Standards-Based Instructional Materials

Aims, Actions, Adaptations:
Improved Instruction and
Standards-Based Instructional Materials

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The assumption behind the Chicago Math & Science Initiative (CMSI) was that if teachers used the district-supported instructional materials as their authors intended, then classroom instruction would improve. Therefore, the effective use of standards-based materials was key to the reform effort. The CMSI Logic Model represented many facets of high-quality implementation. In addition to standards- and researched-based instructional materials, these included student-centered instructional approaches, instruction sensitive to diverse needs of learners, appropriate pacing, and more instructional time in math and science classrooms. The Office of Mathematics and Science (OMS) designed a three-year phase-in model of the CMSI in order to build the capacity necessary to support district-wide implementation.

CMSI Incentive Program with Intensive Support Elementary Schools (2003-2005)

In its plan, OMS leadership constructed a phase-in implementation model that would allow them to provide a full suite of supports to schools as an increasing number of classrooms adopted the materials. By Illinois law, individual school principals and Local School Councils (LSCs)—a group composed of teachers, parents, and community representatives—decide what instructional materials their schools will use. Because individual schools selected and purchased their own instructional materials, CMSI planned a system of incentives to encourage schools to choose the designated instructional materials. Those incentives extended beyond financial support. They covered the range of supports needed to help teachers adapt their instructional practices to the new materials, and the new materials to their classrooms.

In the first year of the phase-in model, the OMS invited all elementary schools to apply to become “Intensive Support” schools. The response to the invitation was enthusiastic. The application process attracted applications from 207 of the approximately 500 CPS elementary schools. Based on reviews of these applications and site visits to 177 schools, 81 schools were chosen in spring 2003 as Intensive Support schools, 22 in science and 59 in math. Selection criteria focused on schools that had strong enough foundations to implement reform activities. Reviewers looked at schools’ commitment to the new program, capacity for collaborating within the school and with others, and school leadership.

In the application process, the OMS asked prospective Intensive Support schools to select the CMSI-supported standards-based math or science materials they wanted to implement and to commit to implement them in all classrooms, K-8, within two years, using a structured, phase-in approach. As part of this approach, school principals identified one teacher from each grade level to be a “First Wave” teacher. Principals selected teachers based on their potential to be resources to other teachers in the school in the second year of the implementation.

In promoting the new program, the OMS offered Intensive Support schools incentives, including funds to purchase materials, year-long professional development, and help implementing the new instructional materials.

Specifically, Intensive Support schools received $1,000 per classroom per grade level to defray the cost of purchasing CMSI-supported instructional materials in 2003-2004. (Allocation to schools depended on the size of the school, with the average K-8 school receiving $10,000.) The OMS covered not only the cost of professional development (PD) for designated First Wave teachers, but also paid for substitutes (for school-day PD) or stipends (for after-school or Saturday PD). In addition, the OMS made a two-year commitment to provide each Intensive Support school with a funded, full-time (released from teaching duties), school-based math or science specialist to assist with implementation. OMS facilitators, based out of the central office, were assigned between 5 and 11 Intensive Support schools. They shared their implementation expertise by visiting schools to mentor the specialist, provide professional development, and work with teachers. Details on in-school instructional support roles are in the In-School Instructional Support section.

The OMS provided approximately $750,000 for mathematics and science material purchases at Intensive Support schools. Under the CPS site-based management structure, each school had control of their own school budgets. Certain amounts of these funds were considered “discretionary;” principals could allocate these funds as they saw fit. For example, a principal might use discretionary funds to reduce class size by hiring additional teachers. Another principal might use discretionary funds to buy instructional materials. By providing schools with some of the resources needed to adopt new materials, the OMS hoped school principals would use their discretionary funds to purchase additional materials so that all classrooms could implement the CMSI instructional materials.

The OMS invested substantial time and resources to build the capacity of the promised supports and of teachers. In the summer of 2003, seventy-seven specialists participated in a two-week training session. During the 2003-2004 school year, they attended monthly professional development training in leadership and specific standards-based instructional materials. In a similar fashion—and consistent with the research on professional development—the OMS provided a comprehensive professional development program for teachers and school leaders. First Wave teachers received materials-specific training in the summer of 2003. Three- to five-day workshops were offered in the four math instructional materials as well as a combined science workshop. Throughout the 2003-2004 school year, First Wave teachers were offered an additional one day per month of professional development. Additionally, senior OMS staff met with Intensive Support principals five times over the course of the year. Professonal Development on Use of Instructional Materials provides extensive detail about the CMSI’s approach to professional development.

The OMS knew it had limited support capacity when it invited schools to apply for Intensive Schools. It faced a happy challenge when the number of schools applying greatly exceeded the number of openings for Intensive Support status. The OMS created an intermediary program for schools that applied but were not quite as ready as those selected to participate as an Intensive Support schools. Forty-nine schools were placed into this “Readiness” category. The OMS felt that with assistance, these schools were likely candidates for intensive support the next year. With this in mind, teachers from Readiness schools attended workshops during 2003-2004. CPS partnered with The Teachers’ Academy for Math and Science to provide workshops on constructivist pedagogy to help teachers understand the shift in teaching and learning being driven by the CMSI. Teachers also had the opportunity to use the four sets of CMSI-supported mathematics instructional materials, helping them select and eventually implement the materials in Readiness schools.

The OMS also created a “Broad Support” designation to describe all CPS elementary schools that were not Intensive Support or Readiness schools. Teachers from Broad Support schools were welcome to participate in CMSI professional development if they were using the CMSI materials, but they did not receive the substitute coverage or stipend benefits that teachers from Intensive Support schools received. In addition, most Area mathematics and science coaches created math and science professional development sessions for all schools in their Area. For example, some Area Coaches developed presentations for particular schools using their ISAT data to analyze and devise plans for school improvements.

K-8 Implementation Support

In addition to the professional development workshops, the OMS created tools to help elementary teachers understand how they were using the CMSI-supported materials and shaping their instruction. OMS staff created pacing guidelines for each set of materials in each CPS calendar year so that a teacher at any grade level could see the pace at which she or he needed to teach to cover the full year’s content. Classroom Observation Guides were general math and science supports, created to foster discussion between teachers and others (e.g., instructional support staff) to improve instruction. These reflective tools did not refer to specific instructional materials but instead posed questions about the teacher “moves” and student “moves” taking place during classroom lessons. The pacing and classroom guides were created as tools for teachers; they were not used for collecting data. Therefore, the district does not have central data on the extent to which teachers’ instruction mirrored these guidelines. Resources were also provided for parents.

Did the plan to get materials into classrooms work?

Verifying CPS elementary school implementation of math or science instructional materials was not a simple matter. In CPS’s environment of local control, it took special investigation to determine which schools purchased CMSI-supported materials and then to determine if they had ordered enough to teach the materials as intended. The OMS tracked teachers’ attendance at materials-specific professional development workshops to get an idea of where implementation was taking place.

The district commissioned external evaluations to study how instructional materials were being used in elementary schools. One strand of studies analyzed 2003 to 2008 data to learn how schools were “implementing.” The schools studied either were Intensive Support schools, or had purchased materials, or had teachers who attended professional development. The studies determined that in these schools teachers may or may not have opened the boxes in which the materials had been shipped. Teachers who had opened the boxes may or may not have used the materials. Those who used the materials may not have used them every day. Those using them every day may not have used them in ways consistent with the authors’ intentions. Even in schools where many teachers used the materials regularly with most students, teachers did not use the materials to teach students with disabilities. Finally, the studies established that teachers’ use of the instructional materials depended on their levels of trust in the materials: trust that taught as intended, the materials would really help their students master the material and perform well on standardized tests, and trust the design was able to meet their students’ specific needs. This finding had important implications for the design of CMSI professional development and the role of Professional Development Leaders.

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