The Vermont Mathematics Partnership (VMP), established in 2002, brings together mathematicians and mathematics educators committed to helping all children in Vermont succeed in mathematics. The project has deep roots in Vermont's mathematics education reform initiatives of the past 15 years which emphasize rigorous mathematics content, standards-based coherent curricula, instructional practices that promote mathematical proficiency1, and assessment practices that support instruction, program evaluation, and school accountability systems designed to improve student performance.
VMP partners include six Vermont school districts, widely diverse as to size, ethnicity, geography, socioeconomics, and other measures. (A seventh district participated but did not contribute to the present study.) Other partners include the Vermont Department of Education, The Vermont Institutes (with over 10 years of experience as an NSF-supported Statewide Systemic Initiative program), and the Vermont Mathematics Initiative (VMI), a three-year Master's degree program at the University of Vermont for K-8 mathematics teachers and teacher leaders. From the outset, each of the VMP partner school systems has had one or more teachers and/or teacher leaders enrolled in or recently graduated from the VMI.
Vermont is a small, rural state, with a tradition of local control. The process of developing models in VMP for strengthening mathematics teaching and learning reflects both this social context and lessons from past and ongoing reform efforts. VMP leaders understand from research and experience that helping all students succeed in mathematics is a complex process that includes increased content and pedagogical content knowledge for educators, refined and ongoing assessment systems, flexibility in the structure of a school day, shared leadership, and direct interventions for students who need supplemental support. They recognize that one single prescribed model will not work in the diverse settings of the partner school systems.
Therefore, VMP has utilized a "loosely coupled - tightly coupled" process for work with school partners. Elements of each partner school's implementation plan directly relate to goals of the project and pathways through the VMP Logic Model (tightly coupled). However, each site's particular path is structured by project and site-based leadership to ensure that program implementation is appropriate in the context of the site (loosely coupled).
This presentation focuses on use of a loosely coupled-tightly coupled model in planning, implementing, and evaluating project goals. Authors discuss cross-partnership themes and strategies, the process of negotiating site-based implementation plans, and challenges and opportunities in evaluating a loosely coupled-tightly coupled intervention.
1 Mathematical proficiency as defined in Adding It Up!