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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Overview

submitter: Metro Nashville Area Local Systemic Change Project
published: 12/17/1998
posted to site: 12/17/1998

The Metropolitan Nashville Area

Local Systemic Change Project

Principal Investigators’ Annual Progress Report

October 1998


Our vision is to provide every student with a hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum that includes important science concepts and processes, stimulates interest in science, develops critical thinking skills, and facilitates positive attitudes toward science so that every student can learn at the highest levels.

The Metropolitan Nashville Area Local Systemic Change Project (MNA-LSC) began June 1996. The Project includes four school districts (Metro Nashville Public Schools and Rutherford, Sumner, and Williamson County Schools), in partnership with Tennessee State University’s Center for Research and Policy Center (RPC) on Basic Skills. These partners continue to implement their NSF project systemic reform plan to improve the science instruction by 2000 teachers for 63,412 students in grades K-5.

The plan and the goals of the Project are to convert from a didactic (text-focused) approach to a hands-on, inquiry-based approach. The "new" curriculum includes nationally validated modular units including Science and Technology for Children (STC), INSIGHTS, and Full Option Science System (FOSS) units. The districts and TSU are collaborating to sustain reform by creating "site-based and cross-district" learning communities that include "best practices" in teacher enhancement, materials management, assessment, community involvement and administrative support.

  1. Accomplishments

Findings from the evaluation that was conducted by the Program Evaluation and Research Group (PERG) of Lesley College, during the second year of the Project indicate accomplishments such as the Project

  • successfully sustained the achievements of the first year (providing district leadership and Project leadership infrastructure, completing 2978 module trainings in 91 Project schools, obtaining very positive evaluations of LSC professional development by peer teachers, teacher leaders, principals and other administrators), while meeting the challenges of scaling-up during the second year (data based on last PI report concerning module training conducted through August 31, l997).
  • completed a total of 4,793 two-day module trainings for teachers in the 100 Project schools, since the Project began. This includes 2978 in Year I (first 19 months of the Project) and 1995, during Year II of the Project. This makes a total of 2,241 teachers trained on module A, 1,521 on module B, 902 on module C and 129 on module D in the 100 Project schools. The number of Project schools has increased from 91 to 100 due to the addition of some 5th and 6th grade classes to nine more schools in the Metro Nashville district.
  • completed a total of 7,174 module trainings for teachers in a total of 149 elementary schools with grades K-5 (Metro 91, Rutherford 21, Sumner 20, and Williamson 15) and 31 middle schools (Metro 15, Rutherford 3, Sumner 8 and Williamson 5) in the four Project districts. For the purpose of this report, elementary schools have grades K-5 and middle schools have grades 6-8, except for Metro--only schools with grades 7-8 are included the middle school figure. This includes 3,380 for module A, 2,283 for module B, 1,362 for module C, and 149 in module D. The NSF Project funds only cover enhancement for all K-5 teachers in Metro Nashville and two replication schools in Rutherford and Williamson County School districts and three schools in Sumner County Schools. NSF funds are also used to train school facilitators in all schools in the four districts. There are a total of 3,072 K-6 teachers in the four school districts. The three replication school districts (Rutherford, Sumner, and Williamson) have used local funds for training and materials to expand the reform district wide, beyond their combined seven Project funded schools to all 56 of their elementary schools and 16 middle schools with sixth grade teachers. Metro schools have also supplemented Project funds, with local funds, to support training for sixth grade teachers. The Project design was to train teachers K-6, however NSF funding was only available for K-5 teacher training.
  • maintained an active lead teacher group, which includes 224 School Facilitators (SFs) and 16 Science Resource Teachers (SRTs), who conduct module training for the Project. The SFs and SRTs have completed an additional 15 days of summer institute training (5 per year) and 15 days during the school year (5 per year), since the Project began in 1996. The SFs provide local school site leadership for the reform.
  • teachers are receiving all of the necessary science kits and materials from the TSU TEMM Center. In the first year of the Project, the TEMM Center distributed 4504 kits, and in the second year of the Project (including spring, l999) the center will distribute 7633 kits. TSU has established an efficient delivery and support center, which integrates teacher enhancement, school support and materials management. Less than 2% of teachers called this year regarding late delivery by the district or missing kits items. Most of these calls related to teachers moving schools, or about common materials that could be obtained at the school or teacher level. Some teacher concerns did not relate to TEMM Center management but to district transportation schedules, teachers’ failure to check kits until the last minute, and the non-sharable plan in Metro Nashville schools. Metro is using non -consumable kit materials sharing to expand kit resources rapidly within the overall district budget and district Core Curriculum requirements. PERG reported only twelve (12) logged teacher complaints on TEMM Center kits by spring 1997, and there were 18 in 1998. However, distribution of kits has nearly doubled.
  • has continued to benefit from TSU-RPC’s administrative and financial support including in-kind support of the PI’s salary, the Teacher Enhancement and Materials Management Center space and operation, Project offices and professional development space, district/Project level communication, research and evaluation, pre-service links, and chairing groups for the districts to help sustain the reform.
  • deepened many teachers’ understanding of inquiry teaching, demonstrating an understanding that hands-on activities provide experiences but that inquiry teaching goes beyond the materials.
  • has professional development evaluations and teacher interviews which reveal that teachers react very positively to the LSC training experience, citing the opportunity to learn new approaches to teaching, how to manage the kits, and to experience kit-based learning for themselves and through sharing with colleagues. Year II data indicates a trend toward deepening professional development through teachers modeling inquiry and demonstrating meaningful teaching strategies and constructing explanations from their own experiences based on the science concepts they have learned.
  • Co-PI’s and district administrators have continued to carry the vision for the Project and to design and develop training for Teachers-in-Residence (TIRs), School Facilitators (SFs), Science Resource Teachers (SRTs), and principals.
  • provides smooth and regular communication between Project leadership and elementary education directors, the districts’ NSF Project coordinators, and they are expanding on their knowledge to begin to focus on issues and policies needed for sustainability.
  • successfully expanded the role of scientists through an all day orientation meeting for scientists to learn about inquiry teaching and to volunteer for various kinds of Project activities, including attending module training.
  • continues to enhance the role of lead teachers, including TIRs, SFs, and SRTs through personal growth experiences and participation in needs assessment, professional development design and Project training and classroom evaluation and feedback.
  • involved many principals in understanding the new curriculum, inquiry teaching and how to evaluate this in the classroom as well as how to promote change in science education.
  • developed twenty school-wide sites where all teachers are progressing together in receiving training and implementing the new curriculum, while establishing learning communities based on the new ways of teaching and learning; based on the PERG report structured collaboration was not common prior to the LSC Project.
  • completed an in-depth study of the science reform process in two documentation schools.
  • TIRs have completed templates for use in all LSC module training, through module C, to maintain the consistency and quality of peer teachers’ professional development.
  • Principals and school facilitators meet annually during professional development (and during the school year) to work together on the reform.
  • District elementary directors and Project staff meet monthly to plan, reflect on and evaluate Project implementation schedules, professional development, and policies.

B. Lessons Learned

Many of the lessons learned relate to those recognized in the first year of the Project. However, it is clear that these lessons must be continuously reflected on and strategies developed to act on these. Some of the lessons learned include:

  • Implementation of a comprehensive, elementary hands-on, inquiry-based science program has created classroom, school, district and Project synergy focused on improving the teaching and learning of important scientific content and processes. As the Project progresses, the leadership has to design new and creative ways to keep all the teachers and administrators at the same rate of progress in terms of completing training and with policy understanding to sustain the vision and context of comprehensive reform.
  • The approach of using classroom teachers as professional developers and as collegial advisors at the school level has created enthusiasm and acceptance of the Project goals and objectives. It is necessary to focus intensely and continuously on the professional growth of teacher leaders on the five components of reform to prepare these leaders to understand and sustain the complexities of systemic change in classrooms, schools and districts. Their vision and training capabilities have to extend beyond module training.
  • Effective partnerships require the identification and development of key people in organizations, who are willing to see beyond isolated, self-interests and advocate for collaborative ventures that provide for the maximum use of resources focused on clearly defined and measurable goals. This focus has to be sustained for several years to bring this type of reform Project to scale. District resources have to be realigned because there are not enough new resources with competing demands and ingrained structures to support the elements of reform that must continue after Project funding. The MNA-LSC partners have recognized that providing a quality science education is a problem worth solving. The challenges of sustaining the infrastructures (TEMM Center, the University/Districts Partnership, etc.) to assure the solutions are sustained are currently being explored by the districts and Project personnel.
  • Scaling up a regional materials center presents huge challenges, and all partners have to develop a sensitivity and commitment to these for the reform to last. TSU has to depend on the districts to begin to conduct long-range budget planning to complete multi-year materials contracts in the Spring, so that kit delivery can be on time and complete. Also, the districts are beginning to face transportation issues related to the scale of the reform.
  • Involving scientists is not an easy task and will require more strategies to obtain the level and depth of commitment in a Project of this size. Having a full-time scientist on the Project would be beneficial.
  • In a Project of this size, a full-time person to work with principals is needed, especially for schools that are committed to school-wide reform. The involvement of principals, who are very knowledgeable and committed to the reform, is key to sustainability.
  • TIRs have to play a key role as the Project develops in areas other than module training (i.e. school facilitator training, school site technical assistance) to assure that the leadership in the schools is nurtured, and TIRs level of expertise in module training has to continue to grow in the areas of science content, assessment, teaching, pedagogy, adult learning, etc.