In-School Instructional Support


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Redefining and recreating roles

As discussed earlier, the CMSI’s initial design assumed that, over time, schools would use their discretionary funds to support CMSI implementation. However, in the CMSI’s initial implementation year (2003-2004), CPS announced district policies that had a major impact on the CMSI as it was originally conceived. Early in 2004, pressures from the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) caused the district to raise its standard for probationary status dramatically, from 20% to 40%. Overnight, 166 elementary schools (roughly 40%) went on probation for failure to reach the 40% mark. The central and area offices provided these probation schools with stronger instructional and budgetary guidelines. Essentially, these schools lost control of their discretionary budget and area offices required many of them to adopt CMSI math and/or science materials. As a result, the CMSI had to adjust its instructional support strategy.

CMSI needed to serve many more schools with the same or even fewer funds. This meant that the OMS had to rethink both the funding for, and organizational “home” of, in-school instructional support roles. In March 2004, the OMS adjusted the Chicago Math & Science Initiative (CMSI) plan to include these mandatory-adoption probation schools. It eliminated resources for some support roles, shifted some resources to schools, and created new support roles.

Facilitators initially provided direct support to Intensive Support schools. When probation schools joined the pool of schools implementing the CMSI, there were not enough Facilitators to provide direct support to them. The OMS needed to rethink the CMSI professional development model in order to accommodate the increased number of teachers enrolled in professional development. Because of the situation, the OMS redefined the facilitator role to focus primarily on leading professional development. Later, the facilitators were charged with training and supporting professional development leaders (PDLs).

The OMS initially paid for the area coach role. Area coaches reported to both OMS and their area office, and had responsibilities at both levels. These responsibilities often conflicted. Area management stressed supporting all schools within the area, while the OMS expected area coaches to provide support to broad support and readiness schools only. The OMS initially supervised the area coaches and managed their work assignments, but gradually area coaches came to be almost entirely under the purview of the area offices.

The OMS originally paid for the in-school specialist role. When the district reduced CMSI funding, the OMS gave schools the opportunity keep their specialists by funding the position out of their school budgets. Some schools chose to fund their specialists, while other schools chose to support math or science “coordinators” who may not have been freed from the classroom.

The OMS created both the citywide math and science specialist (CWS), and professional development leader (PDL) roles in response to changing circumstances. The office first hired citywide specialists in 2005-06 in response to the increased demand for CMSI-approved instructional materials—in particular, in response to the mandated use of CMSI instructional materials by probation schools. Each CWS supported math and science instruction within four schools. OMS and the area instruction officers chose schools jointly.

Success and challenges of Instructional Support Roles

The adaptation of CMSI instructional support roles provided mixed results in moving toward the CMSI goals of coherent policy, workforce development, and improved instruction. The adaptation of the facilitator role was an effective response to external forces. By maintaining a successful component of the original vision—that of the facilitator as curriculum expert—CMSI provided a stable “go to” resource for those wishing to learn more about specific instructional programs. This helped the development of both workforce capacity and improved instruction by keeping one part of the instructional support “scaffolding” in place. At the same time, the CMSI responded to the needs of an increased number of schools who adopted the CMSI-supported instructional materials when it redefined the role of facilitator. In a similar vein, by creating the citywide specialist position, CMSI adapted its instruction support strategy and stayed true to its vision of targeting a small number of schools with support of high quality instruction. Citywide specialists each served approximately four schools and had a manageable number of teachers with whom they worked. By working in classrooms, citywide specialists supported workforce development and improved instruction from a coherent CMSI model. These adaptations were ways the CMSI succeeded in buffering impacts from outside the direct control of the OMS.

The adaptation of these support roles also posed challenges. One such challenge came from the need to shift role funding and staffing from within the OMS to outside. For example, when area coaches moved their offices physically from the OMS to the area offices they had less access to OMS staff. In addition, once OMS funding of the in-school specialist role ended, the role was redefined according to individual school need. One result of these role adaptations was the fragmentation of groups of in-school instructional support staff. This fragmentation challenged the CMSI’s ability to deliver consistent reform messages throughout the district; looser connections created more room for inconsistency. The CMSI goal of workforce development was likewise challenged by these role changes; OMS became less and less of a “hub” for the three arms of support (central office, area, and school), and the “scaffolding” network of supports became less stable. It remains to be seen what the effects of diffusing the instructional supports will be on the long-term sustainability of the reform.

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