Standards-Based Instructional Materials
Aims, Actions, Adaptations:
Coherent Policies and
Standards-Based Instructional Materials
Coherence was forefront in the minds of CPS Office of Mathematics and Science (OMS) leaders as they thought about transforming math and science teaching and learning. For example, OMS leaders set a goal of coherent scope and sequence of math and science instruction within, across, and between elementary and high schools. Similarly, they pushed for policy changes to support consistent implementation of the CMSI instructional materials, as noted in the example on time for instruction below. They also developed position statements that helped support a common vision and coherence regarding instruction.
Time on math and science policy (2003-2008)
One of the first Office of Mathematics and Science policies addressed classroom time spent on math and science instruction. This was for two reasons. Reform leaders understood there was wide variability in the time dedicated to instruction of these subjects in grades K-8 across the district. Also, the instructional materials were designed assuming a certain number of minutes per week would be dedicated to their instruction. If the reform effort and the implementation of the materials were going to have a chance at being effective, students were going to need a consistent amount of time to learn. The new CPS policy required schools to provide 60 minutes a day of math instruction and 120 minutes a week of science instruction to all CPS elementary school students. In comparison, in 2003 the district had a relatively new policy that all elementary schools teach two hours each day of reading for all students. Based on the results of collective bargaining, the length of the school day was increased slightly over this time period in elementary schools from 5.5 hours of instruction in 2003 to 5.75 hours of instruction from 2004-05 on. High school instructional time remained essentially the same as for elementary schools. The school calendar in Chicago includes 178 instructional days/school year.
School reports filed with the district showed that all schools scheduled 60 minutes a day for math and 120 minutes per week for science. However, external evaluation found that students did not always receive the full 60 minutes a day for math. In the middle grades, time for the students to move from classroom to classroom for departmentalized math or science or language arts cut into the school day. This left many middle grades math classes with only 50 minutes a day for instruction. Given that the CMSI-supported instructional materials for middle grades (Connected Math and Math Thematics) were designed with 60-minute/day lessons, shortened periods made it very difficult for teachers to cover the content as designed.
Even in classrooms that allocated the expected time for lessons, teachers often found it difficult to complete the entire instructional program over the course of the school year. The OMS responded to this challenge by developing pacing guidelines for every set of instructional materials. These guidelines illustrated where teachers should be throughout the year so they could adapt their lessons to keep up. specialists, coaches, and facilitators provided insights to teachers on how to adjust lessons to stay on pace, given the reality of scheduling in their schools.
Instructional position statements
The OMS reform effort attempted to address teacher concerns around particular issues that affected instruction through position statements. These communications promoted a common vision for instructional decision-making. Examples included documents on the use of calculators in math instruction, the use of live animals in classrooms and dissections, evolution and intelligent design, and preparation for standardized testing. Through these position statements, OMS provided leadership on critical issues and increased district coherence regarding these issues.