Annual Report Overviews
(MS)2 Annual Overview
New Visions for Public Schools
The Middle-School Math-Standards Project, (MS)2, is a local systemic change teacher-enhancement project of New Visions for Public Schools in collaboration with the New York City Board of Education, the City College of New York and the Urban Systemic Initiative (USI). (MS)2 supports systemic reform of mathematics teaching, learning, and performance assessment in 32 middle schools, in conjunction with the New York City Board of Education*s adoption of the New Standards in mathematics. The overarching goal of the (MS)2 project is to change the ways New York City teachers teach mathematics, in order to significantly strengthen what and how middle school students learn mathematics.
Four of New York City's most disadvantaged community school districts participate in (MS)2 -- CSD #5 in Central Harlem, CSD #9 in the South Bronx, CSD #13 in Bedford Stuyvesant, and CSD #19 in East New York. An important focus for the (MS)2 project is teachers* collaborative learning, and the centerpiece of the project is the generation and support of biweekly, school-based mathematics study groups, led by specially trained teacher leaders. All teachers receive stipends and/or release time for their participation in the study groups.
(MS)2 teacher leaders are prepared and consistently supported through on-going professional development offered during the annual Summer Institute and monthly teacher leader seminars held during the school year. Four content strands are covered during each professional development session: mathematics content, mathematics pedagogy, mathematics standards and leadership. Math equity is integrated throughout each strand. Teacher leaders receive graduate credit in mathematics and mathematics education or a stipend as incentives for participating in the professional development sessions. With access to electronic communication, teacher leaders also share information and ideas across study groups on-line using a teacher leader forum.
The mathematics study groups concentrate on three areas: mathematics content, implementation of exemplary mathematics curricula, and student work. The work of each study group is reinforced by district level coordinators who maintain consistency across the study groups, and by visiting specialists with expertise in mathematics, curricula, and teaching strategies.
The first annual five-day (MS)2 Summer Institute was held this past August at City College. Thirty-eight teachers and three district level staff representing 21 middle schools attended the Summer Institute. Teacher surveys and the evaluation prepared by the program evaluator indicate that the Summer Institute was effective in modeling exemplary pedagogy, creating an atmosphere for teacher sharing, and preparing teachers for their roles as teacher leaders. Teacher leaders reported on the benefits of the Summer Institute which include: mathematics content; mathematics pedagogy; activities on assessment; teacher sharing; leadership activities and the articles for supplemental reading including excerpts from Standards 2000. According to the (MS)2 program evaluator:
The design and implementation of the professional development activities in the summer institute in August 1999 was extremely effective in providing activities that engaged participants as mathematics learners, as mathematics teachers, and as teacher leaders (Moore, 1999, p8).Two monthly teacher leader seminars have been held at City College. Forty-four teachers are registered in the monthly teacher leader seminars. During the monthly seminars, the content strands begun in the Summer Institute are developed further. At each session teacher leaders share their experiences, across schools and other districts, with starting study groups and working with colleagues in their schools.
Since September, forty-seven mathematics study groups have started in (MS)2 middle schools. Some schools have established than one mathematics study group to accommodate the large number of teachers in the school building, scheduling needs, or a particular grade level. Depending on the school and the study group, sessions may be scheduled during the school day, before or after school hours, or on Saturdays. On any given day, teachers are probably meeting in (MS)2 study groups in some part of the city.
Mathematics specialists have been assigned to 22 study groups. Assignments are based on the needs of the study group outlined by the teacher leaders, special expertise of the mathematics specialist, and scheduling feasibility. Mathematics specialists with expertise in the instructional materials are assigned to study groups whose teachers have the least experience of working with exemplary curricula. Throughout the school year, the mathematics specialists conduct five visits to each study group. The teacher leaders have welcomed the mathematics specialists and have begun to develop positive working relationships.
An on-line teacher leader forum has been established for teacher leaders to communicate with each other and with the instructor of the monthly seminar. On-line participation is a requirement for the monthly seminar course. Teacher communication on-line has focused on curriculum implementation issues and instructional strategies. The program is assisting additional teachers with obtaining e-mail addresses so as many teacher leaders as possible can take advantage of the new technology.
The program has made initial efforts to engage principals in the program. These efforts include presentations at principal meetings by program staff and/or district staff, curriculum workshops by publishers, a welcome letter to principals outlining program, program guidelines on how principals can play a supportive role, and direct communication about the program by program staff, district staff and/or teacher leaders.