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Districts with experience using standards-based middle school mathematics curricula share their implementation stories.

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Implementation Story

Connected Mathematics

Battle Creek, Michigan

A small urban district, Battle Creek Public Schools has 16 elementary buildings that feed into 5 junior high schools, grades 7-9. Battle Creek has a large student population with very low social economic status yet the district itself is in stable financial condition.

On state assessments, Battle Creek students have historically scored below average in all areas (mathematics, science, reading, and writing). With the hiring of a new mathematics coordinator in the fall of 1996, the district initiated an effort to improve curriculum and instruction in mathematics. A plan was developed to address the low achievement in mathematics. This plan focused on the middle grades (6—8) as a starting point and included adoption of the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) curriculum.

Implementation Plan

The original plan called for a gradual implementation of CMP over a 4-year period. This plan, developed by the mathematics coordinator, was based on the belief that it is not in the best interest of Battle Creek students or teachers to implement all 3 years of the curricula at one time. Gradual implementation allows for concentration of professional development and support for a smaller cadre of teachers each year. Additionally, gradual implementation helps insure that students, particularly 8th graders, have the necessary background knowledge and experience to succeed in a new program. The CMP program is based on a problem solving, inquiry-based instructional model with new skills and concepts building on prior knowledge. The gradual implementation plan provided options for teachers — they could begin the first year of implementation by using one unit or three units, supplementing existing materials.

In the first year of the implementation plan, 6th and 7th grades teachers were invited to sign up for implementation plan A (use 3 units) or plan B (use 1 unit). Because the 6th grade teachers were in elementary buildings that fed into junior high buildings they were asked to select, as a faculty, either plan A or B. In other words, all 6th grade teachers in a building that fed into a particular junior high building had to agree to the same plan. Likewise, all 7th grade teachers within a building had to agree to the same implementation plan.

Six elementary buildings and all five junior high buildings selected Plan A in the first year of implementation. This meant that they agreed to: use 3 CMP units as supplements to their existing curricula, participate in a one week summer institute and attend two follow-up meetings during the school year. Plan B involved a one-day summer institute and an option to attend follow-up meetings. The three CMP units used in 6th and 7th grades included two number units and one geometry unit selected by the mathematics coordinator.

In the second year of implementation, Plan A teachers expanded to using six CMP units, plan B teachers used 3 units, and all 8th grade teachers used five units. In the second year of implementation, enthusiasm among teachers, particularly 7th and 8th grade teachers grew immensely. This was primarily due to their perception that students were successful in learning important mathematics. This enthusiasm led to full implementation in all grades by the third year, one year ahead of the original schedule. The implementation plan is summarized in the following chart.

 

1997-1998

1998-1999

1999-2000

6th Grade

Plan A: 3 units

Plan B: 1 unit

Plan A: 6 units

Plan B: 3 unit

6 units

7th Grade

3 units

6 units

(mix of units from 6th and 7th grade)

6 units

(mix of units from 6th and 7th grade)

8th Grade

 

5 units

(all 7th grade units)

6 units

(mix of units from 7th and 8th grade)

Because 1999—2000 is the first year of full implementation at all grades, it is too early to measure the impact of these changes. However, teachers have provided many stories indicating that they feel the new curriculum is resulting in increased learning. The following chart provides baseline information on performance in the district on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program.

Battle Creek 7th Graders Student Achievement on MEAP

 

1998

1999

2000

Percent students scoring "Satisfactory"

43.1

43.9

42.6

Percent students scoring "Moderate"

31.0

31.3

27.7

Percent students scoring "Low"

25.8

24.8

29.7

 

Lessons Learned

  • Key to the success of implementation in Battle Creek was building support among the teachers. Providing choices for pace of implementation was important.
  • Providing professional development specifically designed around the new curriculum was important. The Battle Creek implementation plan began with personnel that were most supportive and convinced of the need for curriculum reform. These teachers, in turn, helped convince others.
  • Regularly scheduled support meetings for teachers to exchange ideas and gain new expertise were critical. These meetings provided teachers opportunities to share their traumas and triumphs.
  • The mathematics coordinator, in conjunction with teachers, developed pacing guides. These pacing guides helped teachers make decisions regarding the amount of time to spend on each lesson. These guides helped teachers feel more comfortable using the CMP curriculum, which presents significant mathematical ideas early in the unit and revisits them over and over, developing and building students understanding with each new task.
  • Acknowledgement: The Show-Me Center is indebted to Mary Bouck, Curriculum Director in Battle Creek Public Schools for assistance in developing this story.