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Exploring the Maturation of Systems Reform: A Seven Year, K-12 Case Study Analysis of Teacher and System Reform Variables

Abstract

This paper addresses the following claim: "The K-12 case studies are designed to add depth of contextual understanding to the other data
sources. This paper describes the K-12 case study process for The Math Science Partnership of
Southwestern Pennsylvania (MSP) over the past seven years. During project Years One, Two,
and Three, case studies focused upon levels of teacher participation and depth of reform
implementation in the classroom. Years Four, Five, Six, and the current Year Seven case studies
were designed as success explorations that concentrate on changes in teaching practice, changes
in student engagement, and the maturation of reform adoption. By focusing on sites with high
levels of implementation, the paper also explores teacher and system reform variables.
The MSP claims that professional development diffusion can result in pedagogical reform in
classrooms and between existing teachers, and has the potential to increase the successful
engagement of students in math and science education. Further, the MSP is building an
expanding regional capacity, via a critical mass of educators, which can help focus the math and
science instruction, and ultimately, student achievement, in K-12 math and science. The case
studies, as part of a broader evaluation plan, are designed to explore these claims.
The evaluation team has found that teachers with high levels of MSP participation engage in
reform-based behavior that increase the likelihood of achieving the goals of the MSP as
discussed in Section Two. Classroom observations are conducted using a revised version of the
Lesson Observation protocol earlier developed by Horizon Research, Inc. Year Six case studies
document many examples of reform-based behavior. The vast majority of K-12 classroom
lessons were well designed as evidenced across all six subcategories that our instrumentation
explored, and teachers demonstrated a high level of success in the five subcategories of lesson
implementation. The majority of observed teachers demonstrated effective to highly effective
teaching in the five subcategories of content and across all six subcategories of learning culture.
Further analysis of observation data aligned with interview data allows us to hypothesize about
the interaction of individual responses to reform (by the teacher) and the cultural responses from
the institution (school and district). We can present a theoretical heuristic that we are now
attempting to refine and validate in current case studies (Year Seven). Evidence from year Six,
along with previous case study years, through use of this heuristic, offer important implications
related to the maturation and sustainability of systems reform, especially in relation to capacity
building that realizes the potential of reform-minded individuals being supported in key ways by
institutions and systems."

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