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

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Implementation Story

 

MathScape

 

Waltham School District

Waltham, Massachusetts

 

Waltham School District is located in Waltham, Massachusetts. There are 10 schools in the district: seven elementary, two middle schools and one high school. Total enrollment in the district is 4825 students. About 64% of the students are White, 19.5% Hispanic, 7.1% Asian, 9.8% African American, and 0.1% Native American. About 24% of the students are eligible for free or reduced price lunch and 5.9% have limited English proficiency. In 2003, the average number of students per computer was 16. Also in 2003, the two middle schools had a total of 376 students in 6th grade, 364 students in 7th, and 379 students in 8th grade.

 

The Middle School Mathematics Curriculum

 

In 1995 the curriculum director for mathematics started a partnership with Educational Development Center in Newton, MA. As part of a Local Systemic Change grant for grades K–12, mathematics teachers in the district looked at curricula based on the NCTM Standards during the 1997–1998 school year. Teachers took lessons from the curricula, tried them in the classroom, and later discussed with each other how these lessons worked. At the end of that school year, after trying three different curricula, the district chose MathScape.

 

Strategy for Implementation

 

In the 1998–1999 school year, schools began implementing MathScape. That year, they used two curriculum units from MathScape, in each of the three grades. The next year they used two or three more units in each grade. In the 2000–2001 school year they completed the process, implementing all seven MathScape units in each grade.

 

Principals and parents were invited to some of the workshops that teachers had when they were looking at different curricula. In that way, parents had the opportunity to see the teachers as learners, and to be aware of the fact that they too were just getting to know these curricula. At first, parents were a little skeptical about the changes in curriculum, but after seeing the quality of the work the teachers were doing, they felt good that the teachers were having quality professional development and that the things that their children would be doing were of high level. Once the curriculum had been chosen and was being implemented in 1999–2000 the schools had workshops for parents that had very positive results.

 

Teachers had continuous support and professional development from EDC. Experienced teachers trained teachers on each one of the MathScape units. In some cases, they had the opportunity to work with the developers of the curriculum. New teachers have taken summer workshops at the MathScape center.

 

Timeline

                       

 

1998-1999

1999-2000

2000-2001

6th grade

Partial implementation

Partial implementation

Full implementation

7th grade

Partial implementation

Partial implementation

Full implementation

8th grade

Partial implementation

Partial implementation

Full implementation

 

 

Eighth Grade Mathematics Achievement

 

Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System

Results for Waltham School District

(State averages in parentheses)

 

 

% Advanced

% Proficient

% Needs Improvement

% Failing

Number of students

Scaled Scores

1998

6 (8)

18 (23)

29 (26)

47 (42)

385

224

1999

5 (6)

18 (22)

37 (31)

41 (40)

400

225

2000

8 (10)

18 (24)

28 (27)

46 (39)

365

225

2001

7 (11)

26 (23)

36 (34)

30 (31)

359

232

2002

6 (11)

18 (23)

37 (33)

39 (33)

347

228

2003

6 (12)

21 (25)

42 (30)

31 (33)

380

NA

 

 

 

Keys to Success

 

  • Extensive training provided by the school district.
  • Workshops provided opportunities for teachers to get together, particularly the 6th grade teachers who are scattered through the district.
  • Affording teachers the opportunity to talk to each other about mathematics.

 

Obstacles

 

  • Some teachers are very uncomfortable giving up the skill-based kind of teaching, and they don’t see the value of skills being embedded in the lessons.
  • Sometimes there is not enough time to allow all kids to progress at their own pace.

 

 

Acknowledgement:  The Show-Me Center is indebted to Eileen Herlihy for assistance in developing this story. Ms. Herlihy is the district’s curriculum director for mathematics.