Professional Development
on Use of Instructional Materials

Aims, Actions, Adaptations:
The SEPUP Professional Development Story

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Prior to the ramp-up of capacity in the district, developers of the instructional materials usually provided the Chicago Math & Science Initiative (CMSI) professional development. As noted above, sometimes universities were also partners in this effort. One example of a three-way partnership (CPS, university, and curricula developer) was the professional development for the Science Education for Public Understanding Program (SEPUP) instructional materials used in 7th grade (Science and Life Issues) and 8th grade (Issues Evidence and You) in CPS schools. SEPUP was developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley. The partners were CPS, Lab-Aids (the distributors of SEPUP), and the Loyola University Center for Science and Mathematics Education (LUCSME). The partnership began in 2003 when the OMS Science Manager asked the LUCSME to become the “SEPUP Implementation Center.” The scope of the implementation center was not well defined at the time, but developed over time.

In 2003, the LUCSME received a grant from the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) to provide support to the OMS. This grant started in the summer of 2004 and was renewed annually through 2007, providing a total of $700,000 in funds for support of the SEPUP materials used in CPS 7th and 8th grades.

In the first few years of SEPUP implementation in CPS classrooms, the primary focus was on training teachers in methodologies of inquiry-based science teaching in general, and applying these methodologies to the SEPUP curricula in particular.

Since there were essentially no CPS teachers who were SEPUP experts, staff and consultants of Lab-Aids, the company that markets the SEPUP materials, provided much of the training in the first year. A core of five Loyola University science faculty provided mentoring and content support to the teachers at all professional development sessions. The funds from IBHE allowed Loyola to pay: (1) stipends for summer and Saturday sessions or, (2) for substitute teacher coverage for all the CPS teachers who attended these sessions during the first three years of implementation. The funding also paid for Loyola faculty to participate in this program, and for the Lab-Aids staff and consultants from Lawrence Hall to lead the professional development sessions. Lab-Aids provided the kits to CPS schools at a reduced price, and funding from the Polk Brothers Foundation and the Lloyd A. Fry Foundation through the LUCSME helped defray their cost further.

Over the three years of the IBHE grant, the reliance on the external Lab-Aids consultants was reduced by increasing the expertise of the Loyola faculty involved in the project, but more importantly, through identifying and training a cohort of CPS teachers who became Professional Development Leaders (PDLs). Candidates for PDLs included LUCSME-recommended teachers who had successfully completed LUCSME courses for the middle grades science endorsement, and OMS-recommended teachers who had been identified during experienced-user training. Every PDL candidate was interviewed and their classroom pedagogy was observed by OMS staff. All PDLs attended a training session run by OMS staff. In addition, SEPUP PDLs attended a weeklong intensive summer SEPUP Academy, which trained expert SEPUP users to train other teachers. As the program evolved, Loyola faculty and CPS PDLs took over more and more of the training, so that by 2008 there was almost no direct involvement of Lab-Aids staff or consultants, illustrating the breadth and depth of teacher leadership that can contribute to the sustainability of the program.

Over time, the process of developing PDLs became even more standardized. Before being “certified” as PDLs, individuals were required to co-teach particular professional development sessions with a more experienced instructor, and then be observed leading a certain number of professional development sessions by experienced OMS staff. It should be noted that these PDLs, for the most part, remained classroom teachers in the district. In this way, district infrastructure for the support of high quality science professional development was expanded without removing highly skilled teachers from their classrooms and sacrificing student instruction.

In the first few cohorts of PDLs, Loyola bore the financial responsibility for paying their salary supplements, and had a significant role in identifying, recruiting, and training (with Lab-Aids staff) teachers to become PDLs. From 2006-2008, the OMS took over the financial responsibility for paying the PDLs. As the implementation of SEPUP spread through CPS, there was an ever-larger pool of experienced teachers from which to recruit PDL candidates. By 2008, OMS staff had the primary role of identifying, recruiting, and training teachers, with Loyola faculty working in advisory and supplementary roles.

As noted above, Loyola’s IBHE grant funded the stipends paid to CPS teachers for attending the professional development workshops for the first three years of implementation. After those first three years, many school administrators recognized the value of the CMSI-selected instructional materials and the need for intensive and ongoing professional development. Starting in 2008, schools interested in implementing CMSI instructional material paid for their teachers’ stipends.

Figure 14 below illustrates the evolution of responsibilities and funding for SEPUP implementation. The color of the responsibility corresponds to the partner shown at the top of the diagram. Mixed responsibilities are denoted by the corresponding secondary colors—for example green denoting when the LUCSME and Lab-Aids both supported this area.

Figure 14: Responsibilities and funding for supporting SEPUP implementation

As can be seen in Table 12, more than 700 teachers from more than 200 (of ~500) elementary schools participated at some level in the SEPUP training over four years.

SEPUP Implementation Center

2003 2005 2007
Kits Kits Kits
Subs Subs Subs
Teacher Stipends Teacher Stipends Teacher Stipends
Consultants from Lab-Aids Consultants from Lab-Aids Consultants from Lab-Aids
Faculty Content Experts Faculty Content Experts Faculty Content Experts
Professional Development Leaders Professional Development Leaders Professional Development Leaders

As can be seen in Table 12, more than 700 teachers from more than 200 (of ~500) elementary schools participated at some level in the SEPUP training over four years.

Table 12 Numbers of participants in SEPUP training 2004-2008

  Summer 04 & Academic Year 04-05 Summer 05 & Academic Year 05-06 Summer 06 & Academic Year 06-07 Summer 07 & Academic Year 07-08 TOTAL
No. of New Users 124 220 207 162 713
No. of Schools
each year)
65 83 47 35 230

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