Microsoft Math Partnership
Year 3 Report - Final Project 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 three years. Although summative in nature about the effects of reform on the selected schools and 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:
It was apparent throughout the interviews and focus groups that MMP schools made substantial gains in several areas throughout of the three years of the initiative. In Year 3, MMP participants identified numerous specific ways in which classrooms look different from the beginning of the initiative to this year. Participants identified having a clear teaching point, encouraging more student discussions, devising ways to have students work together, and encouraging students to justify and defend their thinking as some of the ways classrooms look different now. Evaluators also observed the presence of more Powerful Teaching and Learning in classrooms in Year 3 as compared to previous years. In general, teachers are becoming less isolated in their practice.
In some of the MMP schools, math departments are working together in highly collaborative and focused teams. As such, some administrators are beginning to use their math departments as models for the rest of the school. One of the most beneficial activities of MMP throughout the three years of grant was the development of a coaching cohort. Universally, coaches reported the collaboration with their coaching colleagues as being one of the most valuable parts of the initiative. Most coaches thought of the coaching cohort as a PLC and used the collaborative time with the other coaches to get ideas, to share struggles, and to further understand their roles as coaches. Finally, a promising practice continuing from Year 2 of the grant is a high level of administrative sponsorship for the initiative goals and objectives. Administrators at the district level sponsored the initiative to a greater extent this year by incorporating more of the grant goals and objectives into their district improvement plans. Building administrators supported and sponsored the work by attending MMP trainings and by working closely with their math coaches and math departments.
Participating school districts developed Partnerships at several levels throughout the initiative. The nature of the Partnerships varied greatly among districts and among schools. In interviews and focus groups with school and district administrators, many admitted the expectations for forming Partnerships were not very clear and most Partnerships developed among the MMP schools or among schools in the same district. Few family and community Partnerships developed during the course of the initiative.
In Year 3, teachers and principals continued to identify the instructional support provided by math coaches as one of the most valuable components provided by the Partnership. Over the last two years of the Partnership, coaches reported they understand their roles to a greater extent. MMP coaches continue to provide different types of targeted professional development depending on district, school, and individual teacher needs. This year, many coaches led and participated in professional development centered on aligning curriculum with new state math standards. The implementation of professional learning communities or collaborative learning teams is underway in many of the MMP buildings. Similar to last year, the structure and the level of implementation of these vary greatly throughout the Partnership. Many schools and districts continued to work on developing common formative and summative assessments in Year 3. The presence of conversations around developing commons assessments was evident at all of the Partnership schools, but only a small subset of the schools and districts are implementing common assessments.
Overall, more policy changes at the district and school levels occurred in Years 2 and 3 of the initiative compared to Year 1. Additionally, many of the MMP districts are gathering information and discussing the possibility of large-scale revisions in subsequent years, including changes to graduation requirements for the class of 2013 and beyond. Policy changes at the district and school level include revising student placement strategies, offering more support math classes for struggling students, supporting curriculum and assessment alignment, and including students who qualify as English Language Learners and for Special Education in mainstream math courses.
Researchers gathered perception data about teacher practice during interviews and focus groups conducted at each of the Partnership schools. In Year 3, many interviewees reported coaches having a positive influence on teacher practice. In particular, interviewees mentioned increased student collaboration, clear teaching objectives, increased use of formative assessment, and increased student discourse on math as classroom practices over the last three years of the initiative. In addition to gathering perception data during the interviews, the research team also conducted classroom observations designed to determine the extent to which Powerful Teaching and LearningTM was present in the MMP schools. Year 3 results show improvements in every area of the STAR Protocol compared to previous years and are above or at the STAR Average (comparison group) in every area.
There are several student outcomes that evaluators are gathering and tracking over time. The percent of students in MMP middle and junior high schools meeting or exceeding state standards on the state math achievement test is consistently higher than the state average. Course taking patterns at the middle school level were used to determine the extent to which students took algebra by the 8th grade. Overall, the majority of students enroll in courses classified as below algebra. However, the percentage of students enrolled in algebra or beyond courses increased from 2006-2007 to 2009-2010. 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. At the 9th grade level, the percentage of students taking „Beyond Algebra‟ or above grade level courses increased from the 2006-2007 school year to the 2009-2010 school year, with a corresponding decrease in the percentage of students taking courses at grade level. A similar pattern emerged at the 10th grade level, with the percentage of students taking „Beyond Geometry‟ or above grade level courses increasing from 2006-2007 to 2009-2010 by 8 percentage-points.Lastly, the percentage of college eligible students (math only) increased by 9 percentage-points from 2007 to 2010. This data indicates that the MMP districts are improving in the percentage of students who are college eligible (math only), however in 2010 about one-quarter of students graduating from these schools continue to not be eligible for college admittance by Washington State HEC Board standards because of course-taking deficiencies.
In Year 3, some initiative activities are developing sustainability in many of the Partnership schools; however, most admit sustainability will be greatly affected by not having a coach, by significant changes in administrators or teachers, and by reduced release time for teacher collaboration.Interview and focus group participants mentioned the following areas as sustainable: 1) School Culture, 2) Technology, 3) Curriculum and Assessment, 4) Collaborative Teaming, and 5) Changes in Classroom Practices.
The BERC Group, LLC.
Duane B. Baker, 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.