The city of Wayland is located about 20 miles from downtown Boston, MA. It is a suburb with families that are predominately upper middle class. The school district is well funded. Most students come from the area, but a small percentage, 5% to 10%, come from Boston and are bused to Wayland schools. The Wayland Public School District has three elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school with a total of 2,922 students for the 2002-2003 school year. Wayland Middle School has about 750 students in grades 6, 7, and 8. 84.5% of the student population is White, while 8.7% are Asian, 4.3% are African American, and 2.5% are Hispanic. Parents are very responsive to educational issues and supportive of both teachers and the school district.
Desire for Engaging Curriculum
Part of the motivation for curricula change in this district was due to the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS). Among other things, the TIMSS report concluded schools need to give students a more in depth understanding of mathematics. Wayland has been a very high achieving school district and thus both teachers and parents wanted to build on existing strength. After consideration, the district decided they needed an engaging curriculum which would get students more interested in mathematics. The mathematics teachers at Wayland Middle School were especially concerned that struggling students were not being well served with the existing materials and teaching techniques. In response to this need, Wayland Middle School adopted MathScape for students in lower level classes and are pursuing a gradual implementation beginning with a few units.
The district has three curricula tracks for their middle school students. The district started using some MathScape units in the 1998-1999 school year with the lowest level students and now has full implementation for these students. The district is using a gradual approach implementing upwards from the lowest level. Currently, the higher level students are using one or two MathScape units at each grade level. Over the next few years the plan is to steadily implement more units of MathScape in the higher level courses. Table 1 illustrates the implementation timeline.
The school district has done a substantial amount of professional development preparing teachers to use the MathScape curricula. Prior to implementation there were 4-5 sessions of about two hours each were scheduled to outlining the goals the district had for students. Then there were three sessions of about two hours each where teachers were introduced to various activities and strands in the MathScape curricula. In addition to the preliminary professional development, there is ongoing professional development during the school year. Each Wednesday the students are let out a bit early and teachers have about two hours for professional activities. For the mathematics teachers, most of the extra time on Wednesdays is spent on issues directly related to mathematics teaching.
Special Education and Reading Level Required
The MathScape curricula requires more reading from students as compared to traditional materials. Some special education teachers in the middle school were concerned that the lowest level students would not be able to handle the reading level of MathScape. As a consequence, there were productive discussions between special education teachers and mathematics teachers covering the appropriate ways to deal with the reading needs of struggling students. One key to the successful implementation of MathScape materials was to alert mathematics teachers to the need to give students support in reading.
The state of Massachusetts implemented a new testing program in 1998. The Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) assesses student learning based on the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks. It is administered in grades 4, 8, and 10 in the four areas of Mathematics, History and Social Studies, Science and Technology, and English Language Arts. The mathematics achievement results for 8th grade for Spring 1998 through Spring 2003 for both Wayland Middle School and for the state are given below in Table 2. It is worth noting that the 8th grade mathematics scores for Wayland Middle School were overall the highest in the state of Massachusetts in 1999.
Advice to those Implementing Standards-based Curricula
Acknowledgement: The Showme Center is indebted to Kristen Herbert for assistance in developing this story. She is the head of the mathematics department at Wayland Middle School.