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Icon for: Davida Fischman


California State University San Bernardino

ACES: Algebraic Concepts for Elementary Students

NSF Awards: 0962778

2016 (see original presentation & discussion)

Grades K-6, Grades 6-8

The ACES vision is to create and sustain professional learning communities of teachers and administrators in order to improve mathematics instruction. Participants work collaboratively in lesson study, seminars and summer institutes to learn how to provide high quality instruction. By this we mean instruction that is mathematically accurate, engaging, focused on student learning, and balanced with regard to procedural fluency, conceptual understanding and problem solving. The ultimate goal is to achieve significant gains in learning and approaches to doing mathematics among elementary and middle school students; gains that will be sustained in high school and beyond.

In ACES, teachers have developed a view of mathematics as exciting and interesting, and have grown significantly in their mathematical knowledge for teaching, mathematics leadership skills, and ability to inspire students to love mathematics and feel excited by its challenges. Many of the ACES teachers have assumed formal and informal leadership roles in the district, and are working to disseminate their gains through district initiatives.

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Discussion from the NSF 2016 STEM For All Video Showcase (12 posts)
  • Icon for: Gerald Kulm

    Gerald Kulm

    Senior Professor
    May 16, 2016 | 10:09 a.m.

    Hi. A very ambitious teacher development project. How did you obtain school administration support for the time involved by teachers? What teacher incentives were there and what proportion of teachers saw it through all five years? What measures of student success did you use?

  • Icon for: Davida Fischman

    Davida Fischman

    Lead Presenter
    May 16, 2016 | 11:02 a.m.

    Indeed it has been!

    We had some substantive discussions with administrators at both the site level and the district level before submitting the proposal. Administrators supported the idea of teachers applying as site teams, so they could support one another in implementation of changes at their schools. There was a great deal of district support for the project, even to the extent of holding recruiting meetings before being awarded the grant. Quite a few of the project teachers are now in leadership positions, and continue to support project approaches.

    Teachers were paid generous stipends in the summer institutes, self-facilitated collaboration time, and seminars, and the lesson study took place during the work day (substitute teachers’ salaries were paid in full by the grant for one year, then the district took over slowly until the district paid 80% of the cost in the last year.)

    About half the teachers completed the full five years, but the vast majority completed at least three years of the project. The slots that were vacated were filled easily, as the project had developed a very positive reputation in the district. We continue to receive emails from teachers who left the project about how they still use what they learned.

    Student success measures have had to change over time. We originally intended to use the CA Standards Tests (CSTs) to measure growth and to compare grades of students of project teachers with students whose teachers did not participate in the project. But with the advent of CCSS, the CSTs were discontinued so we have scores for only two years + baseline there (and our analyses showed that the more the teachers participated in ACES, the better their students did, even after only 2 years). We are now working on comparing project students with whole district scores on SBAC tests. Anecdotally, based on unofficial comparisons, the teachers and administrators are very happy with the results in terms of student learning.

  • Icon for: Brian Drayton

    Brian Drayton

    Co-Principal Investigator
    May 18, 2016 | 01:52 p.m.

    Your video made me want to be a math teacher. Very exciting, and it’s because of the richness and depth of the PD system that these teachers experienced.
    I have to say that I don’t care much about student score effects — but I would like to know if you have done any study of changes in teachers’ practice, how that evolved over the years, and maybe something about which elements in the system had the most impact. Or maybe there are some parts (e.g summer institute) that open doors/provide insight that the others then amplify/build upon?

  • Icon for: Davida Fischman

    Davida Fischman

    Lead Presenter
    May 18, 2016 | 07:54 p.m.

    Thank you! Yes, we really loved doing this project, and we are seeing the effects not only in the district but also at the university. The ACES facilitators have all transformed our teaching in many ways, doing our best to practice what we preach.

    As for classroom instruction – that is the crux of the issue, isn’t it? We have a large collection of video (2-3 per year per teacher) that we are still transcribing and scoring, so I can’t yet report on the results. I can, however, say anecdotally that I’ve observed a number of these elementary classrooms in which students are engaging in amazing mathematical discussions, on a level of professionalism that I would like my own students to develop!

    Many of the teachers are now (and have been for several years) sharing their expertise with their colleagues at different levels – either grade-level teams, school-wide professional development, and district-wide. They have also presented their work at regional and state-wide conferences. Very exciting!

  • Icon for: Michelle Perry

    Michelle Perry

    May 18, 2016 | 03:23 p.m.

    Thanks for sharing your project! I’m impressed by the multi-pronged approach and sustained PD plan. How many teachers over what grade levels were involved? Also, what would you say was the biggest challenge? What are you most proud of?

  • Icon for: Davida Fischman

    Davida Fischman

    Lead Presenter
    May 19, 2016 | 09:57 p.m.

    Hi Michelle,

    At any given moment we had 50-60 teachers, and over the span of the project we had about 100 total. They spanned grades 4-8.

    In such a complex project it’s hard to pinpoint a biggest challenge, but here is one challenge we had: how to design and coordinate all the components so that they all come together ultimately in enhanced student learning. I think that we actually were able to do that, and in many ways the lesson study was the major piece that supported teachers in applying their growing mathematical prowess to their teaching.

    We are especially gratified that teachers were able and willing to devote so much time and effort over a long haul – and that so many of them are now in leadership positions and sharing their learnings with the greater community.

  • Icon for: Jeffrey Barrett

    Jeffrey Barrett

    May 19, 2016 | 05:04 p.m.

    How did the lesson study component work for your team? Did you find that teachers learned to conduct their own investigations of the lessons, with varying ways of looking at the student learning in classrooms? It can be challenging to get teachers to grasp this key idea in lesson study!

  • Icon for: Davida Fischman

    Davida Fischman

    Lead Presenter
    May 19, 2016 | 10:07 p.m.

    Hi Jeff,
    The lesson study was a wonderful experience for the facilitators (mathematicians, mathematics educators, K-12 specialists) and the teachers. Teachers developed a more nuanced view of student data and an ability to design and implement mini-interviews to learn about the student thinking behind the work we collected. We all were fascinated by how interpretation of student work might be accurate – and sometimes very different from what students were actually thinking while they wrote it.
    Lesson study has worked very well for us in developing “eyes to see students” both in the lesson and in the post-lesson analysis.

  • Icon for: Meixia Ding

    Meixia Ding

    Associate Professor
    May 19, 2016 | 05:11 p.m.

    Hi Davida, What an impressive project! It shares similar structures to the “Nebraska Math,” a NSF project at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Wendy Smith presented this project in the 2015 video showcase.

  • Icon for: Davida Fischman

    Davida Fischman

    Lead Presenter
    May 19, 2016 | 10:14 p.m.

    Hi Meixia,
    Thank you, the project involved a lot of very dedicated people! And yes, I am a big fan of the Nebraska Math group, they do great work.

  • Icon for: Carolina Milesi

    Carolina Milesi

    Senior Research Scientist
    May 20, 2016 | 08:57 a.m.

    This is exciting work! Given the long-term committment of ACES teachers, I wonder how you recruit teachers to participate in this program.

  • Icon for: Davida Fischman

    Davida Fischman

    Lead Presenter
    May 20, 2016 | 11:35 a.m.

    Hi Carolina,

    I think that one of the major factors in teachers’ long term commitment was that they applied as teams, and felt that there was support both from their colleagues and from site and district administration. Team members truly supported one another, and helped each other get past the tough spots, and administrators gave their ACES teachers the opportunity to “risk” new teaching methods in the interest of student learning.

  • Further posting is closed as the event has ended.