Annual Report Overviews
SMART PROCESS Annual Overview
The SCIENCE, MATHEMATICS, AND RELATED TECHNOLOGY (SMART) PROCESS is a local systemic change initiative being implemented by Community School Districts 3 and 5 located on the Upper West Side and Harlem communities in New York City. This report reflects activities in the fourth year of the project, from September 1998 through August 1999. The SMART PROCESS calls for the systemic reconceptualization of the teaching and learning of science, mathematics, and technology in grades pre-kindergarten through six. The project targets 35 schools, 1470 teachers, and more than 21,500 students over a five-year period. Project collaborators include but are not limited to: The Workshop Center at City College, Education Development Corporation, Inc. (EDC); New York City Urban Systemic Initiative (USI); New York State Systemic Initiative (SSI); Colgate Palmolive; and a wide variety of MST-rich institutions.
The SMART PROCESS truly reflects its title, for we see systemic reform as an ongoing and evolving process rather than an event. The design for the project envisions dramatic changes in every aspect of the school culture and climate--teaching, learning, curriculum, assessment, professional development, staffing, parent involvement, and administration.
The SMART PROCESS is an outstanding success from all perspectives, and has had a deep and meaningful impact on all participants. More than 24,000 hours of professional development services have been provided to over 935 teachers and 90 administrators in the fourth year of the project. Thirty-five teacher facilitators have received between 60 and 90 hours of professional development to guide them in their roles as school-based change agents. Thirty-four schools have been phased into the project to date. Almost $4,500,000 in non-NSF federal, state, and local funds have been redirected in support of excellence in science education. We have expanded the space of our materials management center, and continue to purchase Insights modular instructional kits as well as science-based fiction and non-fiction libraries for all participating classes. During the summer of 1999 we began to phase in the earth science strand through the SMART Process summer institute. This institute focused on providing professional development for classroom teachers new to the district, the introduction of the Earth Science Strand (FOSS) for experienced Leaders, and the development of leadership strategies for both facilitators and experience Leaders. As we enter our fifth year it is critical to build both capacity and redundancy of leadership as we more towards the institutionalization of the SMART Process. Strong and productive liaisons with the New York USI and many MST-rich institutions are flourishing.
Our implementation of the SMART PROCESS reflects a constructivist rubric under which teachers and students are encouraged to discover knowledge and skills through inquiry-based experiential learning. We are witnessing the exciting transformation of our classrooms into active learning centers characterized by involved students working in cooperative groups as they seek and discover knowledge. Sustained, collegial, and comprehensive professional development is encouraging and helping staff to take risks and assume new roles as they move from a mostly didactic instructional methodology to one that promotes and rewards inquiry-based teaching and learning.
Although the above-presented data (which are elaborated upon in the second section of this report) provide impressive details concerning the extensive nature of the new services, the true impact of the project is much greater than the sum of its components. The SMART PROCESS continues to serve as a synergistic focal point for educational reform in the participating Districts. It continues to ignite the usually elusive spark to alter the perspective of administrators, school board members, teachers, support personnel, and parents that is critical for lasting impact. Title I is no longer seen as a remedial reading program but rather as a means to promote skills in science and other content areas. The instructional climate in project classrooms now reflects an awareness and acceptance that the role of teachers is no longer that of dispenser of facts, and that students are no longer merely receptors of information. Teaching and learning have become a dynamic duo New York State textbook funds continue to be directed to include the purchase of modular science kits and classroom libraries. The SMART PROCESS is now a subject at almost every Superintendent's cabinet meeting, principals conference, and resource staff meeting. Parents serving on school-based governance teams are asking when their schools will be phased into the project. Science reform is being actively integrated with other reform initiatives such as the Lucy Calkins Writing Project, the Chicago Math Project, and the Primary Language Record assessment program, dual language instruction, et al. The dissemination of the New York State Learning Standards for Science, Math and Technology and the soon to be published New York City Performance Standards in Science has placed the SMART Process center stage in our quest to help all students acquire the process skills to learn challenging content and meet state and city performance standards. The fact that the project has also focused on assessing students' process and conceptual understanding through the work that emanates from their science learning experiences, has not only aligned the district with the standards but was used as a model in their development. The SMART PROCESS has assumed center stage in our quest to help all students acquire challenging content.
As with any wide band initiative, the SMART PROCESS has brought a number of urgent issues to our attention. We recognize a need to fine-tune the content of our professional development services to meet the varying ability levels of our trainees and to engage teachers already experienced in the SMART Process to raise their level of classroom instruction to a higher level. Given the districts high priority on reading and mathematics instruction, we need to implement activities that explicitly identify the literacy connections and literacy standards that can be satisfied by the SMART Process science curriculum. A third critical issue involves the need to reform middle school science and mathematics instruction. We have received a four year local systemic reform grant to improve science teaching and learning at the middle school level. This grant, which began in September of 1999 will create a seamless connection between elementary and middle school science and make reform efforts truly systemic, as we impact on curriculum, instruction and assessment in science across the K-8 continuum. We are addressing this issue through the development of a single middle school local systemic reform application that will involve the following school districts in New York City: 3, 5, and 6, (all of which have been involved in the LSI or Teacher Enhancement Programs).