Working Group Session # 14 - Deborah Pace and Susan Hull
[Editor's note: Debbie Pace and Susan Hull were unable to attend the National Summit but have graciously sent a written version of the presentation they had intended to give.]
The Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin works to support education leaders and policymakers in strengthening Texas education. We are committed to an education system that nurtures students’ intellectual passions and ensures that every student leaves school prepared for postsecondary education and the contemporary workplace. (For more information, see www.utdanacenter.org.)
Initial efforts to influence the mathematical preparation of prospective teachers in Texas were motivated by a variety of concerns from the field.
|In our teaching roles, we were particularly concerned with the content and instruction in the mathematics courses for prospective elementary teachers and sought a proper balance of content and pedagogical modeling.|
|In our roles as faculty members in colleges and universities, we were concerned with the departmental and institutional support and responsibility for these courses.|
As part of the mathematics education community, the Dana Center broadened its concerns to
statewide-regional collaborative efforts and research; that is, we sought ways to help each other.
Questions important in all states and institutions include the following:
|Who currently takes responsibility for mathematics teacher preparation?|
|Who should take responsibility for mathematics teacher preparation; that is, who are the stakeholders?|
|What do the different stakeholders uniquely offer the mathematics teacher preparation process?|
In particular, it is important to consider what is lost if key stakeholders fail to contribute to the teacher preparation process.
In an effort to initiate a project that would support broad collaboration, the Dana Center surveyed mathematics and education chairs in Texas universities and community colleges in 1994-95. (See the report at www.utdanacenter.org/ssi/docs/preserv1995.pdf.) The survey revealed:
|22% of universities certifying elementary teachers offered no mathematics course designed for elementary teachers; 50% offered two courses (the minimum state requirement for certification was one course at or above the level of College Algebra).|
|14% of responding universities reported there was no one on their campus whose principal professional interest was mathematics education; it was also unclear in many universities which department (mathematics or education) assumed responsibility for the mathematical preparation of elementary teachers.|
|There was a high level of interest and growing concern from both university and community college faculty throughout the state about the mathematical preparation of teachers; faculty also indicated their desire to participate in a statewide network and share ideas with others.|
|Mathematics and education department chairs and deans and their state professional associations|
|Mathematics faculty from community colleges and universities|
|Strengthening the Mathematical Preparation of Prospective Elementary Teachers: This was a statewide project from the Texas Statewide System Initiative (SSI) at the Charles A. Dana Center, 1994–1997. (See project abstract below.)|
Strengthening The Mathematical Preparation of
Prospective Elementary Teachers In Texas
In the summer of 1994, The Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative (Texas SSI) at the Charles A. Dana Center, University of Texas at Austin, began a major statewide project to strengthen the mathematical preparation of prospective elementary teachers. As a project of the Texas SSI, this effort was associated and aligned with reform efforts in mathematics and science education throughout the state. The project goal was to help support universities and colleges as they developed and improved undergraduate mathematics courses for prospective elementary teachers. The vision was to prepare teachers who could engage students with a rich, contemporary mathematics curriculum compatible with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics' Curriculum and Evaluation Standards for School Mathematics and Professional Standards for Teaching Mathematics, as well as the Texas K-12 mathematics curriculum standards that were concurrently under development. Further support for the vision was provided in reform documents from the Mathematical Association of America (MAA), the Mathematical Sciences Education Board (MSEB), the American Mathematical Association of Two-Year Colleges (AMATYC), and the National Science Foundation (NSF). This effort was to be achieved, in part, by helping facilitate and support the changes necessary for higher education institutions, academic departments, and interested faculty to work together to improve the mathematical preparation of teachers.
Survey and Partnership Building
The first phase of the project was to describe the state of existing institutional programs for the mathematical preparation of elementary teachers throughout Texas. In September, 1994, all mathematics and education department chairs of 2- and 4-year colleges and universities in Texas were surveyed by mail to solicit information about mathematics courses offered for prospective teachers. Additionally, the survey requested names of faculty who taught and/or who were interested in these courses. This group of faculty was identified as the beginning of a network of individuals interested in reforming the mathematical preparation of teachers. This network grew throughout the project and served to facilitate professional communication and the sharing of ideas, experiences, and vision; from this network several university partnerships were formed.
The second phase of the project mobilized a leadership team of two-and four-year college and university faculty, curriculum specialists, and master teachers to develop and build consensus for recommended guidelines designed to frame and describe the mathematics courses and experiences for prospective elementary teachers. The document, Guidelines for the Mathematical Preparation of Prospective Elementary Teachers, describes the vision for these courses in their approach to curriculum, pedagogy, and assessment as well as the responsibilities of preservice teachers, faculty, and institutions. The guidelines serve as a complement to national documents that specifically address the mathematical needs of students intending to become teachers. The working draft of this document was disseminated statewide in the fall, 1995, for the purpose of soliciting feedback and building broad consensus; additional national review was solicited to create the final version. The final document was widely disseminated in 1996 and is available on the Web: www.utdanacenter.org/ssi/docs/GuideMath97.pdf.
Model Courses and Dissemination
In the third phase of the project, interested university and college faculty members were provided funding opportunities to develop model courses on their own campuses, based on the guidelines, and share their ideas through conferences, workshops and electronic communication. Descriptions of the resulting courses were compiled in the booklet, “Implementing the Guidelines for the Mathematical Preparation of Prospective Elementary Teachers.” In addition, the Dana Center’s annual October Preservice Conference, begun in 1995, has continued for seven years to provide a venue for mathematics and education faculty to share ideas, connect with statewide education efforts, and participate in their own professional development.
Although no one can mandate change or prescribe a solution for all problems, this project, with its initial focus on the mathematical preparation of prospective elementary teachers, succeeded in building a grassroots organization of those dedicated to the ideas and vision of mathematics education reform. The efforts of this initial committed constituency served to encourage and support other faculty across Texas as they moved toward reform, not only for the sake of prospective teachers, but for the sake of their future students as well. With the strength created by the connection to the Texas SSI, this project served as one critical component of multiple efforts intended to transform mathematics education in Texas.
Strengthening the Mathematical Preparation of Elementary Teachers was an effort of the Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative and the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin, with funding from the Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education, the National Science Foundation, and the Texas Education Agency 1994 – 1997.
Principal Investigator: Philip (Uri) Treisman, Ph.D., Charles A. Dana Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Project Director: David Molina, Ph.D., Charles A. Dana Center, The University of Texas at Austin
Research Associate: Susan Hudson Hull, Charles A. Dana Center, The University of Texas at Austin
|Annual October Preservice Conference: Begun in 1995, this conference continues to provide opportunities for mathematics and education faculty (and, since 1999, science faculty) to share ideas, learn about statewide efforts, and participate in professional development.|
|University Forum: This annual spring conference provides an annual week-long experience to mathematics, science, and education faculty to receive leadership development in our statewide mathematics professional development for Pre-K–12.|
|Grants to universities and community colleges: Funded through the Texas SSI, these grants encouraged departmental collaboration, provided validation of the value of faculty work, and fostered growth of new leadership.|
|The Dana Center published Guidelines for the Mathematical Preparation of Prospective Elementary Teachers (see www.utdanacenter.org/ssi/docs/GuideMath97).|
|Fourteen Texas universities and community colleges made course changes in response to the Guidelines. A booklet, “Implementing the Guidelines for the Mathematical Preparation of Elementary Teachers,” was published which summarized the impact of work with the Guidelines. One sample project is briefly described below.|
|One “story” of collaboration:
Although both had originally received SSI funding for separate projects, two regional institutions, Stephen F. Austin State University (SFASU) and the University of Texas at Tyler (UTT), decided to collaborate and merge their separate projects into a single effort. The objectives of the combined project were to:
During the first year of implementation of the combined project, four major areas of impact were identified:
|The Dana Center brought together chairs of mathematics departments and deans of colleges of education to reach agreement on policy recommendations, resulting in publication of On the Mathematical Preparation of Teachers: A Joint Position Statement from the Texas Association of Academic Administrators in the Mathematical Sciences and the Texas Association of Colleges of Teachers Education (see www.utdanacenter.org/ssi/pdf/TAAAMSTACTE.pdf).|
|In response to project recommendations, several colleges and universities voluntarily increased the number of semester hours of mathematics required of prospective elementary teachers, created new courses, and revised the content of existing courses.|
|Due in part to increased interest and strengthened faculty leadership, many departments continued to revise existing programs and design new ones, both at the undergraduate and graduate levels, to reflect national and local mathematics standards. In addition, more colleges and universities became involved in providing quality professional development to practicing teachers. (Some of these efforts have led to new projects currently funded through the National Science Foundation and FIPSE.)|
During the process of working on this project, we learned some lessons important in building partnerships.
|There were inadequate funds to support faculty work and release time.|
|Faculty found curriculum inadequate to support reformed courses and programs.|
|Reward structures in mathematics departments did not support significant faculty involvement.|
|Distrust and lack of communication between mathematics departments and colleges of education faculty often made collaboration difficult.|
|Higher education mathematics faculty needed support from others with more direct connections to K-12 teachers.|
|Institutional, administrative, and departmental support determine the extent to which changes are made and maintained; administrative support is essential.|
|The environment of the classroom is critical, and enhancing the environment can be facilitated by reorganizing content.|
|Changing preservice teacher attitudes can be done anywhere and in any mathematics class.|
|The Dana Center process has served as a good model for higher education professional development.|
|The instructor is the critical element.|
|This is a process – it is evolutionary, not immediate.|
|Across the diverse sites that instituted changes, key elements were collaboration, leadership and mission, and institutional support.|
|The critical first step in Texas was establishing a network and facilitating the formation of collegial relationships.|
|Ultimately, widespread and sustained reform required policy changes.|
|True support of mathematics teacher preparation as a primary mission of a department will be reflected in a variety of ways. Certainly, involvement by senior mathematics faculty provides evidence of such support. By contrast, departments that claim significant investment in teacher preparation but assign only adjunct faculty or graduate students to teach courses aimed at prospective teachers reflect a lack of real commitment to that mission.|
|Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) are the state standards for K–12 mathematics for all students (implemented in classrooms in fall, 1998). The Dana Center managed the process to develop the TEKS that were based on the NCTM Curriculum Standards for School Mathematics (1989). (www.tea.state.tx.us/rules/tac/chapter111/index.html)|
|Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) is the new state assessment instrument (to be implemented 2003) for all students grades 3–11 in mathematics. The TAKS will replace the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) as an integral component of the Texas accountability system. Objectives and targets for the assessments match the TEKS (www.tea.state.tx.us/student.assessment/index.html)|
|Statewide mathematics professional development institutes (TEXTEAMS) were developed to help teachers build content and pedagogical knowledge to support the teaching of the TEKS Pre-K–12. TEXTEAMS is a Dana Center project. (http://www.utdanacenter.org/ssi/projects/texteams/)|
|New teacher certification standards were developed for Early Childhood–grade 4, grades 4–8, and grades 8–12. The new standards are based on the TEKS. In addition, a new accountability system is being created for institutions that certify teachers.|
(www.sbec.state.tx.us/stand_framewrk/stand_framewrk.html) This new accountability system has created increased awareness and sense of urgency by all departments in institutions of higher education.
|Beginning in 2005, all students will be required to follow the recommended high school program in order to graduate (exceptions are with student, parent, principal, and counselor approval). In mathematics, students will need credit in Algebra I, Geometry, and Algebra II.|
|There is great concern about current and pending teacher shortages and lack of teacher capacity. As in other states, Texas has a shortage of mathematics teachers and approximately 20% of teachers of mathematics are not certified.|
|There is growing public awareness and interest in student performance in mathematics relative to other states and nations.|
|Increased participation in AP and concurrent enrollment mathematics courses have raised significant questions about maintaining standards, protecting student access to high quality mathematics courses, and availability of teachers appropriately prepared to teach such courses.|
|A variety of alternative certification programs across the state have provided a new source of competition for institutions of higher education involved in teacher certification.|
|With the reform in courses, programs, and policy has come the need for shared resources and models of standards-based curriculum appropriate for college courses.|
Prior experience in building coalitions combined with external forces described above have motivated a renewed focus on issues of special interest to higher education institutions. In response, the Dana Center has initiated two new projects specifically related to higher education.
|A new three-year Dana Center initiative to support mathematics teacher preparation has been funded by FIPSE. (See project abstract below. For a pdf version of the proposal, click “FIPSE project” at www.tenet.edu/teks/math/qstarts/highed.html.)|
Supporting and Strengthening Standards-based
The premise of this proposal is that the new standards-based policy framework in Texas requires fundamental changes in what teachers know and are able to do. This new structure will force a re-examination of the mathematics preparation of teachers, create a need for mathematics departments to design new courses for prospective teachers, and require an unprecedented level of collaboration between mathematics departments and colleges of education.
|Through its new AP initiative, the Dana Center will create a leadership team of higher education mathematics faculty from community colleges and regional universities in Texas with experience in effective support of state and local mathematics programs, especially those involving Advanced Placement courses. Project personnel will produce a guide to effective practice for higher education faculty involved with AP programs as well as auxiliary resources and an orientation workshop for those wanting to begin work in this area.|
|The Dana Center has submitted an NSF teacher enhancement proposal to extend and enhance our statewide mathematics professional development program using leadership structures that support face-to-face TEXTEAMS institutes, online short courses, and program improvement. University and community college faculty, partnering with school leaders, will play an integral role in providing critical leadership and support in mentoring, forming partnerships for professional development, and emphasizing continued learning for teachers.|
|The Dana Center continues to seek input from a Higher Education Advisory Board (established 2000) representing diverse needs from across the state. This group provides support and direction for the work of the Dana Center with higher education faculty.|
|As part of its higher education initiative, the Dana Center plans to support dissemination of effective models that encourage and reward significant involvement in the teacher preparation process by both new and senior mathematics faculty. Experience has shown that one effective strategy is to create opportunities for these faculty members to gain direct experience in teaching college-level content in ways that connect directly to the K–12 content. Although young mathematics faculty often lack significant teaching experience, they have expertise in mathematics that allows them to make broad and powerful connections. When challenged to find roots of their interests within the K–12 curriculum and given opportunities to apply their expertise by working with teachers, faculty often become strongly supportive of departmental efforts in mathematics teacher preparation. Additionally, when professionally rewarded for such participation, many are motivated to become personally involved with teacher education in a significant way while not abandoning their own research interests.|
Sustained reform on a broad scale requires extensive collaboration. We encourage other states and institutions to consider:
|In your state, what partnerships are possible? Which ones are necessary?|
|In your state, what policies need to be impacted?|
|What specific steps could you take to initiate partnerships involving your institution?|