University Courses on
Mathematics and Science Content Knowledge

Context: University Participation

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Sidebar: Faculty

In 2000, faculty from many local universities worked with CPS to develop and pilot math and science courses as part of the Chicago Urban Systemic Program (CUSP). Approximately 125 teachers received full tuition support to participate in 17 courses focused on K-8 math and science at seven universities from 2000 through spring 2003. In 2004, these courses went from pilot mode to full implementation as university stakeholders responded to the call for their increased participation in Chicago’s systemic reform effort.

On March 7, 2003, the newly created CPS Office of Mathematics and Science (OMS) hosted a city-wide “University Partners” meeting at Loyola University. The universities received early notice of the district’s intention to enhance teacher credentials and content knowledge through programs of university courses, rather than relying on individual courses. These university programs were needed to address the No Child Left Behind requirements that teachers be “Highly Qualified” in their areas of teaching, and the reality that many teachers in Chicago needed to enhance their credentials in math and science. OMS invited university feedback on this effort.

The dialogue at the meeting acknowledged some past challenges to strong partnerships between CPS and local universities and a willingness to work through these challenges. OMS Chief Officer Gartzman framed the need for these NCLB-driven university courses and the reality that many teachers in Chicago needed to enhance their credentials in math and science. He noted that such partnerships made sense, especially given that 75% of current CPS teachers have degrees from one of 11 local universities. In addition, he acknowledged that universities may be wary of working with CPS given that, as Gartzman noted on his presentation slides, “Partnerships with CPS have too-often been ‘high maintenance’ and unreliable,” and “Strong partnerships must acknowledge and address needs of universities as well as CPS’s,” where past collaborations had fallen short. Gartzman talked about the desire of OMS to address these issues and to set up administrative structures to work well with universities. Gartzman also noted that he expected universities to provide a strong level of rigor in their graduate-level courses and employ regular, not adjunct, faculty for most of the instruction.

On May 1, 2003, OMS formally invited universities to apply for Chicago Math & Science Initiative (CMSI) approval of university math and science endorsement programs for teachers. Programs with CMSI approval would enroll CPS teachers who would receive tuition subsidies. OMS leadership assured university partners that they would receive from OMS “considerable assistance with administrative tasks and recruitment of participants.” The invitation letter explained that the district sought grades 6-8 endorsement programs that fulfilled all state of Illinois middle grades math or science endorsement requirements. In addition, it described certification enhancement programs for grades K-5 mathematics and science that would allow teachers to become “CPS credentialed” in these content areas.

A quick response by six universities led to more than a dozen programs for teachers of math and science approved for the 2003-2004 school year. These programs focused on grades 6-8 and grades K-5. By 2008, the math and science content development programs for teachers were almost exclusively focused on middle grades teachers.

University faculty had varied reactions to participation in CMSI. Some felt strongly that this work was an obligation that the university had to the community, and sough support from their administrations to develop structures that would enable program success. A summary of some of the issues related to faculty involvement with the 2002-2008 CMSI is available.

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