District-Wide Reform of Mathematics and Science Instruction: Case Studies of Four SCALE Partner Districts
WCER Working Paper No. 2009-2
William H. Clune
March 2009, 25 pp.
ABSTRACT: This paper is a synthesis of case studies of four districts that implemented multifaceted reforms aimed at offering rigorous instruction in mathematics and science for all students as part of a National Science Foundation–supported partnership. A common theory of action aimed for a rigorous curriculum, professional development delivered close to the point of instruction, monitoring of instructional quality, and system coordination. Immersion units would offer an in-depth experience in scientific inquiry to all students. The theory of action was successful in many ways. Excellent access to top management allowed the partnership to assist with multiple aligned dimensions of instructional guidance. The biggest obstacles were turnover in district leadership, loose coupling across departments, attenuation of vertical alignment through overload of instructional guidance, and insufficient budget for adequate school site support (e.g., coaches). Greater coherence resulted from delivery of instructional guidance closer to schools and teachers, as with science immersion. The study suggests that complete, affordable packages of instructional guidance delivered to the school level district-wide might be the best model for district reform.
keywords: K–12 Science and Math Instruction; District Reform; Systemic Reform; Math and Science Partnerships