SCCMI (Suburban Cook County Mathematics Initiative) was established to improve mathematics teaching and learning in grades six through nine. Thirty-two school districts collaborated in two “sister” mathematics improvement initiatives (South Cook Mathematics Initiative and West Cook Mathematics Initiative) from 2010 through 2016, with support from the University of Illinois at Chicago and in partnership with the West 40 and South Cook Intermediate Service Centers and funding from the Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust. The districts served a high percentage of low-income students, had common needs around mathematics teaching and learning, and shared a commitment to comprehensive mathematics improvement. The collaboration was a result of early discussions designed to surface common areas of need and possible interventions. The initiatives promoted a comprehensive strategy for improving mathematics teaching and learning, with an emphasis on strong, instructional leadership that supports high-quality instruction leading to improved student achievement.The collaboration established between WCMI and SCMI continues now through the work of the Metro Chicago Mathematics Initiative (MCMI).
What were the project goals?
- Establish communities of school districts and practitioners in west and south Cook County that work together on mathematics improvement.
- Develop joint solutions to commonly held problems involving the preparation for algebra in the middle grades and the teaching of algebra in 8th and 9th grades.
- Build districts’ capacity to gain a deeper understanding of the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics (CCSSM) and expand their capacity to implement the CCSSM in their districts, schools and classrooms.
- Strengthen the districts’ capacity to support improved mathematics instruction and retain highly qualified staff.
- Support a range of mathematics improvement activities as part of a common, comprehensive mathematics initiative among participating districts.
- Improve student outcomes and success in mathematics.
Who was involved?
- In 32 participating districts: superintendents and district administrators, teacher leaders and teachers who taught more than 20,000 students in grades 6 to 9. (While only students and teachers in grades 6 to 9 participated in the initiatives, constituent districts enrolled over 66,000 students; approximately 80 percent were from traditionally underrepresented groups.)
- At the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC): project director, UIC coaches and UIC faculty
- At the University of Chicago: founding director
- At the ISCs: ISC executive directors and system of support coordinators
- At The Chicago Community Trust: education program officers
- Logos Consulting Group, LLC: project evaluator
- External partners: nationally known experts in implementing effective mathematics instructional practices and programs
What were the key components?
The project components were designed to improve mathematics teaching and learning and support the transition to the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics by:
- Building regional and district mathematics leadership capacity and collaboration—Principals and district leaders participated in core professional development, with a goal of developing a community of administrators who have the knowledge and tools to support continuous improvement in mathematics and high-quality mathematics instruction. Superintendents from participating districts comprised Advisory Boards for each initiative, setting the project direction and ensuring that the components remained a high priority in their respective districts. Each district designated a district lead, who spearheaded the implementation of WCMI and SCMI programs in their districts and promoted cross-district collaboration. Districts established District Leadership Teams designed to drive mathematics improvement in the district and support the implementation; members of the District Leadership Teams engaged in activities to promote cluster articulation.
- Building teacher leadership and teacher capacity—Ongoing core professional development for classroom teachers created communities of educators in west and south Cook County with the knowledge, skills and experience to improve mathematics instruction in their buildings and classrooms, with additional professional development opportunities targeting support for English language learners and students with disabilities. In-school implementation support by UIC coaches helped teachers improve their practice and provided guidance for teacher leaders and school administrators. Teachers and teacher leaders had opportunities to enhance their credentials and knowledge through a series of UIC courses.
- Supporting high-quality curriculum, instruction and assessment—Teachers implemented a series of high-quality formative assessments—MARS tasks—using a carefully designed process that involved collaboration with other colleagues and promoted changes in instruction. Other instructional tools, such as Math Talks and Problems of the Month, promoted increased critical thinking and reasoning. These assessments and other tools created a common experience across districts and a context for cross-district collaboration and discussion.
What were some outcomes of the project?
Responses through numerous data strands, including surveys and focus groups, indicate extremely high satisfaction of participants in terms of the quality of the professional development they received. Many respondents indicated that they now regularly discuss and collaborate with their colleagues about mathematics teaching and learning, which is a significant increase in collaboration related to mathematics since their participation in the project.
There was increased collaboration across districts to support mathematics improvement, including a decision to implement a common cross-district performance assessment in 2013 and 2014.
Collaboration opportunities increased at district and school levels as teachers jointly scored and analyzed student work and planned lessons to address student misconceptions.
The ongoing use of high-quality formative assessments and the use of related re-engagement strategies to meet the needs of all students were implemented by more than teacher leaders and teachers.
Classroom observations by outside evaluators of lessons involving MARS tasks documented a trend toward teachers changing their instructional practice and increasing student engagement in classrooms, with more students engaged in practices required by the CCSSM.
Numerous teachers enrolled in the university courses either to pursue their middle grade mathematics endorsements or master’s degrees in mathematics education.