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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Overview

submitter: Teacher Enhancement for Student Success (TESS)
published: 04/02/1999
posted to site: 04/02/1999

This brief overview offers a description of the project in 1997-98 and summarizes the major accomplishments and lessons learned during the past year.

Project Description

The TESS project targets teacher professional development in the Fresno Unified School District (FUSD) at grade levels K-8. In response to an increasing need to improve student achievement in mathematics and science for the district’s 78,000 students, the FSI was formed in 1995-1996, utilizing grant awards from the National Science Foundation’s Local Systemic Change (LSC) and Urban Systemic Initiative (USI) programs. LSC project plans call for all K-8 teachers to receive at least 120 hours of professional development in science/mathematics over the five-year span of the grant. Through 1997-98, a three-year staging plan phased cadres of schools into mathematics and science professional development cycles. Each subject’s professional development plan is briefly summarized below.

Science. The core of the professional development program for science teachers is the adoption of a hands-on, inquiry-based approach to the teaching of science. Essential documents such as the 1996 National Science Standards, Project 2061 Benchmarks and the 1990 California Science Framework for Public Schools create the context for the professional development curriculum. Full implementation of the baseline curriculum for K-6 focuses on the Full Option Science System (FOSS), while the middle school focus is the enhancement of teacher competence in science content to support standards-based instruction. Elementary and middle schools focus annually on one content area at a time (earth, life, or physical science), involving the whole staff in the professional development plan.

Four different types of professional development were conducted in elementary science during 1997-1998. They included:

  • leadership training for lead teachers and staff developers
  • training in the use of curricular units
  • site-based coaching, and site-based pedagogy and content days
  • science content coursework delivered in a partnership with local universities and summer institutes

Mathematics. The mathematics professional development program emphasizes effective teacher implementation of hands-on, standards-based curriculum and instruction. Key documents of reform such as the NCTM Standards, Everybody Counts, the Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools create the context for reform of mathematics instruction. Adoption of standards-based mathematics curricula at both elementary (Creative Publication’s MathLand) and middle school levels (Glencoe’s Interactive Mathematics) promotes high quality instruction in mathematics.

Primary goals of the professional development program include training on standards-based curriculum and instruction using MathLand and Interactive Mathematics and increasing teachers’ content knowledge. Professional development sessions were facilitated by a variety of mathematics education experts, such as district mathematics staff, mathematics lead teachers, university faculty, and other mathematics education professionals. Professional development varied according to staging level. Offerings included:

  • Year 1—setting the vision, standards-based instruction, content, pedagogy, and assessment
  • Year 2—increasing teacher content and pedagogical knowledge, many options allowing teachers to customize their experiences
  • Year 3—intense exploration of student work, focus on MathLand, creation of a school-wide portfolio, leadership development

Additional Professional Development. Departments collaborated on several activities during the latter part of the 1997-98 school year. These included (a) Demonstration Summer School, (b) new teacher training sessions, and (c) the Science and Mathematics Pre-Service Partnership Program (SMP3). In coordination with California State University, Fresno, the SMP3 is designed to prepare potential FUSD teachers from under-represented groups to implement standards-based curriculum and instruction. The professional development plan for 1998-1999 includes a shift from the school staging plan toward site-based coaching.

Summary of Accomplishments/Lessons Learned

Since the beginning of the 1997-1998 school year, many aspects of the TESS project have met with success, while other areas are in need of fine-tuning. These highlights include:

  • An average of 95 hours of professional development for over 2,500 teachers has occurred, with over 90% of these session rated highly in post-inservice evaluations.
  • Based on the results of a large sample of randomly selected classes, overall lesson quality in mathematics and science is improving. A majority of K-8 teachers appear to be using the adopted text and implementing many key features of "best practices" instruction.
  • Teachers’ use of and comfort with alternative assessment in both mathematics and science appear to be increasing. High response rates for the Science Embedded Assessment System (SEAS) and positive comments from teachers indicate increased use of alternative assessment has been a positive change in pedagogical practices.

Those areas needing fine-tuning in the upcoming year include:

  • While overall results of classroom observations are positive there is still room for growth if we hope to impact student achievement system-wide.
  • Professional development specifically supporting the implementation of the LSC designated curriculum (FOSS/Insights for K-6 science, SEPUP for 7-8 science, MathLand for K-6 and the Interactive Mathematics Program for grades 6-9) must continue.
  • Two key areas that must be shored up if science and mathematics reform efforts are to continue beyond LSC funding include: (a) securing the buy-in of site administrators and (b) establishing consistency among reform efforts in mathematics, science, and literacy. The Demonstration Summer School model shows promise in meeting both of these needs.
  • An area of need also is the articulation of mathematics and of science content and pedagogy in grades 6-8.

Finally, the TESS project has offered high-quality of mathematics and science professional development which both teachers and project staff have judged to be effective and beneficial.

However, as TESS moved into the 1998-1999 school year, the vision of TESS and the FSI was re-emphasized. All professional development in 1998-1999 is now beginning by setting the context for professional development and answer the all-important question: "Why are we here?" Of course, the answer to the question is improving the mathematics and science achievement of all students, the fundamental goal of the entire FSI.