Microsoft Math Partnership
Year 2 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 two years. Although summative in nature about the effects of reform on the selected school 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:
Participating school districts developed partnerships at several levels in Year 2 of the initiative. The nature of the partnerships varied greatly between districts and among schools. In interviews and focus groups with school and district administrators, many admitted that the expectations for forming partnerships were not very clear. Despite this sentiment, many partnerships are developing and strengthening within the MMP districts.
Consistent with Year 1 findings, teachers and principals continued to identify the instructional support provided by math coaches as one of the most valuable components of the partnership, and some degree of instructional support was evident in every building. Coaches are also providing different types of professional development to teachers depending on district, school, and individual teacher needs. Coaches are also assisting in the implementation of professional learning communities. However, as in Year 1, the structure and the level of implementation of these vary greatly throughout the partnership. Many schools and districts did more work in Year 2 on assessments compared to Year 1 of the initiative. The presence of conversations around assessment was evident at all of the partnership schools, but only a small subset of the schools and districts are implementing common assessments. Partnership schools are also making progress in the area of curriculum alignment. In many of the schools, recent curriculum adoptions have required alignment to state standards.
Overall, more policy changes at the district level are occurring in Year 2 of the initiative compared to Year 1. Several interview participants cited MMP as providing support and momentum in changing multiple math policies within the districts. Additionally, many districts are gathering information and discussing the possibility of large-scale revisions in subsequent years. The most frequently mentioned policy change occurring in the MMP school districts is revisions to course placement guidelines. These new guidelines are more inclusive, providing a larger number of students with access to high-level courses.
There are several student outcomes that evaluators are gathering and tracking over time. The 2007-2008 data represent baseline outcomes for the MMP initiative. In 2008, the percent of 7th grade students in MMP schools meeting or exceeding state standards on the math WASL is 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 were enrolled in courses classified as below algebra. However, the number of students enrolled in algebra or beyond courses increased from 2007 to 2009. 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, 94% of students took math courses at or above grade level. At the 10th grade level, 85% of students took math courses at or above grade level. Of the graduating students (end of 12th grade), 65% 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.
In Year 2, some initiative activities are developing sustainability in many of the partnership schools; however, most admit that sustainability will be greatly affected by not having a coach and by changes in administrators or teachers. 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) Extra Student Support.
It was apparent throughout the interviews and focus groups that districts and schools made substantial gains in several areas from Year 1 to Year 2 of the initiative. The math coaches’ are more confident in the expectations for their work with teachers on instructional practice and are starting to create collaborative teacher teams around common goals. Administrative support and sponsorship of the initiative is high in the majority of buildings, and the professional development provided by the partnership this year was well received.
The BERC Group, LLC.
Duane B. Baker, Ed.D.
Kari M. Peterson, Ph.D.
Candace A. Gratama, Ed.D.
Mark Freed, MAT
The BERC Group brings experience and an extensive knowledge base to any evaluation project.