Many of the projects rely on some form of professional community to support participants and to extend the reach of the project beyond those directly participating in project activities. Examples of such communities include networks of teachers in communities stemming from graduate programs, networks of teachers or teacher leaders in online communities, teams of participants organized in professional learning communities, and lesson study teams. In many cases, the projects are building such communities with the intent that they will continue to support the teachers beyond the funding period, and create a culture of mutual professional support for long-term enhancement of teaching.
Quality of Teaching and Learning
Many projects have defined “high quality teaching” either in terms of the Standards for Mathematical Practice of the Common Core State Standards or in relation to the lists on which these were based: the Strands for Mathematical Proficiency from Adding it Up and the NCTM Process Standards. This provides a certain consistency in our understanding of high quality teaching, which gives us a great deal of common ground and common language.
Evaluating Impact on Student Achievement
Determining improvement in student conceptual learning or other aspects of student learning which are directly connected with high quality learning as defined by the projects is a fairly common challenge. In many cases state assessments are not considered a reliable measure of such learning, and may in fact not be linked from year to year, and so are not necessarily even a good measure of student growth in procedural knowledge. On the other hand, with the already heavy testing load, projects are reluctant to ask teachers to give additional assessments – which makes it difficult to measure the kinds of learning we would like to see in the classroom. Some projects are relying on videotaping to measure classroom growth, and are obtaining good information in this way; in others formative assessment is being used to evaluate student growth and improve instruction based on the data obtained.
There seems to be an additional challenge in identifying a reliable correlation between student achievement and specific components of the project such as teachers’ participation, changes in teaching style, the establishment of professional learning communities, and other aspects of teacher growth.
Administrator support is noted as crucial for teacher motivation to participate in project professional development and to change instruction. Some projects have been more successful than others in structuring administrator involvement at various site and district levels, and it seems that in projects with even a small but consistent administrative component of support, this provides a powerful motivator for teachers.
Note: These comments are based only on a sample of the posters viewed during the poster competition.