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AZ Math Partnership Profile

Promoting Excellence in Arizona Middle School Mathematics: Increasing Student Achievement through Systemic Instructional Change


The Promoting Excellence in Arizona Middle School Mathematics: Increasing Student Achievement through Systemic Instructional Change MSP involves 10 Core Partners: Scottsdale Community College, as the lead, Chandler-Gilbert and Glendale Community College, and the Deer Valley, Scottsdale, Fountain Hills, Chandler, Florence, J.O. Combs school districts, as well as Salt River Pima - Maricopa Community Schools. Supporting partners are: Arizona State University, Maricopa County Community College District, and the Glendale, Mesa, and Peoria school districts.

This targeted MSP project supports teachers in advancing their knowledge about the teaching and learning of middle school mathematics, as well as developmental mathematics in community colleges. The project provides a systemic model of sustainable professional development in partner schools and colleges to achieve the goal of increasing student achievement in middle school mathematics courses enabling them to make a successful transition to more challenging courses and curricula in high school. The project also produces research about the characteristics and mechanisms of a sustainable professional development program, as well as contributes to the body of knowledge for understanding teachers' and students' mathematical thinking and beliefs.

The project targets 300 in-service middle school mathematics teachers, 32 middle school mathematics teacher-leaders, 40 middle school administrators and 140 pre-service middle school teachers in the Phoenix metropolitan area and impacts a total of 24,000 students in grades 5-8. Participating teachers and administrators are actively engaged in: Institutes and Workshops that emphasize development of conceptual understanding, computational fluency, and problem-solving skills for students; Collaborative Communities of Learners (CCOLs) that help teachers connect what they learn in the Workshops with their classroom practice; Instructional Rounds that engage administrators; and Targeted Development of Teacher Leaders to sustain the CCOLs beyond the project's life. Pre-service teachers from the partner community colleges engage in project activities, including research endeavors, as field experiences.

There are 3 key innovative features of this project. First, the project establishes strong partnerships among community colleges and area middle schools. The opportunity for community college faculty, middle school administrators and teachers, and community college students to collaborate in professional development activities differentiates this MSP from past projects. Second, this MSP is an emergent project, which builds upon the NSF-funded Project Pathways, as well as state-level MSP projects led by senior personnel. Lastly, this project focuses on developing teachers'; deep conceptions of the 'big ideas' of middle school mathematics. Teachers are supported in shifting their thinking about mathematics as a set of skills and procedures to thinking about mathematics as a collection of well-connected ideas that anchors their curriculum and instruction.

As a result of this project, new mathematics educator networks span within and across regional districts to serve middle school students, with special attention given to those schools serving economically disadvantaged students, Hispanic students and Native American students. Project findings are prepared for publication in peer-reviewed journals of mathematics education and for presentation at state and national conferences. The project provides a national model for professional development and teacher education conducted by community college faculty trained in mathematics education research.