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Spring 2004
Beyond Rhetoric
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RELATIVELY LOW MATH SCORES in the Los Angeles Unified School District have been a longstanding concern, but there was a significant turnaround after UCLA stepped in to develop a specialized training program for kindergarten, first- and second-grade teachers in partnership with LAUSD.

In 2002, LAUSD second-graders on average scored better than 53 percent of all students on a nationwide standardized test, up from 44 percent the previous year. Such an increase is considered a sizable gain.

"Obviously, we were pleased," says Marie Stevens M.Ed. '88, an elementary mathematics specialist and the district's point person on professional development in mathematics instruction. She noted that the UCLA-LAUSD collaboration now has been expanded to include other grade levels.

Ongoing professional development is critical to the success of teachers and their students, says Jody Z. Priselac '74, Ed.D. '99, executive director of Center X, a unit of UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies where researchers and practitioners collaborate to design and conduct programs to prepare and support teachers in urban schools. The professional-development program in mathematics instruction was developed within Center X.

The program, known as LUCIMATH (Local School Districts, UCLA, California County Offices of Education, Institutes of Mathematics), was developed to help address a history of low student math scores on standardized tests resulting, in part, from teachers poorly prepared in mathematics instruction, Priselac says.

Teachers who completed the professional-development program reported enhanced confidence in teaching math, according to a 2003 report submitted to LAUSD by the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. "While we cannot claim to be the reason that mathematics scores have risen in the district, we can make the case that we have contributed to the increase," the report says.

Rosalie Potts, a teacher at 93rd Street Elementary School in Los Angeles with 30 years of classroom experience, found the UCLA program to be "a real eye-opener."

"I feel like I'm guiding the children to a greater understanding of numbers and math sense," she says.

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