Traverse City Area Public Schools, Michigan
The Traverse City Area Public School system serves a large land area. It covers 285 square miles lying in three different counties in Michigan. This system includes 22 schools with enrollment about 11,000 students and with nearly 700 certified teachers. There are 18 elementary schools (K-6), two junior high schools (7-9), and two high schools (10-12). Traverse City and the surrounding area is a very popular resort area and tourism is a very important part of the local economy. Overall, the school system serves an economically diverse set of families with a number of both higher income and lower income families represented.
The Traverse Area Public School system has a steering committee to coordinate mathematics teaching in grades K-12. This is a large committee with many teachers, administrators and parents. The system has similar committees for subjects other than mathematics. These steering committees give the educational system a considerable amount of continuity.
In the early 1990's, the school system realized that many students were not learning mathematics well and were not advancing very far in mathematics. There was a feeling that mathematics was acting as a filter and the mathematics steering committee felt there was a definite need for improvement. They felt there was a need for all students to learn mathematics well and that mathematics should not be a filter. This led to the decision to implement Standards-based mathematics curricula. As a result, the elementary schools are now using the Investigations in Number, Data, and Space (TERC) materials, grades 6-8 are using the Connected Mathematics Project (CMP) materials and grades 9-12 are using Contemporary Mathematics in Context: A Unified Approach (CPMP) materials.
The school system began using pilot versions of the CMP materials in 1993. All seventh grade students and a few 6th grade students used CMP materials in that beginning year. In 1994, about 1/2 of the 8th grade students used CMP materials and a fair number of 6th grade students used CMP. In fact, in the second year, there were more 6th graders using CMP than had been originally planned because a number of elementary teachers were excited about the new materials and wanted to get started using them. In 1995, the third year, there was full implementation of the CMP materials in grades 6, 7 and 8. Below we have given a table to illustrate the implementation timeline.
Implementation of CMP in Traverse City Area Public Schools
In each of grades 6 and 8, classes usual cover 6 of the CMP units. In grade 7, classes usually cover 7 of the CMP units. Thus, students generally study from 19 units over three years. The use of Standards-based TERC materials in the elementary grades definitely facilitates the use of the CMP materials in the middle grades. In particular, students learn in the elementary grades that they will be doing reading and writing in mathematics classes and that they will be expected to understand mathematics. Of course, the use of the CMP materials in the middle grades facilitates the use of the CPMP materials in high school.
A fundamental part to the implementation process was teacher enhancement. One major concern was to cover the mathematical content in the new materials and another major concern was to strengthen the pedagogical skills that are needed to teach the materials in a Standards-based fashion. Since the materials have integrated content, special attention was given to ensure teachers understood the interconnections between different areas of mathematics. Also, pedagogical techniques for making sure students learn these interconnections were covered.
Teachers were given training at Michigan State University the summer before they began using the materials and then were given additional training before each unit during their first year of using the new materials. Considerable ongoing efforts are made to improve teaching effectiveness. One strategy is to have teachers who have taught usingthe materials go into classrooms and coach.
Teachers are given help in such things as managing discourse, making effective use of groups and using new ways of assessment. In particular, there has been an emphasis on helping teachers adjust to new assessment techniques and learning how to use ongoing assessment to help make instructional decisions. In 1999, a professional development site was set up so that selected teachers could be brought in for special training and then return to their school to help other teachers.
Several of the Traverse City teachers have developed into wonderful teacher-leaders who have helped the program remain a successful undertaking. The district also has undergone a year-long Critical Review Process where they revisited all our curricular areas, looked at evidence which supported the programs, and as a result moved into the CMP II pilot program through Michigan State University.
Special Help For Students and Parents
For 7th and 8th grade students, special help is given though a math lab. For 25 minutes each day, students may go to a special lab to get help from mathematics teachers. This type of individual help is invaluable to the student and also gives teachers additional feedback on which topics and problems are giving students the most difficulty.
One area of change that has occurred is that students are now allowed to choose between a "Traditional CMP" and an "Investigative CMP" class at 7th and 8th grade. The courses are the same except that in the traditional class students are required to do some additional skill work. This is accommodated by using worksheets that we have pulled to support the students who may feel there is that need. However, the curriculum and assessments are identical in both classes.
There is also help for parents. Each unit has a parent handbook and parents can check these out of the school libraries. These handbooks help the parents to understand what is being taught and help the parents give their children help. The math labs and the handbooks have both been of real help and have been especially appreciated by concerned parents.
Informing Parents, Administrators, and Board Members
An important part of the implementation of the Standards-based materials has been to keep parents, administrators and board members informed of the nature of the changes and the reasons for these changes. The representation of parents and administrators on the steering committee has been one avenue for informing these groups. Also the school system has used both home letters and math nights to keep parents informed of changes in the curriculum and instructional strategies. Additionally, there have been a number of presentations to the School Board and also some TV spots on a local channel. It should be mentioned that informing parents, administrators and board members is an ongoing process since the people up these groups change year to year.
The 7th and 8th grade Michigan Educational Assessment Program (MEAP) table in the Traverse City Schools is given below. It illustrates that students in the Traverse City system have shown substantial improvement in mathematics in recent years. Comparing this table to the above Implementation Timeline table shows the test scores have risen in tandem with implementation.
7th Grade Math Results 1991-2000
Michigan Educational Assessment Program
Traverse City Junior High West
Traverse City Junior High East
The program has been very successful but not without some bumps along the way. Largely the fact that state assessment scores remain quite high and SAT, ACT and AP scores have either remained steady or have increased has encouraged the continued use of the CMP curriculum.
Acknowledgement: The Showme Center is indebted to Julie Faulkner and Dan Fouch of the Traverse City Area Public Schools for assistance in developing and updating this story.