Annual Report Overviews
Renewing Mathematics Teaching through Curriculum
September 1, 1997 - August 31, 1998
PI Annual Progress Report
Part I. Annual Overview
Renewing Mathematics Teaching through Curriculum (RMTC) is a collaborative of 19 high schools and their feeder middle schools in southwestern Michigan who are using the Core-Plus Mathematics Project (CPMP) curriculum in their quest to improve mathematics teaching so that all students can develop mathematical power. RMTC was developed in response to the need of these schools to expand their mathematics reform efforts beyond the core of mathematics teachers who had been involved in intense professional development through piloting and field-testing the Core-Plus Mathematics Project curriculum to all mathematics teachers in collaborative schools.
RMTC provides three years of intensive professional development for all high school mathematics teachers as well as representative middle school and special education teachers in the schools that make up the collaborative. Each summer, week-long workshops are offered for the year-long courses of the curriculum. In 1997, workshops were offered for Courses 1 and 2. In 1998 workshops were offered for the first three courses of the curriculum. Next summer, workshops are scheduled for Courses 3 and 4. During the school year, teachers are supported and challenged by regional and school-based sessions designed to continuously improve the mathematics learning that takes place in their classrooms. RMTC activities focus on using the CPMP curriculum to increase teachers knowledge of mathematics content, instructional practices, and student learning while providing flexibility to meet the needs of individual teachers and schools. The fourth year of the project will focus on additional evaluation of the project and dissemination of the knowledge gained from the project to other schools that are facing the challenge of implementing an innovative mathematics curriculum.
Five key elements of the RMTC project continue to be: 1) RMTC is integrally connected with the exemplary curriculum that the collaborative teachers will use in their classrooms; 2) the approach RMTC takes to professional development is consistent with the approach the exemplary curricula take to student learning; 3) RMTC acknowledges that systemic change in mathematics education requires the commitment and understanding of the communities beyond the mathematics department and school; 4) RMTC takes advantage of the unique strengths the individual schools bring to the collaborative to help in overcoming each others weaknesses; and 5) the formation of RMTC was initiated by teachers and continues to be guided by both teachers and administrators in the collaborative schools.
In the first year and a half of the project, the major accomplishments were having large numbers of teachers from the collaborative schools become cognizant of the demands of a reform curriculum through their involvement in professional development and providing leadership opportunities for a wide variety of teachers within the collaborative. Our communication system has been fine-tuned and strong links are being formed between schools within the collaborative. We continue our efforts to maintain a long-range outlook with a focus on long-term systemic change while also generating immediate benefits for todays students.
The results of the second round of summer workshops have cemented our view that successful professional development must be conducted in the same way we want the teachers to conduct their classrooms. Last summer we developed a strategy for pairing teachers who have leadership potential with proven leaders to facilitate week-long workshops. Next summer we hope to reap the benefits by having a well-qualified pool of teachers available to lead summer workshops. This is essential as it takes experienced facilitators to create an environment in which the participants are willing to take risks, learn from each other, and challenge their own and each others ideas. These facilitators must integrate content, pedagogy, and assessment in a way that contributes toward the participants development of mathematical and pedagogical power. RMTC workshop facilitators continue to be classroom teachers who are experienced in teaching the curriculum with high school students and can pepper the discussions with antidotes about what students were able to do with the material. This has been especially relevant during lessons which challenge the participants and lead them to think that the material is too difficult for their students.
Part II. Progress Report Narrative
1997-98 has been an extremely busy year for the RMTC project with changes in the collaborative schools, the addition of a research component around intern teaching, and, at the end of the year, the expansion of the project to include all middle school teachers in eight participating schools. A significant change in the collaborative was the replacement of the Kalamazoo Public School District (KPS). As reported last year, KPS experienced a significant administrative change at the time of the funding of RMTC, making it unclear whether they would be able to participate in the project. After over a year of indecision, the superintendent announced that the district would no longer be using the Core-Plus Mathematics Project curriculum, thus removing KPS from the RMTC collaborative. The project made a decision to look for replacement schools that were at approximately the same place in implementation of the curriculum, even if it meant expanding our geographical base. As a result of inquiries to school districts in the West Michigan area and evaluation of their needs, we added six additional schools from five districts. This expanded the collaborative significantly both geographically and administratively. Along with replacing the teachers lost through the withdrawal of KPS, the new schools brought a new set of obstacles and strengths. Even though many of them joined the collaborative at the end of the 1997-98 school year, they have already become well-integrated into the collaborative and have participated fully in available professional development opportunities. Although administratively it felt like we were starting over, we feel that the collaborative is stronger for their participation.
During the 1997-98 school year, the RMTC Coordinating Council Representatives (one person from each school) were responsible for organizing and facilitating regular school and regional meetings. These meetings were designed to meet the ongoing needs of all teachers in collaborative schools. Each teacher in the collaborative had an opportunity to participate in several different professional development options, such as weekly luncheon meetings, meetings of several schools via distance learning technology, after school and evening workshops, and the RMTC Whole-Collaborative Conference. The Coordinating Council meet four times during the year to facilitate communication between the project and the schools as well as to provide support to the emerging leaders of the project as they planned these activities. These sessions built on the foundation laid by the summer workshops and contributed to the development of the RMTC collaborative as a community of learners.
Six RMTC-sponsored summer workshops were held in 1998, one focusing on CPMP Course 1, three on CPMP Course 2, and two on CPMP Course 3. The workshop leaders for two of these workshops were funded by sources outside the collaborative. Also, RMTC was able to combine with the Core-Plus Mathematics Project to send additional RMTC participants to a fourth Course 2 workshop. One of the strengths of RMTC has been the ability of the project to combine with other reform efforts to meet the needs of collaborative teachers in the best ways possible. The following table lists the number of RMTC teachers that participated in these workshops:
*Includes six preservice teachers who will be interning with RMTC teachers during the 97-98 school year. Depending on their final employment, these teachers may or may not become full RMTC participants.
#Seven teachers attended a Core-Plus Mathematics Project-sponsored workshop under the auspices of RMTC.
**Thirty-six teachers attended more than one workshop, thus a total of 109 different people participated in summer workshops.
As can be seen in the evaluation report, the workshops were considered a success by both the participants and outside observers. The workshops provided the participants with opportunities to expand their content, pedagogical, and assessment knowledge. They also provided a support structure for teachers who were apprehensive about moving to an innovative curriculum. The participants shared a common experience that provided them with a foundation for relationships that allow them to contact each other during the school year when they have questions or concerns. The fact that the workshop leaders were classroom teachers who had extensive experience in teaching the curriculum gave the participants first-hand information about what they could expect in a real classroom with "typical" students. We made a special effort this year to build in time and opportunities for the participants to reflect on their learning, setting an example for how they could reflect on their teaching during the school year. Although the level of reflection was still not as high as we had hoped, we did see some progress.
At the end of the 1998 summer, 151 teachers had participated in RMTC activities for a total of 13,034 hours of professional development. Even though this average of 86 hours per person includes the new schools, it is clear the RMTC teachers are on target for achieving their 130 hours of participation by the end of the project.
RMTC continues to appreciate the importance of strong communication with all the stakeholders of reform. The East Region of RMTC has been active in cultivating relationships with area business and industries. All the collaborative schools have been involved with parent communications. One of the benefits of the collaborative has been the sharing of ideas for involving parents in the mathematics education of their children. Now that we have arrived at a stable list of RMTC collaborative schools, the RMTC brochure has been modified and is once again available as an outreach tool to share with parents and community members. As we look towards the next year of RMTC, one of the goals is to develop a collaborative-wide strategy for effective public relations.
Changes/Update on Possible Change
There have been several changes over the past year that NSF is already aware of: the LTRE and RMTCm supplements, the addition of Kate Kline as Co-PI, and the replacement of Kalamazoo Public Schools with Berrien Springs High School, Colon High School, Jackson Northwest High School, Parchment High School, and Traverse City Central and West High Schools.