Microsoft Math Partnership
Year 1 Report
The purpose of this report is to provide information about the Microsoft Math Partnership (MMP) and the extent to which participating districts have made progress towards grant goals and objectives over the last year. Although summative in nature about the effects of reform on the selected school districts, the report is also designed to provide formative feedback to assist in the ongoing implementation of initiative efforts. The general questions explored during the evaluation were:
In Year 1, school districts laid the groundwork for several important community partnerships. These included partnerships with families, with local corporations, and with public agencies. Budding partnerships between districts are observable at the level of teachers, coaches, and administrators. Within districts, most participants acknowledge that they are still in the early stages of building professional relationships across schools. In particular, there is little evidence of vertical collaboration to date.
In each of the partnership districts, coaches successfully managed the planning and implementation of multiple initiative activities. This included providing instructional support to teachers, coordinating community outreach events, and spearheading the development of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs). However, many interview participants suggested that the process for change occasionally lacked organization, and that the pace of implementation was slower than expected. Additionally, several participants noted that pockets of resistance hindered partnership efforts at certain schools. As of Year 1, most of the partnership schools had not successfully implemented summative and formative assessments.
The development of PLCs is underway in most buildings. However, the structure and the level of implementation vary greatly across the partnership. Several interview participants reported increased professional discussions related to student learning and increased use of data to inform instruction. The adoption and refinement of PLCs have been especially crucial for partnership districts that are in the first year of using non-traditional curriculum models. However, many interview participants indicated that they need more time to collaborate with others in the district. The findings of this report suggest that continued refinement of PLC models may necessitate additional investments in collaborative work time on the part of some partnership districts.
There have not been substantial policy changes in Year 1 of the initiative. However, many districts are gathering information and discussing the possibility of large-scale revisions in subsequent years. Several interview participants explained that MMP has provided the impetus for reform. At the district level, there have been a few instances of revisions to student placement, course offerings, and curriculum alignment. Currently, MMP district graduation requirements are not aligned with college entrance requirements. As of 2008, only two of the eight partnership districts required 3 years of mathematics.
There are several student outcomes that evaluators are gathering and tracking over time. The 2007-2008 data represent baseline outcomes for the MMP initiative. The percent of students in MMP districts meeting or exceeding state standards on the math WASL is higher than the state average for all grade levels. This has been the case for the last five years for the 4th, 7th, and 10th grades. Course taking patterns at the middle school level were used to determine the extent to which students took algebra by the 8th grade. In both years, the majority of students were enrolled in courses classified as below algebra. However, the number of students enrolled in algebra increased from 2007 to 2008. Finally, course-taking patterns at the high school level were analyzed to determine the extent to which students are engaged in curriculum that prepares them for college and the workplace. Across districts, at the 9th grade level, 69% of students took math courses at or below grade level. At the 10th grade level, 73% of students took math courses at or below grade level. Of the graduating students (end of 12th grade), only 63% took the requisite math courses for admission to a Washington 4-year college, meaning that many students graduating from these schools are not eligible for college admittance by Washington State HEC Board standards because of course-taking deficiencies in math.
As of Year 1, the initiative has not assisted in developing sustainability in most partnership buildings. The majority of interview participants explained that the progress achieved to date is attributable to one or more grant-dependent factors. Because these factors are unlikely to remain in place after the grant ends, many interviewees predicted that schools would stagnate or regress when the funding ends. One factor that has hindered the sustainability is poor communication to teachers about the vision and goals for the partnership. Data collected during interviews and focus groups revealed that administrators and coaches in several buildings did not properly articulate the purpose and scope of the MMP.
Based upon these findings, recommendations for district improvement and student achievement gains include: creating and communicating a shared vision, developing a collaborative organizational environment, focusing on teaching and learning, and focusing on college and workplace readiness. Recommendations are discussed in more detail in the conclusion of the report.
The BERC Group, LLC.
Duane B. Baker, Ed.D.
Gregory A. Bianchi, Ed.D.
Kari M. Peterson, Ph.D.
Candace A. Gratama, Ed.D.
The BERC Group brings experience and an extensive knowledge base to any evaluation project.