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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Overview

submitter: Mathematics: Applications and Reasoning Skills (MARS)
published: 02/18/1999
posted to site: 02/18/1999

Mathematics: Application and Reasoning Skills (MARS)
University of Maryland and the Baltimore City Public School System

Part One: Annual Overview

MARS addresses systemic reform in the elementary mathematics program of the Baltimore City Public School System (BCPSS) impacting administrative policy discussions, instructional support, professional development, materials selection, instructional supervision, curriculum, and community involvement. There are 121 elementary schools in BCPSS, staffed by approximately 2500 teachers, of whom about 2000 teach elementary mathematics in any given academic year. BCPSS enrolls 107,416 students with 52,046 students in the kindergarten through fifth grade. The system is 86.4% African American, 12.1% White, .6% Asian or Pacific Islander, .5% Hispanic, and .4% Native American (87.9% minority); 75% of the students are eligible for free or reduced lunch, and less than 1% of the enrolled students have limited English proficiency.

Project Description and Accomplishments

During 1997-98, 51 elementary schools were involved in the MARS Project: 40 schools were in the second year of a two-year implementation model and had participated in a summer professional development in 1996 or 1997; 11 schools were in their first year of the project and were eligible for summer enhancement in 1998. Of the 51 schools, 25 were under mandate to file improvement plans for state approval and were under review by the state due to declining performance on the statewide performance assessment. In 1997-98, 11 schools joined the project and 3 schools left (one to begin Direct Instruction, one due to a new principals lack of interest, and one due to financial limitations that left insufficient funds for in-kind support) yielding a net increase of 8 schools over the 43 schools participating in 1996-97. In 1997-98, approximately 100 BCPSS schools implemented the new elementary mathematics curriculum guide, developed by the Project.

The Projects 1996-98 teacher enhancement model required two years for school-based implementation. Instructional Support Teachers (ISTs) are exceptional teachers who were released from a classroom assignment to provide on-site support to two participating schools. In the first year of project participation, a school was assigned an IST who came to the school every other week, coordinating grade-level mathematics planning meetings and working in classrooms with selected teachers. Further, each school could send up to three teachers to a graduate mathematics education course from the University of Maryland, under a tuition-waiver sponsored by the MARS Project. Additional teacher enhancement was provided through quarterly Saturday workshops and after-school mathematics mini-courses (each course providing 16 hours of contact for one continuing education unit). Then during the summer, all the mathematics teachers in the school were invited to participate in a 14-day, stipend-paid, summer professional development addressing mathematics content and pedagogy. The summer program included a 5-day summer school for children who were taught by the participating teachers. In the subsequent year, in addition to the grade-level planning meetings, the ISTs have provided on-site support as the enhanced teachers began implementation of new instructional strategies.

During 1997-98, 46 of the 51 schools received the intended level of on-site support; 4 schools were without support due to the long-term illness of one IST and the mid-year promotion of one IST to the rank of assistant principal. One school was not assigned an IST as the principal did not provide matching funds. Teachers from that school were permitted to attend Saturday workshops and mini-courses, however. Of the 60 teachers who enrolled in the fall, 48 completed the graduate mathematics education course. Between June 22 and July 10, 1998, 245 teachers attended the summer in-service program. The mini-courses were attended by 34 teachers, while 105 teachers attended the Saturday workshops. As of August, 1998, 938 teachers have attended a MARS professional development session, with 147 teachers having over 100 hours of enhancement, 340 teachers attending between 75 and 99 hours of sessions, and 139 teachers logging from 51 to 74 hours of enhancement.

Project Challenges and Modifications

BCPSS has experienced significant administrative reorganization since the initial funding of the MARS Project. In an effort to consolidate staff development and financial support for curriculum materials, BCPSS will focus on reading and language arts in 1998-99 and on mathematics in 1999-2000. Accordingly, the MARS Project has renegotiated its work plan with NSF. In 1998-99, no additional schools will join the project, and no cross-school professional development will be sponsored. Thus, the mini-courses, the graduate mathematics education course, and the Saturday workshops will not be offered. The MARS Project will continue in the currently participating schools, relying on on-site staff development. During 1998-99, BCPSS will identify a commercial mathematics textbook series for system-wide adoption in 1999-2000, involving MARS Project personnel in the consideration process for materials. The implementation model will then shift to a one-year approach, initiated by a summer enhancement. During the summer of 1999, all elementary mathematics teachers in BCPSS are expected to attend a Project-developed mathematics teacher enhancement, with BCPSS providing stipend support for 5 days of the summer program.

During 1998-99, the MARS Project faces the challenge of maintaining mathematics reform efforts in participating schools and preparing for the upcoming massive summer enhancement, while BCPSS teachers and administrators are focusing on reading and language arts. The momentum that the Project has worked so hard to establish cannot be allowed to flounder. Further the Project faces the continuing challenge of identifying and professionally supporting the ISTs as they work with teachers who, for the interim, have inadequate instructional materials.