the Minneapolis LSC management team focused its efforts on the first cadre of 16 "science focus schools," where the entire teaching staff committed to intensive (100 hours) science professional development over two years. There will be four cadres of focus schools over the term of the grant, until all 66 elementary schools have participated. Focus schools receive the new science instructional materials and the services of a regional science liaison that helps coordinate on-site professional development and facilitates the training of three or more science leadership teachers at each site. The leadership teachers continue as instructional leaders at the schools after they are no longer focus schools and the regional science liaisons increase their efforts at 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 professional development leadership and coordination activities.

The district completed an elementary school curriculum adoption that includes a combination of science kits with representation from FOSS, STC, Insights and units developed by Minneapolis Public Schools teachers. A total of 900 new kits were purchased and placed in schools since the grant project began. A preliminary middle school curriculum adoption was completed in April 1998. The district is recommending that schools choose one of two integrated curricula: Science Plus and Science Interactions. The Event-Based Science series from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland also was recommended for purchase. In addition, MPS middle school teachers are involved in national field testing of middle school FOSS and STC curricula.

The LSC project supported staff development in six areas: leadership, curriculum, science content, instruction, assessment, and equity in the science classroom. The primary K-6 focus was on explorations of the newly adopted science units and the primary middle school focus was on providing special assistance for new middle school science teachers and developing a leadership team. An important foundation was laid for meeting the equity objectives of the project by the high level of teacher and principal participation in the Language of Poverty workshop. Task forces of elementary and middle school science leadership teachers developed science "performance packages" for students in grades 3,4,5,7 and 8 to meet the requirements of the Minnesota graduation standards. The district also piloted the Stanford 9 achievement test and field-tested the New Standards project elementary and middle school science assessments. Sixty-two percent of current elementary school teachers and 83 percent of current middle school teachers have participated in some type of LSC professional development since the project began.

The district adopted grade level expectations for student learning in science that are driving the use of newly adopted elementary and middle school standards-based science curricula. A middle school platform was adopted that will provide a supportive context for the middle school science education reform objectives of the LSC. However, several new policies adopted by the district’s leadership are affecting the amount of time teachers can devote to professional development during the school day. In response, the project staff are devising new strategies to increase the time teachers devote to science professional development after school and on Saturdays. In addition, the poor performance of MPS students on Minnesota basic skills tests in reading and math resulted in an even stronger emphasis on reading skills development and related staff development. Consequently, teachers are feeling pressured by competing requirements for professional development in reading and science.

Specific objectives to be addressed in the coming year include:

  • Increasing professional development opportunities for the regional science center liaisons.
  • Ensuring that elementary teachers are actually using the science kits in their classrooms and receiving adequate training in science content.
  • Gaining budget support for completing the middle school science adoption.
  • Clarifying the roles of leadership teachers at the science focus schools.
  • Developing new strategies for finding professional development time for teachers.
  • Clarifying the staff development objectives for principals.
  • Increasing the level and scope of community participation in the project.