One of the goals of K-8 mathematics instruction is to engage students in rich mathematical experiences. This is a vital goal for students in urban settings. PRIME, a 3.5-year K-5 professional development project, was a collaborative effort of Peoria Illinois School District 150 and Illinois State University intended to meet this goal. PRIME was driven by the philosophy that enhanced classroom teaching would lead to improved student performance in mathematics.
To enhance classroom teaching the project identified four objectives: extend teachers' pedagogical content knowledge; promote teachers' reflective analysis of mathematics teaching and learning; improve teachers' mathematical problem-solving and content knowledge; and foster the development of teacher leaders and communities of learners within and across schools. Moreover, we attempted to enhance classroom teaching beyond the duration of PRIME by developing structures that supported on-going teacher collaboration and fostered coordination and articulation within and across grade levels. Five essential aspects comprised the professional development: (1) mathematically-focused week-long summer sessions, (2) classroom visits (at least four per year) by faculty or research assistants, (3) regular grade-level meetings (two meetings per semester) focused on teacher participation and sharing of sample student work, (4) the use of innovative curriculum material (Investigations in Number, Data and Space), and (5) a leadership development program for volunteer teachers.
In regards to student achievement, PRIME showed moderate success during the period 2000-2003. Our findings suggest that students in the lower-socio-economic category who had at least one teacher during grades 3, 4 or 5 who participated in PRIME achieved significantly higher scores on the Illinois State Achievement Test for mathematics than students in the same socio-economic category with teachers who had not participated in PRIME. Overall, the percentage of grade 3 students in Peoria School District scoring at or above standards on this state test increased from 55% in 2000 to 78% in 2003 while the average performance statewide increased from 69% to 75% during that same time period. Guiding teachers to examine and use richer mathematical tasks with their students by a consistent schedule of classroom visits and grade-level meetings integrated with summer institute coursework apparently shifted the established pedagogy among teachers, especially teachers of low-income students, leading to a richer learning environment for students.
The K-5 PRIME Mathematics Project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), #ES1.9911754. Ideas on the Web Site are those of the PRIME staff and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NSF.