For all of the stages described above, an effort was made to place the Fellows in inner city schools that had good mathematics and science programs and with Cooperating Teachers who would model the pedagogy called for by national and state reform documents. Recommendations of such schools were solicited from the Los Angeles Urban Systemic Initiative staff. Eight schools, most of which were in South Central Los Angeles were selected (Appendix C). They were all year-around schools. A teacher who served as a site coordinator was appointed in each school to assure that the program had structure within the school and that the Fellows were placed with the appropriate teachers. The site coordinator was recommended by the principal or assistant principal of the school and had the duty to represent the program in recommending and recruiting teachers who would serve as Cooperating Teachers. The idea behind appointing a site coordinator was that on-site teachers knew better which teachers would model standards-based teaching in mathematics or science and could appropriately recommend those teachers. The site coordinators also served as points of communication between CSULB faculty and the teachers.
PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT ACTIVITIES
Activities During the Credential Program
One desired outcome of the program, as expressed by the DRIAB, has been to enhance the awareness of and positive attitudes toward life-long professional development among the Fellows. To that end, several activities were offered during the credential program. These activities were designed to inform the Fellows about the opportunities for professional development available to teachers. They included hands-on, inquiry-based activities at the California Museum of Science and Industry and a special program presented by the Discovery Museum of Orange County. They also attended a one-day workshop at the California Institute of Technology, during which the Fellows met with Drs. Tom
Apostol, developer of the Mathematics! Program, David Goodstein, developer of The Mechanical Universe, and Gil Clark, Director of Telescopes in Education.
Follow-up Support Activities
In studies of teachers newly inducted into the profession16, new teachers report feelings of being overwhelmed, isolation, and self-doubt. Moreover, beginning teachers are often reluctant to seek advice and help from their principals or more experienced teachers for fear that they will be viewed as incompetent. These feelings lead to a high attrition rate within the first few years of teaching. Thirty percent of new teachers leave California’s metropolitan and rural schools after one year of teaching. Nationally, the figures are similar, with more than half leaving after five years, constituting a waste of human and financial resources, as well as severe hardship on schools and students. Therefore, a number of activities were designed by the DRIAB and DRI staff to provide support for the DRI Fellows as they made the difficult transition into urban classrooms. The DRIAB perceived several potential needs of new mathematics and science teachers, especially those entering the field as a second career. Mathematics and science teachers need:
to be able to view teaching as a profession;
assistance in dealing with pedagogy and classroom management;
updates in content, and how to use their content knowledge to the best advantage of their students;
opportunities to learn about and participate in the discussions around current issues in teaching mathematics and science;
opportunities to have meaningful discourse with other teachers about teaching and learning in their content areas;
opportunities to reflect upon and evaluate their own teaching practices; and
opportunities to view teaching as a continuum of life-long learning.
The aim of the follow-up activities, which occurred in the two and one half years following the credential program, was to address some or all of those needs. The follow-up activities took the form of several Saturday Seminars and workshop activities, funding for tuition and fees for courses to enhance the credentialing and employment opportunities of the Fellows, funding for travel to professional teacher meetings, funding for substitute teachers for visits to other Fellows’ classrooms, and provision of literature about teaching and learning in mathematics and science.
A total of 15 half-day Saturday Seminars were held from November 1996 through September 1998. In order to garner the support of the principals where the Fellows began teaching, they were sent letters explaining the program. For the first year of the Saturday Seminars, the sessions were held at the various schools where the Fellows were teaching. Each Fellow was asked to bring another teacher from his or her school to every Saturday Seminar and unlimited attendance by teachers at the host school was encouraged. One session each year was an unstructured session at which the Fellows
Mary Jane T. Pearson and Bill Honig. Success for Beginning Teachers. California Department of Education, Sacramento. 1992; National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future. What Matters Most: Teaching for American’s Future. 1996
were invited to share concerns and ideas about their teaching experience. The various other sessions dealt with the following topics:
the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) and its purpose as well as the videotapes of various classrooms which could be used as a vehicle for discussion and reflection upon teaching practices;
assessment practices in mathematics and science;
designing enhanced classroom presentation of mathematics and science concepts, through an understanding of inquiry, real-world applications of concepts, and the use and availability of instructional materials;
gangs and gang violence; and
classroom-based research (sometimes referred to as action research) to design potential classroom-based research projects for their own classroom.
During the course of two years of Saturday Seminars, the discussions became more substantive. By the middle of the second year, discussions among the Fellows focused around standards-based teaching, alternative ways to present particular material, and alternative assessment strategies, rather than purely classroom management issues. The two-year development of the DRI Fellows from engineers who were just introduced into the classroom to professional teachers was dramatic.
Travel to Professional Teachers’ Meetings
The opportunity to be reimbursed up to $500 for travel to a national or regional professional teachers meeting was offered to the Fellows for each of their beginning two years of teaching. This amount was increased to $1,000 in the fall of their third year of teaching. Attendance at meetings with other teachers of the same discipline enhances the professionalism of teaching, promotes leadership development, and encourages good teaching practices. In the first year that this opportunity was offered, only two Fellows attended professional meetings. This number increased to six in the next two years. Those that did not take advantage of the opportunity cited that they could not get away from their school or they could not leave for family reasons.
DRI Fellow D. M., a Chemistry teacher who attended the NSTA meetings, said, “I learned a lot, much of which I can use right away in the classroom. I also came away with a carload full of ‘feebies’ for classroom use! I want to thank the NRC formaking it possible for me to attend.”
Another planned activity for the Fellows was that they attend summer workshops for content enhancement and leadership development. Upon advice from the DRIAB members, the Fellows were given an opportunity to enroll in either the California Mathematics Project Summer Institute or the California Science Project Summer Institute, both at University of California, Irvine (UCI). The DRI project paid for the registration fee, enrollment fee, and the university credit fee for all Fellows who participated. The Fellows were also paid mileage and $60 per day for each day of attendance. The
first summer, three Fellows attended the mathematics institute and one Fellow attended the science institute. In addition, one Fellow attended a mandatory summer institute conducted by his high school for which he was paid by his district. Two Fellows took courses during the first summer to complete requirements for their full teaching credential. Two Fellows were unable to attend the summer institutes because they were teaching in year-around schools and were “on-track ” at the time. One of those teachers subsequently took a university course when he was “off-track.”
In the second summer, the needs of the Fellows had begun to diverge and they were allowed to choose the type of summer activity which best suited their needs. One Fellow chose to attend the UCI Science Project Institute for a second year. One Fellow attended a workshop on integrating mathematics and science that was paid for by his school. DRI paid for him to receive college credit for the workshop. Data is still being received at the time of writing of the report, but least three Fellows took courses that furthered either their content knowledge or advanced their teaching goals.
The culminating activity of the DRI professional development activities was a Leadership Institute conducted by the University of California, Los Angeles Mathematics Project. The two-day institute focused on supporting, mentoring, and coaching new teachers. Up to three other experienced mathematics or science teachers from each of the Fellows ’ schools were invited to attend. DRI paid for substitute teachers for each attendee.
In order to encourage the schools to avail themselves of these Institute-trained teachers, one-day of substitute time was paid to each school for releasing new teachers to visit the experienced teachers’ classrooms.
Other Opportunities Offered
Other enhancements of the DRI Fellows’ teaching experiences were also offered:
Several books and publications were ordered for the DRI Fellows to enhance specific professional development activities. For instance, all three of the NCTM mathematics education standards plus the Addendum series were provided to the mathematics Fellows, and the NRC’s National Science Education Standards as well as Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science were given to the science Fellows.
Membership in the NCTM and the California Mathematics Council or NSTA and the California Science Teachers Association was purchased for one year for each Fellow. At the time of the writing of this report, at least seven Fellows have maintained their membership in the professional societies.
DRI paid for reimbursement of registration fees for one course for each Fellow that would satisfy requirements for obtaining a full California teaching credential. Most Fellows who took advantage of this opportunity took a required course in mainstreaming developmentally challenged students. Others took courses toward the CLAD requirement.
Upon recommendation from the DRIAB, each Fellow was offered the opportunity to visit the classroom of another Fellow. By observing and being observed by peers, new teachers especially,
tend to be more reflective about their own practices. The DRI worked with the principals of each school to reimburse the schools for the cost of a substitute teacher.
A grant of up to $300 was offered to each Fellow to conduct classroom-based research. The purpose was two-fold; first, the Fellows were given experience in small grant writing, and second, the Fellows were encouraged to participate in classroom-based research.
Every Fellow took advantage of more than one of the opportunities offered, although, for most activities participation was low. The Saturday Seminars were the activity attended most, with five of the Fellows attending all 15 sessions and one missing only one session.