Sustainability: Out-Live Out-Last Out-Reach
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Poster Presentation Full Text:

Poster presentations are composed in four parts:
  • Original goals for project sustainability under ideal conditions
  • Reflections on these goals from the end of the project funding cycle
  • Suggestions for projects starting out; or, how we might have done things differently
  • Questions for other project's staff to reply to


Original goals for project sustainability under ideal conditions

When writing the MASE proposal, the MASE staff envisioned building district-wide learning communities of teachers, administrators, and community members who were committed to ensure that ALL students have access to and success with challenging and meaningful, content-rich learning experiences in science and mathematics.


High academic standards for all students
Mathematically and scientifically literate students
Improved understanding, performance, confidence, and achievement
Students engaged in effective, inquiry-based, hands-on mathematics and science
Effective integration of technology

Project Focus

All Children
Lifelong learning
Asking productive questions
Testing & evaluating ideas
Thinking & learning

The design was to be a generative structure, a student-focused collaborative inquiry into teaching and learning. The project had district-wide support and, therefore, ongoing professional development based on current research and important content ideas and concepts would be institutionalized and continued with district funding. Additional funding would be leveraged in support of MASE goals.

MASE Project Schools

21 Science Project Schools 25 Mathematics Project Schools
District Size

Over 230,000 students 159 Elementary Schools, 37 Middle Schools, 31 High Schools

Reshaping Our Vision

Project timelines have been extended. We now talk in terms of building capacity with short-term goals and what components of the original vision we might accomplish in the next ten to fifteen years. The initial vision for sustainability began to evolve during the third year of the MASE project as a result of:

It is clear that we will not finish our work with the current funding. New knowledge, new ideas, new faces with new visions will shape future work. The work will not look exactly the same. The hope is that our efforts are building a foundation and the capacity to continue and further our work to improve access and success for all students in science and mathematics. Therefore, our visions are more sharply focused on what we hope will be sustained by the district and continue to accomplished:


Reflections on these goals from the end of the project funding cycle

Is it possible to sustain systemic reform? Are we making progress?

The field of the work is sometimes solid and well defined, sometimes like shifting sand, and at other times like quicksand. The systems and context within which we work are in constant motion, often impacted by those outside the system. Change is constant and unpredictable. It is one thing to identify systems and all the components and stakeholders within the systems when planning systemic reform. It is quite another thing to influence all the decisions and events that impact efforts to improve teaching and learning and sustain a given plan for reform. What are we trying to sustain? A plan, a curriculum or generative structures and dispositions toward inquiry, learning and continuous improvement based current research and evidence?

A stable and continuous funding source is needed to address the broad scope of systemic reform that is ongoing. There will always be new teachers as well as expert teachers seeking to raise the ceiling, demanding and needing to learn more and explore new ideas. Funding for professional development, even five-years of support is not enough. The professional development staff is seldom large enough to meet the demands of systemic reform design. There is so much to learn as leaders and as participants. We are at the point where new schools are calling and saying they will purchase Investigations if we can guarantee professional development at the current level.

Many different factors determine the level of administrative and teacher "buy in" to reform efforts. Change itself is challenging and stressful for many educators. New principals, new superintendents, mobility of staff, maintaining qualified teacher leader pools and required state testing present design challenges. Politics often seem to drive decisions. Mandates for testing not aligned to standards-based teaching and learning negatively impact reform. Parents and community advocacy is essential. Support and alignment at every level within each system is critical and when missing, the probability of success and sustainability decrease. The pedagogy of implementing standards-based teaching requires re-culturing of education. This is a long-term process. We must consider the yardstick(s) used to measure our work and progress. Otherwise, we appear to fail when, in fact, we are making progress toward our ultimate goals. Is it possible that we try to do too much with too little? We are continually "reforming." Should we be promoting a culture that continuously seeks to examine and enhance practice? Should the yardstick(s) of success focus on measuring capacity and progress at every level of the system? What would be a productive measure(s) of sustainability?

After five years, we are building capacity at every level and making progress toward our goals. For example, we are building capacity of students as learners and teachers as teachers, learners and leaders. We see more students engaged in meaningful science/mathematics inquiry and more teachers expertly and artistically advancing student thinking and learning. Professional development sessions are reaching new levels, successfully facilitated by strong teacher leaders who present rigorous content and generate active dialogue on hard issues. There are increasing numbers of study groups on topics such as science and mathematics notebooks and assessment of student work samples. Administrators attend continuous sessions on collaborative models of supervision of standards-based teaching and learning. There is reason to celebrate and more work to do.


Suggestions for projects starting out; or, how we might have done things differently

What would I do if we were starting out today?

In light of what I know today, I would do it all again with added wisdom and experience, fine-tuning and narrowing our vision and planning for instability, knowing there would be new lessons to learn. The wisest thing that we did was maintaining our focus on children. The richest part of our work, designing a variety of ways of conducting workshops in schools, teaching lessons in classrooms with children, would be scaled up.

Increased demands would be placed on teachers and principals with assignments and commitments to present findings and thinking based on their experience implementing and reflecting on their work at "learning conferences." A sequence where the district would "take over" funding and responsibility for project components would be built in to the project design. There would be greater focus on recording the history of the work for future reference and data collection on student achievement. Assessment and equity would be initial components. There would be a generative structure to the work, evident to those in the program and those outside the program. The work would continue as an inquiry into teaching and learning at every level of the project. I would plan a time for reflective questions such as asking if we . . .


Questions for other project's staff to reply to

A Sampler of the Questions We Are Still Asking

Linda Gregg of the Mathematics and Science Enhancement (MASE) II project.


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