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Serious and sustained improvement in student college and career readiness in mathematics requires an intentional focus on influencing teacher beliefs and behaviors around what Richard Elmore refers to as the “core of educational practice”: subject matter (including critical concepts and methods of inquiry related to that math content), student learning (especially the ways in which students’ mathematical thinking develops), and teaching practice (the nature of and effects of various instructional approaches).
· People generally support and sustain work that they “own” by actively helping to design and refine in terms of implementation rather than having it imposed from outside. This kind of “small solutions” approach has proven to be successful in creating more ownership and energy around change work than would be possible with top-down mandates or policy levers alone, but by itself is insufficient if the ultimate goal is to influence systemic change, so this proposal would combine a coordinated statewide effort supporting the college coalition in order to have as broad an influence as possible on students and teachers around the state.
· “Scaling up” innovations—creating conditions for multiple faculty and multiple colleges to adapt and implement successful improvement strategies—has proven to be one of the most complex and challenging issues facing educators in addressing long-term problems related to student achievement. As Cynthia Coburn (“Rethinking ‘scale’: moving beyond numbers to deep and lasting change,” Educational Researcher, August/September, 2003, 32(6), 3-12) has noted, scale means much more meaningful components than just multiple sites “adopting” a particular strategy or program; it involves depth of understanding of core principles, sustainability in terms of substantive change supported over time, spread both within a school or college as well as across institutions, and a fundamental shift in knowledge about and capacity for extending the reform work.
· As Elmore argues with respect to issues of scaling up innovations, “Most investments in curriculum and professional development are lost because they are not actively managed.”(“Improvement of teaching at scale,” NSF Learning Network conference, January 2006) The coordination and connections provided by a statewide leadership group will allow us to leverage the work of the colleges, learning from and promoting a variety of innovative home-grown practices proven to be successful and sustainable in local contexts.