Appalachian Math & Science Partnership (AMSP)
Access to Algebra
Partnership Enhancement Program (PEPs)
An innovative model piloted in Year 2 of the Appalachian Math Science Partnership (AMSP), the PEP, has attracted growing local and national interest for its potential to empower school districts to take authentic ownership of school improvement initiatives. The PEP approach contrasts starkly with current large "top down" K-12 STEM education reform models. This program supports year-long collaborations of K-12 school districts and postsecondary faculty to address locally identified STEM education challenges. The K-12 teachers and administrators identify and support with supplementary data specific needs for, or barriers to, improvement in mathematics and/or science instruction. Experience has shown that needs vary by district and may be highly specific to a school or a district given the de-centralized nature of U.S. K-12 education and its funding. Then school district and its faculty partner(s) design and develop locally implemented projects to address those needs. After five rounds of collaboration in rural schools, external evaluators have found the PEP to be effective in removing or reducing school-specific barriers to student achievement, specifically improving student achievement data, facilitating the growth of professional learning communities, improving assessment and data-driven practices in schools and districts, and empowering teachers through pivotal leadership roles in designing and implementing reform projects.
Description of the PEP Program
The PEP program is a micro-investment for professional development designed to provide support to locally identified and developed mathematics and science education projects. These projects establish and cultivate significant working partnerships between K-12 school districts and institutions of higher education (IHE). The projects are models of collaboration that recognize essential knowledge and expertise resides in the teachers and school districts as well as the IHEs. The projects are particularly effective in partnership building because of their primary goal of giving the district partners a voice and role in identifying local needs and co-developing with their IHE partners the type of intervention that might involve pre-service or in-service teacher enhancement, as well as school improvement/program enhancement, research and evaluation.
The effectiveness of the PEP model of K-12 – higher education faculty partnership engagement is due to the following: school districts vary in development and support programs and therefore have varying needs ; teachers and administrators have the experience and knowledge to readily recognize needs of individual schools; both partners can recognize their contributions as meaningful and effective; teachers are given a voice and empowered to contribute to solutions; mathematics and science education needs are identified in the school districts and PD plans are submitted from the districts rather than from more generic large scale external studies; outreach and engagement faculty and the PEP Coordinator enable and provide support for the collaborations ensuring that the project is one of engagement; the program requires professional development planning assistance and a thorough review; there is an evaluation process used to identify successful practices and models; and the resultant interventions are individualized programs with individualized implementation.
The PEP as a Mechanism for Use of Data to Plan Professional Development
Guidelines for writing a professional development plan is shared with the school districts and communicated to K-12 mathematics and science teachers directly through the PEP Program Coordinator. The guidelines stipulates that the local school teachers and school and district administrators meet, identify and prioritize their specific and most urgent needs for improvement of the teaching and/or student learning in their mathematics or science curricula. The school identifies a team to work on a proposal that includes the analytical use of a number of data sources (e.g. standardized test scores, classroom observations, state school improvement plans, program improvement plans) to support the identification of their specific mathematics or science content, pedagogical and/or instructional technology need, including curriculum development, alignment with standards, assessment or teacher professional development.
As the plan is written, it is recommended (not required) to include the assistance of an Outreach Professor and/or the PEP Program Coordinator. The plan is submitted to the PIMSER evaluation team for review and if needed, recommendations for a stronger sustainable plan. This team of evaluators is comprised of content and instructional experts from the Kentucky Department of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education and educational consultants not involved with the schools or IHEs in the PEP program.
The K-12 teacher team and the outreach faculty from the nearest or most appropriate partner IHE meet with the PEP Coordinator to develop an implementation strategy to address the documented need(s). The AMSP has a pool of outreach faculty from AMSP partner IHEs and new partner IHEs specific to this initiative.
The plans usually cost $30,000 and may include additional matching support from the school district. All projects require signed authorization by the Superintendent. An evaluation plan is created concomitantly with the project plan that allows monitoring at frequent intervals as a means of formative assessment.
OUTCOMES of the PEP Program
Another key feature of the PEP Program is the recognition that the faculty content and pedagogical experts often do not understand the K-12 school culture or its challenges. The PEP Program develops this understanding and competency in the faculty from the higher education. AMSP conducted surveys which have shown that the participating faculty learn from this type of engagement and apply what they have learned to more effective pre-service teacher education. This latter feature constitutes a "feedback loop" into pre-service teacher education, thereby bridging the gap between participating K-12 schools and the IHEs responsible for the STEM education training. PEP effectiveness can be seen in the final reports of previous awardees. An example is the report from Letcher County Kentucky with a 17.38 point increase in their mathematics academic index and more importantly, the schools met the No Child Left Behind goals. All of the twenty-one school districts participating in rounds 1 and 2 of the Partnership Enhancement Project Program exhibited an increase in the academic index score for mathematics and science varying from a 3% increase to a 35% increase.
The innovative Partnership Enhancement Project has provided micro-investments between $10,000 and $30,000 to 44 partnering school districts and 63 higher education faculty partners.
AMSP funded sixty-eight PEP programs over five years (2004-2009). The following charts depict the needs identified by the projects, the evidence or data used to determine the needs, and type of intervention process used by the K-12 school districts for implementation. The specific deficiencies and professional development needs identified by the teachers at the local and individual school level vary from school to school and district to district in the same region of rural central Appalachia, requiring specific and differential intervention strategies.
The following chart is based on the PEP final reports from the districts. The bottom axis represents the projects that reported one of these as a goal or outcome in their final report.
Alone and in combination with other AMSP programs, PEPs have been shown to be successful in addressing locally specific teacher professional development needs and increasing mathematics and science achievement of the students.
PEP Participating Counties (Opens a map of participating counties)