The Metropolitan-Nashville Area Local Systemic Change Project
Principal Investigators' Annual Progress Report
- ANNUAL OVERVIEW
Our vision is to provide every student with a hands-on, inquiry-based curriculum that includes important science concepts and processes, stimulates interest in science, develops critical thinking skills, and facilitates positive attitudes toward science so that every student can learn at the highest levels.
The Metropolitan-Nashville Area Local Systemic Change Project (MNA-LSC) began in June of 1996. The Project includes four school districts (Metro-Nashville Public Schools, and the Rutherford, Sumner and Williamson County Schools), in partnership with the Center for Research and Policy Center (RPC) on Basic Skills at Tennessee State University (TSU). These partners continue to implement their NSF Project systemic reform plan to improve the science instruction of 2,000 teachers for 63,429 students in grades K-5.
The plan and the goals of the Project are to convert from a didactic (text-focused) approach to a hands-on, inquiry-based approach. The "new" curriculum includes nationally validated modular curriculum units including Science and Technology for Children (STC), INSIGHTS, and Full Option Science System (FOSS) units. The districts and TSU are collaborating to sustain reform by creating "site-based and cross-district" learning communities that include "best practices" in teacher enhancement, materials management, assessment, community involvement and administrative support.
- successfully sustained the achievements of the first year (providing district leadership and Project leadership infrastructure, completing 2,978 module trainings in the initial 91 Project schools, obtaining very positive evaluations of LSC professional development by peer teachers, teacher leaders, principals and other administrators), while meeting the challenges of scaling-up during the second year (data based on the last PI report concerning module training conducted through August 31, l997).
- completed a total of 5,013 two-day module trainings for K-5 teachers in the 99 Project schools, since the Project began. This includes 2,696 in Year I (first 19 months of the Project June 1996-December 1997), 1,462 in Year II (1998) of the Project, and 855 module trainings completed January through October of 1999, during Year III of the Project. This made a total of (K-5) 2,348 teachers trained on module A, 1,458 on module B, 922 on module C, and 285 on module D in the 99 Project schools through October 1999 (into Year III of the Project). The number of Project schools increased from 91 to 100 due to the addition of 5th and 6th grade classes to nine more schools in the Metro-Nashville district during 1998-99. In 1999-2000, Project schools number 99 due to additional reconfigurations (see Appendix C.)
- completed a total of 8,652 module trainings for teachers in a total of 137 elementary schools (Metro 78, Rutherford 21, Sumner 21, and Williamson 17) and 45 middle schools (Metro 28, Rutherford 2, Sumner 10 and Williamson 5) in the four Project districts from June 1996-October 1999. One new elementary and one new middle school opened in Metro and two elementary schools closed (due to reconfigurations), one elementary and one middle school opened and one elementary and one middle school closed in Sumner, and two new elementary schools opened in Williamson since 1998. For the purpose of this report, elementary schools have grades K-5 and middle schools have grades 6-8, except for Metro-Nashville schools. They have been reconfigured for the 1999-2000 school year by ending the desegregation requirement. The elementary configuration is now K-4 and the middle school is 5-8 under the new plan. The total module trainings for Project Year III (through October 1999) in these schools included 3,888 for module A, 2,554 for module B, 1,637 for module C, and 573 in module D.
- the NSF Project funds only cover providing teacher enhancement for all K-5 project school teachers in Metro-Nashville, two replication schools each in Rutherford and Williamson County School districts and three schools in Sumner County Schools. NSF funds are used also to train school facilitators in all 137 elementary schools in the four districts. There were a total of 3,072 K-6 teachers in the four school districts in 1998 and 3,452 K-6 teachers in the 1999-2000 school year. The three replication school districts (Rutherford, Sumner, and Williamson) have used local funds to provide training and materials to expand the reform district-wide, beyond their combined seven Project-funded schools to all 59 of their elementary schools and 17 middle schools with sixth grade teachers. Metro schools also supplemented Project funds with local funds, to support training for sixth grade teachers in 1998 and 1999. [See Appendix B.]
- maintained an active lead teacher group, which included 224 School Facilitators (SFs) and 16 Science Resource Teachers (SRTs) in 1998 and 220 SFs and 34 SRTs in 1999-2000. The SFs provide local school site leadership for the reform.
- along with teacher enhancement, teachers are receiving all of the necessary science kits and materials from the TSU Teacher Enhancement and Materials Management (TEMM) Center. In the 1996-97 school year, the TEMM Center distributed 4,504 kits, and in 1998-99 school year, the Center distributed 7,633 kits. TSU has established an efficient delivery and support center, which integrates teacher enhancement, school support and materials management. In 1998-99, Metro was using non-consumable kit materials sharing to expand kit resources rapidly within the overall district budget and district Core Curriculum requirements. However, TSU has assisted Metro to return to providing a complete kit per teacher for the 1999-2000 year. Since the district has not been able to purchase all of the necessary kits for the teachers, TSU can provide kits to Metro this year through the TEMM Center consortium. PERG reported only 12 logged teacher complaints on TEMM Center kits by Spring 1997, and 18 in 1998. However, distribution of kits has nearly doubled.
- has continued to benefit from TSU's administrative and financial support through the Center of Excellence including in-kind support of the PIs salary, the TEMM Center space and operation, Project offices and professional development space, district/Project level communication, research and evaluation, preservice links, and chairing groups for the districts to help sustain the reform.
- provides smooth and regular communication between Project leadership and elementary education directors, the districts' NSF Project coordinators; they are expanding on their knowledge to begin to focus on issues and policies needed for sustainability.
- involved many principals in understanding the new curriculum, inquiry teaching and how to evaluate this in the classroom, as well as how to promote change in science education. The Project has continued to orient new principals with 17 attending a full day of orientation in the Fall of 1999.
- developed 33 school-wide sites where all teachers are progressing together in receiving training and implementing the new curriculum, while establishing learning communities based on the new ways of teaching and learning; based on the PERG report, structured collaboration was not common prior to the LSC Project.
- TIRs have completed templates for use in all LSC module training, through curriculum unit C, to maintain consistency and quality of peer teachers' professional development. TIRs currently are completing curriculum unit D templates.
- district elementary directors and Project staff meet monthly to plan, reflect on and evaluate Project implementation schedules, professional development, and policies.
B. New lessons learned during school year 1998-99
- Keeping up with the demand for training presents an increasing challenge. Over 700 teachers changing grade levels means repeating one to four modules of training for these teachers. The challenge is to find new ways for districts to decrease grade changes and to structure professional development appropriately for these teachers. Also, in 1999-2000, Metro-Nashville has had to slow down on purchasing kits, so the Project cannot train teachers as rapidly as it was because funds to purchase the kits are not available. Choices have to be made on training new teachers, training teachers who are ready for the C and the D kits, or training school-wide sites first, etc., in terms of pacing the availability of training in Metro Schools. To some extent all of the districts are facing the need to scale up material availability to keep up with need and demand for teacher training. More teachers want training faster than kits can be purchased.
- Continuing in-depth professional development for principals and school facilitators to develop their awareness about issues in sustaining the implementation for inquiry-based science. New facilitators and principals' enhancement require intensive training and repeating a great deal of what the Project has covered. The challenge is continuing to provide stimulating opportunities for all of the facilitators.
- Moving to more school-based training for follow-up to module sessions. The TIRs have been visiting schools and providing technical assistance since the beginning of the Project, and more time is allocated for this in 1999-2000. However, the intensity of other types of professional development is needed to allow teachers to work together on improving their own individual understanding of science content and inquiry-based teaching and addressing the needs of their individual classrooms. The Project is offering all school facilitators a chance to join a study group this year and is conducting enhancement in study groups format as a part of the facilitators' release time during the school year. This is in addition to their release time for module training in three districts and a part of the 3-5 days of release time in Metro schools. Additionally, each TIR is forming an in-school study group. Study groups is the topic for TIR professional development this year.
- Freeing up the school facilitator to support teachers in module implementation and offering school-based leadership. In general, it will continue to be difficult to meet the need for site-based school facilitators to have time away from their own classrooms to provide much peer teacher support. The Project will look for creative ways to support the principals and school facilitators in ways to help sustain change through on-site support. The districts could adopt the 5 days of release time each year (provided to the NSF Project) for the school facilitators to work with staff, especially new teachers.
- Influencing district context of professional development. Continuing to develop district plans for intense and significant professional development on content and teaching/learning strategies is a challenge. Teachers (and administrators) are used to the workshop format and there are many topical and competing demands for teacher training. Districts will need to embrace new structures such as the TIR and make strategic plans to offer continuous development and use of study groups. Peer coaching will have to expand.
- Curriculum unit management and use. The scale-up process continues to present challenges for the university and the districts. The university has quadrupled space for the Teacher Enhancement and Materials Management (TEMM) Center and has provided 5 new offices for the TIRs. The districts will need to make permanent TIR commitments this year to keep the TEMM Center staffed with professional development expertise after the Project ends. Continuing to scale up districts' purchasing of kits so that all teachers can be trained on the kits during the last 18 months of the Project is a priority. Module training will need to be tailored by the districts as the number of teachers has dramatically changed over the last three years. Also, analysis of training data and needs by school must be used for planning by principals, elementary directors, and the Project. However, district leadership is needed.
- Content knowledge and authentic assessment. The Project continues to seek ways to increase the science content knowledge of a large number of teachers and to deepen their understanding of inquiry and assessment strategies that support this type of learning.
- Building infrastructure. Perhaps the most difficult challenge is collaborating with the districts to maintain a policy-level commitment to systemic reform. Each district is distinct in its leadership and needs for understanding, especially in the areas of leadership development and curriculum alignment. However, they share common pressures, such as financial and recruitment needs for high caliber teachers and administrators. Strategic planning involving community and business groups is needed to accomplish reform, and the Project can support this to some extent. Building parent support is an area districts will have to focus on more specifically. The districts' commitments to staff and funding materials through the consortium based TEMM Center is crucial to the continuing infrastructure for reform begun in the districts through the NSF Project.