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Annual Report Overviews


RMTC Annual Overview

submitter: Renewing Mathematics Teaching Through Curriculum (RMTC)
published: 12/02/1999
posted to site: 12/03/1999
Renewing Mathematics Teaching through Curriculum
September 1, 1998 - August 31, 1999

Renewing Mathematics Teaching through Curriculum (RMTC) is a collaborative of 19 high schools who are using the Core-Plus Mathematics Project (CPMP) curriculum and, as the result of a supplementary grant, 15 middle schools who are using the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) curriculum. These schools are using these exemplary curricula in their quest to improve mathematics teaching so that all students can develop mathematical power. RMTC provides intensive professional development for all high school and middle school mathematics teachers as well as special education teachers in the schools that make up the collaborative. Each summer week-long workshops are offered for specific grade levels of CMP and CPMP. 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.

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 other's 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.

The results of the third round of summer workshops have again confirmed our view that successful professional development must be conducted in the same way we want the teachers to conduct their classrooms. Last summer's strategy for pairing teachers who have leadership potential with proven leaders to facilitate week-long workshops provided additional teacher leaders for this year's 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 other's 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 middle school or high school students, can provide concrete assistance to teachers, and speak knowledgeably about what students were able to do with the material. This has been especially relevant during lessons that mathematically challenge the participants and lead them to think that the material is too difficult for their students. Involving additional teachers as workshops facilitators will likely have some carry-over effect at the district or building level as these teachers become more confident in their ability to work with peers.

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.

A new offering this past summer was a two-day K-12 Algebra Strand workshop. The workshop focused on the treatment of rate of change in the CMP curriculum, with investigation and discussion of how this concept is developed in the NSF funded K-5 curriculum, Investigations in Number, Data, and Space, and extended in grades 9-12 in CPMP. Teachers who attended described the workshop as very helpful in broadening and deepening their understanding of the K-12 development of rate of change ideas in reform curricula.

During the 1998-99 school year, the RMTC Coordinating Council Representatives were responsible for organizing and facilitating regular school and regional meetings. These meetings were designed to address 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 involving neighboring districts of several schools via distance learning technology, after school and evening workshops, follow-up workshops and the RMTC Whole-Collaborative Conference. The Coordinating Council met 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 local 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. The Coordinating Council meetings this year included both middle school and high school teachers to encourage districts to think about mathematics reform across grade levels. This allowed participants to wrestle with challenges and solutions common to middle and high school reform.

One of the ongoing concerns for districts is communicating with their constituents. To address this issue, districts developed and then shared public outreach plans. Each district also created a document for parents containing responses to the most frequently asked questions about their mathematics program. Teachers reported that they found the activity extremely beneficial because it forced them to discuss difficult philosophical issues with their colleagues and attempt to arrive at a shared vision. Having a consistent reply to frequently asked parent questions should help reduce the incidence of mixed messages about the changes in the mathematics curriculum.

To date, two hundred thirty-two teachers have participated in at least some professional development through RMTC. These teachers have received a grand total of 22,666 hours of professional development since the beginning of the RMTC program. The 135 high school teachers in the project have received a total of 16,793 hours of PD since the project began in 1997, an average of 124.4 hours each. In the approximately one year that middle schools have been involved in the project, 97 teachers have received 5,873 hours of PD, an average of 60.5 hours each. The RMTC project is on its way to exceeding its goals for providing professional development-both the number of teachers and the number of hours per teacher.