Standards-Based Instructional Materials
The CPS Office of Mathematics and Science (OMS) thought deeply about sustainability. This was clear in its design to have schools voluntarily opt into the program and then to provide these schools with extensive implementation support. However, life within a dynamic system is in constant flux, and the CPS context was a case in point. The OMS attempted to deal with this changing environment by building structures that would sustain teachers in their use of Chicago Math & Science Initiative (CMSI) instructional materials.
Carrots and Sticks: Engaging Implementation in Elementary Schools
Office of Mathematics and Science leaders understood that improvements in math and science teaching and learning were more likely if schools both voluntarily engaged in them and had some capacity for change.
The Chicago Math & Science Initiative offered all elementary schools a chance to apply to become “Intensive Support” schools. Of the 207 schools that applied, the OMS designated 81 schools as Intensive Support schools for 2003-2004. Although initial interest was higher than expected, the voluntary, opt-in, incentive-based approach for engaging elementary schools lasted only one year.
By 2004-2005, two developments within CPS significantly changed OMS policy toward engaging elementary schools to use the CMSI-supported math and science instructional material.
First, the district faced a budget shortfall. The incentive funds for Intensive Support schools were cut significantly, and no new Intensive Support schools were named. About 25% of the existing Intensive Support schools lost half of their funds for a freed teacher to support in-school instruction. All of the Intensive Support schools lost 30% of the funds they had expected to get in 2004-2005 for purchasing instructional materials. While some principals picked up the cost to keep the supports in place, other schools lost the staff person trained to help teachers use the new materials.
Second, in 2004-2005 CPS went from dozens of schools on “probation” to hundreds. The district put a school on probation in 2003-2004 if less than 25% of its students met state standards as measured by performance on standardized test results. In 2004-2005, that benchmark increased to 40%. Probation schools lost some control over both their budgets and choices of curricula and resource usage. For probation schools that had targeted student achievement in mathematics in their improvement plans, district leaders required that they both adopt CMSI-supported instructional materials and send their teachers to professional development workshops on their use.
Accordingly, in 2004-2005 and onward, the OMS found itself supporting a much larger group of new users of CMSI-supported math and science instructional materials, many of whom were teachers at schools where students were performing at very low levels of math and science achievement.
Table 10: Number of CPS Elementary Schools Supported by the District in Implementing Standards-based Mathematics Instructional Materials, 2002 – 2006 (data for science materials not available)
|Selected standards based curricula||District supported schools 2002-2003||District supported schools 2003-2004||District supported schools 2004-2005||District supported schools 2005-2006|
|Math Primary Details|
|Math Middle Grade Details|
Ordering, receiving, and opening boxes: Logistics key to implementation
Getting the instructional materials into schools, then into the classrooms, and then opening the boxes and preparing materials for use in classrooms was critical to the success of this systemic reform. The Office of Mathematics and Science developed detailed price listings and ordering guidelines to help schools. When principals followed the OMS guidelines for placing orders the timing of the order and delivery process often worked well, but not always. Late-arriving materials hampered some teachers’ implementation early on in the initiative, and delayed materials continued to be a challenge even into 2008.
In 2003-2004, the first year of CMSI implementation in Intensive Support schools, the OMS-funded specialists spent up to a third of their full-time job managing instructional materials logistics. This was especially challenging for specialists managing the new science materials where they had to quickly learn kit materials and help the teachers with the considerable preparation time for each lesson. By fall 2005 and beyond, the management of materials was part of the role for OMS-funded citywide specialists and school-based specialists, if available. Materials management remained a time-consuming activity and most of these staff were no longer full-time at schools. OMS and Area staff sometimes needed to step in and help resolve problems.