Annual Report Overviews
Delaware Annual Overview
November 15, 1999
The Delaware (6-12) Exemplary Mathematics Implementation (DEMCI) project represents a collaboration between the University of Delaware, the Delaware Department of Education, seventeen of Delawares nineteen public school districts, and one charter school. The goal of the initiative is to dramatically improve the teaching of middle and high school mathematics throughout the state by providing more than 150 hours of professional development for 70% of Delawares teachers of secondary (6-12) mathematics. DEMCI professional development has the related foci of content, pedagogy and curricular knowledge and is investing heavily in the belief that the introduction of exemplary curricula will support complementary gains in both teacher knowledge and student achievement. We expect that as teachers reflect on the use of these new materials, they will assess their own assumptions about best practice. None of this will be possible, however, without DEMCIs provision of extensive professional development and the further creation and refinement of an infrastructure that supports reflection and mentoring.
Building upon several initiatives in progress in Delaware, we have made, we believe, rather rapid progress since NSF funding became effective on July 1 of this year. First, we provided approximately 6,700 hours of professional development at 8 Professional Development Institutes for 184 teachers from 14 school districts and one charter school. Summer institutes for teachers new to the exemplary curricula were two weeks long (8 days x 6 hours = 48 hours) while those for teachers with previous training in the exemplary curricula were one week (24 hours) long. Reaction from participants to these institutes was generally quite positive with teachers from the middle grades (grades 5-8) reporting slightly higher levels of satisfaction than those from participating high schools. (For example, to the prompt, the ideas and activities presented were relevant to my work, the middle grades teachers had a mean response of 4.33 out of 5 while the high school responses to this same prompt had a mean of 3.87.)
Our external evaluator observed three half-day sessions from the summer PDIs and found the sessions on content and curricula to be effective with less adequate coverage of inquiry-based pedagogy: There seemed to be an excellent match between the needs of the teachers and the content explored during the professional development sessions based on the observations by the lead evaluator. . . . Issues of pedagogy were not the primary focus for any [of the observed] sessions explicitly, but were to be integrated implicitly in each session. In fact, a certain dichotomy between content knowledge and curricular knowledge was also experienced in certain instances as in some sessions, the connection between the mathematical concepts and the curricular materials was apparent while in others it was only implied. These two issues, a) embedding pedagogical content knowledge more effectively, and b) forging a stronger and more apparent link between content and curricular knowledge represent a challenge for the DEMCI leadership in planning future professional development.
While the Professional Development Institutes conducted in July and August of 1999 reached almost half of Delawares middle and high school mathematics teachers, an extremely auspicious beginning in our estimate, the promise of this training will be fully realized only if effective in-school support is provided during the academic year itself. DEMCI has been able to sponsor five full-time Secondary Mathematics Specialists to provide both training and academic-year support. Drawn from the mathematics faculties of participating school districts, these teachers on special assignment are the primary link with DEMCI participants during the academic year. Their roles include providing additional on site training in the exemplary curricula, mentoring with regard to actual classroom practice, and facilitating the growth of site-based teams. In addition to the five specialists directly supported by DEMCI funds, four of DEMCI's larger districts have hired teacher-to-teacher cadre members to perform essentially the same roles as the DEMCI Secondary Mathematics Specialists's. The cadre teachers regularly attend DEMCI specialist meetings and collaborate with the SMS's assigned to their districts. Four of the five cadre teachers served as instructors in DEMCI's 1999 Summer Institute. DEMCI currently provides professional development for SMS's and cadre teachers as a group, thereby playing a coordinating role for mathematics professional development statewide. Cadre teachers will play a central role in the transition to district level professional development when DEMCI funding is no longer available.
In the two-and one-half months since the beginning of school, the extended DEMCI specialists team has provided a total of 2,060 hours of on-site mentoring to teachers enrolled in the summer PDIs as well as colleagues who did not attend training this past summer. Altogether, 486 middle and high school teachers have received either summer training, in-year mentoring, or both. The total number of hours of DEMCI professional development totaled approximately 8,840 from July 1 through November 12, 1999 for a mean of nearly 18 hours for each of the nearly 500 participating teachers. Of these teacher participants, 83 took part in 48 or more hours of DEMCI professional development since July 1, 1999, 174 experienced 24 or more hours of professional development, and 199 totaled 12 or more hours. An additional 125 teachers have taken part in between 6 and 12 hours of training while the remainder have experienced only an introduction to the DEMCI initiative. This does, however, signal a possible expansion of the Delaware (6-12) Exemplary Mathematics Curriculum Implementation project from the 300 teachers targeted in the original LSC proposal submitted in August, 1998.
One primary factor would seem to have contributed to this expansion of the DEMCI participant pool. In September, results of the mathematics component of the Delaware Student Testing Program were released with performance levels attached for the first time this year. The results at grades 3 and 5 were encouraging (64% of third graders and 55% of fifth grades met or exceeded the standards in mathematics) but quite troubling at grades 8 and 10. Fully 64% of Delawares eighth graders and 70% of tenth graders were below or well-below the standards based upon the April 1999 administration of the DSTP. Although these scores are not yet referenced for promotion or graduation, these consequences are scheduled to be applied with the spring 2000 testing. While there was some variation between school districts, there were no DEMCI districts in which more than 50% of the eighth or tenth graders met or exceeded the standards. This is of obvious concern to both secondary teachers and administrators. Since September, the DEMCI leadership has met with administrative teams, usually principals and curriculum supervisors, in more than half of the seventeen DEMCI districts. In most cases, strategies for significant in-year professional development have been negotiated in these meetings. There is strong evidence that the pace of professional development will accelerate into the spring of 2000 as still more schools make decisions about exemplary materials adoption. No doubt, additional resources will need to be identified in the near term in order to address this expanded mission.