This is a 3-year project by the Waltham Public Schools, in collaboration with Education Development Center (EDC), to launch a multiyear, districtwide, systemic reform of the city's entire K-12 mathematics program. Waltham faces many of the challenges of urban schools with a growing minority population (28%) which is predominately Hispanic and 25% of the students having English as a second language.
The foci are to (1) deepen teachers' understanding of mathematics, (2) help them view mathematics as a problem solving discipline, (3) enhance their pedagogical skills to include the use of technology and inquiry driven classroom techniques, (4) promote cross-grade dialogue to make K-12 mathematics instruction an integrated whole, and (5) enhance their abilities to choose curriculum wisely. The project involves all 200 of the district's teachers of mathematics in 10 days of teacher enhancement each year. EDC staff and outside experts in mathematics and mathematics education lead the seminars involving the cross-grade teacher groups.
Teacher liaisons, chosen for their desire in a leadership role, assist EDC staff in planning the seminars and maintaining a school based connection for other teachers, administrators and parents. The teacher liaisons will solely lead the seminars in the third year where teachers pilot units from curricula that are under review for adoption systemwide. Local industries and universities provide volunteers to substitute for teachers while they attend the professional development seminars. Also, administrators, principals, and parents are involved in selected seminars each year. The teacher participants are offered graduate credit, through Fitchburg State College, or in-service credit to fulfill the professional development requirements set forth by the State of Massachusetts.
Through the community involvement in the project, the students are able to connect their work in mathematics to the real world and a capacity to maintain change after the life of the project is developed. The district reform model will be disseminated through the production of a manual describing the project with suggestions for adaptations by other small-city districts.