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Broaden Educational Access to Mathematics in Maine Annual Overview

published: 12/21/2000
posted to site: 12/21/2000
Project Overview:

The BEAMM project (Broaden Educational Access to Mathematics in Maine) is a partnership among seven Maine school districts, the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance and the Maine Department of Education. The districts involved are: MSAD #34, Belfast, Morrill, Northport, Searsmont, Belmont and Swanville; MSAD #60, Berwick, No. Berwick, East Lebanon; MSAD #63, Eddington, E. Eddington and Holden; Union #90, Milford, Alton, Bradley and Greenbush; Union #96, Sullivan, Franklin, Gouldsboro, Steuben and Winter Harbor; Union #106, Calais, Alexander and Robbinston; and the City of Sanford. These districts encompass 37 elementary schools and a total of 501 teachers.

This project provides professional development programs and activities for all K-8 teachers of mathematics in these seven districts. The goals of the program are to increase understanding of standards-based mathematics and develop support structures for effective classroom implementation.

By the end of the 5-year project all teachers will:

  • Understand mathematical ideas and pedagogy for long-term student learning and achievement.
  • Create student-centered classrooms by using exemplary instruction, curriculum materials, and assessment practices.
  • Reflect on their practices and participate in collegial discussions about teaching and learning.
  • Work and communicate with K-8 teachers in the partner LEA's and beyond.

The strategies that are being used to reach these goals are:

  • Utilizing and building local capacity through professional development for all the LEA's teachers.
  • Developing teacher leaders within the LEA's and regionalize their inservice.
  • Bringing expertise from higher education to the initiative.
  • Providing curriculum programs as a way to implement exemplary mathematics education.
  • Institutionalizing assessment, reflection and improvement as a regular part of teacher activities.

In the first 6 months (May-October, 1999) of the BEAMM project, a number of activities have taken place. During the first weeks following the announcement of the grant award, Betsy Berry, Project Director, and Francis Eberle, Principal Investigator, and Executive Director of the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, visited each of the partner LEA sites to meet with administrators and staff about their needs and to communicate with them about the details of the project. An advisory board has been created that includes an administrator and classroom teacher from each LEA, all project Principal Investigators (PI's), all MMSA mathematics specialists and the project evaluators. This group will assist the director and the PI's to plan and implement the activities of the project. The board has met three times in May, August and October and will continue to meet four times a year.

Three LEAs, MSAD #60, Sanford, and Union #90 have selected and begun to implement standards based curriculum programs in their K-6 schools. Two ten-day summer institutes were held in June and July for the three districts beginning implementation of K-6 programs. The Everyday Mathematics program was presented to primary teachers from MSAD #60 and to intermediate teachers from Sanford. Union #90 teachers in grades K-5 received training in Investigations in Number, Data, and Space.

Three LEAs, MSAD #60, Union #90, and MSAD #34 have also selected Connected Mathematics as their 6-8 curriculum program. Two one-week summer institutes were held at or near two of these BEAMM sites to provide teacher training in CMP. Middle school teachers attended these workshops from other Maine districts in addition to BEAMM participants.

Four of the districts are implementing plans to select curriculum programs for implementation in their K-8 schools. Three curriculum showcases of different formats were held to assist districts as they make their selections. In Sanford, a one-day event was held that highlighted three elementary and three middle school programs. Teachers were then given the opportunity to review these materials for the month following the showcase. The staff was then polled to select the K-5 curriculum. In MSAD #63, a team of K-6 teachers attended a two-day showcase. Classroom teachers are now piloting activities and units from three curriculum programs during the 1999-2000 school year.

In Union #96, the showcase was similar, but four days were spent exploring the programs. BEAMM teachers from MSAD #34, MSAD #63 and Union #106 have also attended other one-week professional development programs featuring standards-based curriculum programs that their districts will then consider adopting.

Leadership teams at each LEA have been created and these teams have planned in-service professional development plans for the 1999-2000 school year which have been submitted to the project director. These plans include activities providing follow-up to the summer programs, exploring assessment tools and strategies, continuing to analyze and consider curriculum programs, and reflecting on classroom instruction. (See section 3. Project Training/Development for more details.)

Communication within the BEAMM community and in the wider educational community is being addressed. A web page has been created and added to the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliances website featuring the BEAMM initiative and its activities. A newsletter has been designed and distributed to all BEAMM sites and will be published five times a year throughout the duration of the initiative. The project director presented at the annual conference of the Association of Teachers of Mathematics in Maine and submitted an article to its newsletter.

November 2000 update -

The project is in its second school year after a busy and successful summer of professional development activities in six of the seven partner districts. In southern Maine, 85 K-6 teachers from SAD 60 and Sanford participated in a two week institute held at Sanford High School. The first week was an Everyday Mathematics curriculum immersion session led again by Deb Palmer and Deb Bradburn, teacher leaders from York who were joined by Sue Caler, BEAMM teacher leader from MSAD 60.

At the same time, (June 26-30) workshops were being held in Milford, Sullivan and Holden, also led by Maine teacher leaders. Beth Haynes, a BEAMM teacher leader from the Dunn School in Greenbush and Cathy Baillargeon, a second grade teacher from Saco, presented Investigations in Number Data and Space to 14 classroom teachers from Union 90. In Union 96, 21 teachers were introduced to Everyday Mathematics presented by Susan Maynard, firstgrade teacher from Fort Fairfield and Jan O'Clair, fourth grade teacher from Hermon. MSAD 63 is the first district in Maine to adopt Math Trailblazers and 20 teachers from that district explored the curriculum with Ann Newbury, retired teacher from Scarsdale, NY and Faye Madden, 4th grade teacher from Waltham, Mass. The goal of each of these sessions was to give teachers an opportunity to get a clear understanding of the philosophy, content and pedagogy of their curriculum programs and to begin to prepare and plan for implementation.

In August, the second week of the summer institute was held with a southern group meeting in Sanford the week of August 14th and a northern group meeting in Holden the week of August 21st. The goals of this second week were to enhance the content knowledge of the classroom teachers in the geometry and number sense strands and to prepare and plan for implementation of their curriculum programs. Teams of teachers worked together to prepare a sample lesson to share with their colleagues on the last day of the session.

In MSAD 34, 13 teachers were provided with the opportunity of attending a two-day curriculum showcase to explore Everyday Mathematics and Investigations with Susan Boemmels from Sanford and Beth Haynes from Union 90. This is in preparation for selecting their elementary curriculum for their district during the 2000-2001 school year.

A new, but very important, part of the BEAMM Initiative is our teacher leadership training. Thirteen teachers from BEAMM sites joined with MMSA Cooperating Schools teachers and IMPACT Curriculum Trainers for a one-week intensive professional development experience at the University of Maine at Orono. The program began with two days with Bruce Wellman, nationally recognized expert for leadership skill building, learning about strategies and skills for facilitating and leading meetings. The week continued with sessions on coaching and mentoring, using technology and LabNet to network with teachers, using cases and student work in study groups and exploring the state and national standards with a study procedure in mathematics and science. The final day of the week-long workshop brought administrators and teacher-leaders together to hear Joanne Isken, an elementary principal from Los Angeles present her strategies for leading and facilitating mathematics curriculum reform in her school through study groups for her teachers.

Administrator involvement and support can be key to reform in mathematics education. With this in mind, the BEAMM project is providing opportunities for principals to become more familiar with the curriculum programs and with their teachers' concerns and needs about implementing them in their classrooms. In Union 90, elementary principals attended Investigations training with teachers. In Union 96, administrators attended a day with their teachers learning about Everyday Mathematics and in Sanford administrators spent an evening together sharing their concerns and strategies about implementing Everyday Mathematics. At the state level a one-day workshop was held with teacher leaders who were brought together to hear Joanne Isken, an elementary principal from Los Angeles present her strategies for leading and facilitating curriculum reform in her school through study groups for her teachers. We are continuing to plan for two additional daylong opportunities for administrators to be held during the academic year.

In addition to the summer statewide programs, every district partner holds on-site professional development events for teachers. During the 99-00 school year, Sanford, SAD 60 and Union 90 provided opportunities for voluntary reflective practice study groups. In Sanford, these were held every Tuesday, called appropriately 'Math Tuesdays' and featured different topics for different grade level clusters. During this first year of implementation for these districts, the topics were closely connected to the specifics of the curriculum programs. These study group meetings are usually 1 _ to 2 hours long and are after school. All three of these districts have also designated regular full day inservice days to BEAMM project work.

The four other districts focused on showcases and piloting materials in their local site action plans. Union 96 and SAD 63 made their K-5 selections (K-8 for Union 96) in the spring of 2000. Union 106 and SAD 34 are continuing piloting and curriculum selection will be made in 2001.

Several of these districts and their teachers have been called on to provide presentations at other events throughout the past year. Union 90 and Union 96 site contacts presented at a 2-day statewide Math and Science curriculum implementation workshop. They spoke on getting all stakeholders involved and on using data to inform curriculum reform. BEAMM teacher leaders are being called on regularly to provide awareness sessions and training on Investigations, Everyday Math, Connected Mathematics, Math Trailblazers, and MATHThematics at statewide showcases and for individual school districts.


1. Adopting a district-wide math curriculum program is a new activity for six of the seven districts. In the recent past, these districts may have had a curriculum guide, but selection of curriculum materials was often done by building or by teacher and there was no expectation that the materials needed to be used in any consistent way by classroom teachers. A curriculum program that is used by all teachers is new and foreign to the idea of the districts' site based management practices which included the selection and use of curricula. It is difficult for some staff members to confront this change of practice. Others are eager to have a consistent and coordinated mathematics program for their schools.

November 2000 update - We are finding as more and more teachers participate in extensive professional training for implementing district-wide curriculum programs and as they see the positive impacts of using these programs, materials and strategies with their students that their resistance to these changes decreases and disappears.

2. The content and the pedagogy for the mathematics programs are new and very challenging for veteran teachers to implement. This is not an unexpected finding, but we are sensitive to the fact that teachers have had little instruction in mathematics in their pre-service programs and may have anxieties about the math and about implementing a new, more sophisticated instructional program with their students. A K-8 certification in Maine allows teachers to teach mathematics. To obtain this certificate teachers may have taken only two courses in college in mathematics.

November 2000 update - We have found that some teachers have had only one course in mathematics in college. We continue to be concerned about teachers' anxieties for teaching mathematics.

3. Those districts with people and structure (i.e. curriculum coordinators/assistant superintendent, and other administrators) to shepherd and support the change process are having the greatest success in implementing new programs in this initial phase of the BEAMM project. This level of administrator support has to date been most helpful as the organization aspect of BEAMM in a local district is substantial.

November 2000 update - We are finding that the support and 'shepherding' for the BEAMM project by an onsite administrator/site contact has strengthened and improved at all seven sites. In some cases, it is due to a change of personnel. In others it is due to an increased sense of commitment and understanding of the intent and goals of the project.

4. None of the site coordinators of the partner school districts have a background or specialty in mathematics. The site coordinators are the BEAMM Advisory group members. A background in mathematics was not a requirement for being a site contact, but we are aware and interested in observing how this may impact the work.

November 2000 update - The most noticeable result of this situation is the continued attention that these people pay to the importance of training and awareness sessions for themselves and fellow administrators about the project and the curriculum programs being implemented.

5. Some elementary teachers have difficulty making a connection between increasing their own knowledge and understanding of mathematics and improving the instruction that they offer their students. There is anxiety on the part of some teachers and a feeling of wasting their time on the part of others.

November 2000 update - While this continues to be a finding and a concern, especially for those teachers in their first year of professional development and implementation of their program, teachers who are in their second year of curriculum implementation are more open to participating in content-enhancement professional development events. Teacher leaders recognize the need. Two districts, Union 90 and Sanford, are planning on-site content specific study group events or courses for the 00-01 school year.

6. Grading and reporting policies and practices at upper elementary and middle grades generate much concern for teachers who are teaching and assessing in new ways. Standards-based teaching and learning and assessing are creating a need to revise reporting formats. It has led to the need to have conversations about these policies in local schools, in districts and between districts.

November 2000 update - These conversations in one school district, Sanford, have led to a change in the K-6 report card. A new report card is being used for the first time this year (00-01). It is aligned with the Everyday Mathematics content and process goals. It has created some stress and controversy within the school community.

7. November 2000 - The need for administrator training and involvement in the curriculum program implementation has increased as indicated by requests from the sites and by recommendations from the Advisory Board for professional development for teams of administrators.

8. November 2000 - In the summer of 2000 the two institutes were split into two one-week sessions. One was held in June and the other in August. When comparing the experience of this schedule with the summer of 99 schedule (2 weeks back to back in late June-early July), it was noticed that maintaining a connection and continuity for the two weeks was difficult. In addition, the teacher participant had a more difficult time focusing on the content enhancement sessions and the curriculum implementation studies. Because it was so near to the start of school, teachers were distracted by other needs to get their rooms ready.

9. November 2000 - There is some indication that teacher training and curriculum implementation is having an impact on student achievement at the local level. In MSAD 60 (Berwick) one school where teachers have been implementing Everyday Mathematics for more than two years, a higher percentage of students are exceeding (8%) or meeting (32%) the standards than in two other schools in the same district (1% and 19% respectively) on the 4th grade MEA (Maine Educational Assessment test). Eighth grade results on the MEA for Helen Dunn school in Union 90 also indicates an improvement. Seventeen percent of students are meeting the standard compared to 0% in the previous year. Connected Mathematics is being implemented extensively at that school.

10. November 2000 - There are more focused, thoughtful, and deliberate action plans for academic year activities being submitted and implemented at all of the participating sites. Local teams are considering carefully the best strategies and events to provide on-going support to their teachers as they implement (as in study group topic selections) and to challenge them to grow (as in providing content-enhancement course opportunities).