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Teachers as Agents of Systemic Change (TAASC) - PI Final Report - Year 5

published: 12/21/2001
posted to site: 12/21/2001

Local Systemic Change
PI Final Report - Year 5
Teachers as Agents of Systemic Change (TAASC)
November 12, 2002
Jack Price Co-PI

Project Activities
Teachers as Agents of Systemic Change (TAASC) is a local systemic initiative that affects all of the grade 6 - 12 mathematics teachers in four urban, multicultural school districts near California State Polytechnic University Pomona (Cal Poly). The project, run through the Center for Education and Equity in Mathematics, Science, and Technology (CEEMaST) in the College of Science, makes use of identified mathematics teacher-leaders at each of the secondary school sites in the four districts to assist in the professional development of the target teachers in improving content knowledge and renewing pedagogical skills.

Immediately following the final summer institute of the Project, the District Advisory Committee met and reaffirmed the use of the Teacher-Leaders from each of their schools: five days of their own professional development and five days that they could use to visit other teachers or have other teachers visit them. Professional development days for the teacher-leaders were scheduled and held on October 25, 2000, December 7, 2000, February 15, 2001, April 25, 2001, and June 5, 2001. Each session was made up of mathematics content, pedagogical renewal, and leadership activities. In spite of difficulties with substitutes (see later), more than 50 of the leaders from the 35 schools attended each session. Further more than 20 of the teacher-leaders (five of whom presented papers) attended the annual California Mathematics Council meeting in Palm Springs in November and 81 total teacher-leaders and target teachers (presenting 8 sessions) attended the 15th annual CEEMaST conference at Cal Poly in February.

In addition there were two identical professional development days scheduled and held for administrators in the 35 schools. On November 14-15 more than 30 administrators each day attended the sessions which were designed to keep them up-to-date with mathematics education in the country and state and to provide them skills and attitudes that would help them better determine the value of the lessons they observed in the mathematics classrooms.

At the request of the Pomona Unified School District administration, TAASC faculty and two teacher-leaders provided three full days of professional development for the middle school teachers in the district. This led directly to a contract for a professional development program in that district for the 2001-2002 school year (see later). Further in conjunction with the State Professional Development Institutes, TAASC sponsored one session for secondary teachers during the summer of 2001 (see later).

Project Findings

    There were several major findings as a result of the five-year program.
  1. The use of teacher-leaders does develop curriculum leadership in the districts and for the project. However, it does little to take effective professional development to the target teachers. Part of this problem is that the teacher-leaders have no lessening of duties at the district/school level and as a result have little time or opportunity to conduct professional development activities. Future projects should in someway help teachers to have released time so that they can be the instructional leaders that we wish to have in the schools.

    What has turned out to be an unanticipated benefit is the spirit of camaraderie that has enveloped the teacher-leaders. They are genuinely happy to be with each other and they have learned greatly from each other. This has been readily apparent in the professional development activities for the leaders where marvelous cross-district bonds have been formed. The networking has proved invaluable for them, if not always for the target teachers. At this we have at least 50 classroom teachers who have made significant changes in their classes and who to varying degrees are able to exercise leadership in the faculty at their schools.

  2. Secondary teachers are difficult to deal with. In many cases those who are in most need of pedagogical renewal are those who believe they know the mathematics and, thus, don't need any help. They, as a group, are far less accepting of newer approaches to teaching and learning and to newer materials that could help them greatly. However, when they are captured, they are superb leaders, participating in a host of professional development activities, leading many of them. Three of these leaders have been instrumental in the instruction in summer professional development institute sponsored through state funding.

  3. School districts make commitments five years down the road and then circumstances or district leadership changes and the commitments are negated. While our districts experienced changes in leadership during the course of the five-years, we were still able to make the shared costs target of the original project proposal. Often they are caught in problems not of their own making. For example, the sudden legislative change that essentially required school districts to move to 1:20 classroom ratios in primary grades and the ninth grade mathematics and English wiped out the substitute pool. As a result, there were often not enough substitutes to release all of the teacher-leaders. Hacienda-La Puente, for example, released only one leader from each middle school to attend professional development activities.

  4. The turnover rate in faculty makes it extremely difficult to reach all of the teachers with the required number of hours. Our original proposal indicated that there were 260 mathematics teachers in grades 6 - 12 in the four districts. However, more than 400 teachers have received some professional development and there are currently 284 teachers on the roster. Perhaps some sort of momentum formula should be used to consider numbers and hours like mass and velocity. For example, the last three summer institutes enrolled approximately 120 target teachers each year. Of these about 60 attended all three sessions, about 30 attended two sessions, and about 120 attended one session. In all, the summer institutes reached more than 200 teachers; but many of these are now no longer in the four districts or have been in the districts only a year or two of the five-year program.