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Renewing Mathematics Teaching through Curriculum (RMTC) Annual Report Overview

published: 11/20/2000
posted to site: 11/20/2000
Renewing Mathematics Teaching through Curriculum (RMTC) is a collaborative of 19 high schools who are using the Core-Plus Mathe

Renewing Mathematics Teaching through Curriculum

Annual Report Overview ~ October 2000

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 in the schools that make up the collaborative. Each summer, week-long workshops have been 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 are: 1) RMTC is integrally connected with the exemplary curriculum that the collaborative teachers 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.

During the 1999-2000 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. In addition, the meetings were used as opportunities to provide professional development to the leaders.

In particular, a Reflecting on Teaching session was piloted with the Council to get their reactions on the potential for these sessions to provide teachers the opportunity to think more deliberately about their teaching. These sessions use videotaped instruction by an RMTC teacher as a site for deliberate reflection on and analysis of teaching. The Council provided helpful comments that informed the planning for the facilitation of these sessions with the wider collaborative. In addition, teachers were encouraged to submit proposals to engage in other types of reflecting on teaching activities with colleagues. This was an attempt to increase in-depth, school-based professional development and also to encourage more teachers to begin thinking harder about their teaching. Three groups of teachers piloted different plans and presented their results to the group. Although they all reported that their approach was beneficial, the use of videotape to focus discussion among colleagues came through as optimal. As expressed by one of the participants: "Perhaps one of the most significant revelations for myself was the difference in oral reflection with my partner and the videotaped reflection. During our post-conferencing without the videotape, our discussions seemed somewhat superficial and predictable. The videotaped reflection allowed us the opportunity to observe first hand what transpired throughout the delivery of the lesson. I believe our discussions were at a deeper level because I was able to observe exactly what we discussed." These results provided impetus for the focus of the 2000-2001 school year -- to formalize and institutionalize Reflecting on Teaching sessions in RMTC schools. It was decided that this would be the crux of our work with the RMTC Leadership Team and teachers in the wider collaborative.

Another result of the Council’s work was the third annual Whole-Collaborative Conference. This year, RMTC joined with InMath, an elementary mathematics Local Systemic Change Project, to offer sessions for K-12 teachers. The theme this past year was "Becoming a Reflective Practitioner" and we were honored to have Deborah Schifter, from the Education Development Center (EDC) in Massachusetts, give the keynote address. Other sessions offered at the conference dealt with such issues as state testing, forming and facilitating student groups, and accommodations for special needs students. In addition, a series of reflecting on teaching sessions were offered throughout the day.

The Sustainability Focus Group (SFG) was formed to assist RMTC schools in developing plans to sustain mathematics reform and continue to improve mathematics learning for students upon conclusion of the RMTC grant. This study group met five times over the academic year and presented the results of their work to the Coordinating Council. One of the major tasks they took upon themselves was to do a needs assessment of the entire collaborative. The needs assessment was organized around categories, such as vision, support, leadership, and communication, and was an attempt to discern how well RMTC districts were positioned for sustained reform efforts. This needs assessment helped us target certain areas, such as administrative leadership, and make plans for the 2000-2001 school year. Based upon their discussion of readings and results from the needs assessment, the SFG decided to recommend a major change in the structure of RMTC and to hold two major events in the Fall of 2000. The change in structure was to have Coordinating Council Representatives serve as contacts only with no formal council meetings and to form a smaller, more focused Leadership Team to carry the goals of RMTC beyond the NSF funding. The events were a conference for counselors and administrators to help them understand what is needed to sustain reform and a leadership retreat to prepare the Leadership Team for their role.

To support teachers who were interested in taking on leadership roles, nine RMTC teachers were sent to the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics Leadership Academy. Six teachers attended the first tier academy and an additional three teachers attended the second tier academy, as they had attended the first academy as an RMTC team at the beginning of the project. These teachers reported that the Academy was extremely worthwhile and provided them with a wealth of information to inform their thinking about school and teacher change. Several members have since become RMTC Leadership Team members and have contributed to the group by the experience and knowledge gained at the NCSM Academy. An additional five collaborative members attended the CPMP Leadership Institute for training specific to the CPMP curriculum.

A summer week-long workshop on the 8th grade materials from the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) was held as scheduled. In addition, the project was able to send RMTC participants to 6th and 7th grade CMP workshops in East Lansing and to workshops for all four courses of the Core-Plus Mathematics Project Curriculum. At this point in RMTC, workshops for all levels of both curricula have been offered through the project and it is more cost effective to send the participants who were not able to participate in those to workshops offered by the curriculum projects than to offer additional workshops ourselves.

At this point 258 teachers have been involved in the RMTC project and 234 are currently teaching mathematics in collaborative schools. With one year remaining in the project, 95 teachers have participated in 130 or more professional development hours, with 39 surpassing 200 hours. Another 28 are at the 100 or more mark, and 50 are between 60 and 99 hours.