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A Community Changing its Curriculum and Culture: The Wareham Public Schools
“Sometimes as teachers we may have the feeling of working in a vacuum. Knowing that you are not alone in what you are doing is enlightening.” – WHS teacher
Wareham has been called the “Gateway to Cape Cod" since the 1930s, when lighthouses were built alongside Route 28 as symbols of the passage to the Cape through town. (SouthCoast Today) In this town of 20,000 residents, there is one high school on a mission to educate its 900 students. Superintendent of the Wareham Public Schools, Dr. Wayne Lague, united all constituencies and established a system of accountability. From the Superintendent, to the Director of Curriculum and Instruction, to building principals, core academic teachers, curriculum coordinators, department chairs, teachers and support staff, students and parents, the message has been: “Together, we can succeed.”
At Wareham High School, under the direction of John Amaral, Principal, site-based management was implemented. The mathematics department devised a simple plan, to complete a mapping of its program and curriculum. Department members utilized full-days of in-service (provided by the contract) and curriculum work opportunities beyond the regular work day and during the summer months to revise programs and course offerings. The curriculum was aligned with the Massachusetts Mathematics Frameworks. Teachers continue to direct the review of programs and implementation of new curricula.
Equally important to implementing a higher standards curriculum and culture is effective teaching. As the Wareham High School's mathematics department redesigned its curriculum it also began a program of continued professional development that continues to involve the entire department. Teachers participated in professional development offerings which included an interactive satellite broadcast program entitled Algebra for All, Key Curriculum's Geometer's Sketchpad, McDougal Littell’s training for implementation of Algebra 1 Content and Skills, as well as technology trainings. Most recently, the entire department and several special education teachers of mathematics have joined this EDC Lesson Study project.
Teachers at Wareham High School meet every Monday after school to do lesson study. That means they come together in grade level teams to formulate long term and concept specific goals, as well as to write lessons. In addition to this meeting time, teachers observe their research lesson and revise it. This project provides a unique opportunity for teachers to share their knowledge. In particular, this project provides long-term sustained professional and curriculum development for the Mathematics Department.
After one semester of lesson study, one WHS teacher advised new lesson study practitioners, “Be patient and trust the process.” Five years ago, changing the curriculum and culture of the Wareham schools appeared to be a daunting task. But, by making each school accountable, the process became personal. The high school administration bought into site-based management and invested in their staff. A balance between school district direction and building-level ownership and control resulted. The mathematics department is one team, within a larger unit, vested in quality education and high standards. Lesson Study is an integral part of this picture as it empowers the individual teachers to do their part in this system-wide transformation.
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For project information contact:
Jane Gorman (email@example.com), EDC,
55 Chapel Street, Newton MA 02458 (617-969-7100)