• by David Hill, Ph.D. • IDRA Newsletter • June – July 1996 • 

Editor’s Note: IDRA is collaborating with the RMC Research Corporation and the Charles A. Dana Center at the University of Texas at Austin to form the STAR Center (the comprehensive regional assistance center for Texas). Using a comprehensive, integrated-programs approach, the STAR Center (Center for Support of Texas Academic Renewal) will provide support and technical assistance services to the Texas Education Agency, regional service centers and local school districts who are implementing state and local education reform efforts funded under the Improving America’s Schools Act. The Dana Center has achieved excellence in science and math education and statewide systemic reform. Its Statewide Systemic Initiative (SSI) is described below.

What is the Texas SSI?

The Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative (SSI), a major initiative of the Charles A. Dana Center at The University of Texas at Austin, is dedicated to providing local communities with the resources to implement contemporary, rigorous and engaging mathematics, science and technology education for all their students. The SSI is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and the Texas Education Agency. Additional support is provided by The Charles A. Dana Foundation and The University of Texas at Austin. Although housed at the University of Texas at Austin, the SSI is a statewide initiative.

What does the Texas SSI do?

The Texas Statewide Systemic Initiative has developed an ambitious and broadly sanctioned strategic plan and has established a close working relationship with the Texas Education Agency (TEA), the governor’ office, the Texas Business Education Coalition and the major state professional organizations of administrators and teachers of mathematics and science, as well as the major state and regional entities that constitute the heart of the Texas educational system and policy-making apparatus.

The SSI operates through action teams, broad-based leadership groups that reflect the ethnic, geographic and political diversity of Texas. These action teams involve teachers, administrators, college faculty, corporate leaders, government representatives, parents and other members of local communities.

The Action Team Operating Model, called ATOM, is the key strategy of the SSI’s plan of work. ATOM is a decentralized model for affecting change by promoting entrepreneurial local leadership committed to solving critical educational problems. The SSI’s leadership and staff provide the action teams with financial, research and technical assistance to do the following:

  • Strengthen the mathematics and science preparation of prospective elementary teachers.
  • Support the continuing improvement of algebra instruction in Texas.
  • Develop the first draft of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS, formerly the Essential Elements).
  • Create tool kits to support local communities in the implementation of the TEKS.
  • Strengthen the continuing mathematics and science professional development of teachers to reach all schools and school systems.
  • Disseminate high-quality mathematics and science materials to parents.
  • Broaden the coordination between the deployment of Title I funds and improvement efforts in mathematics.
  • Promote positive public engagement in mathematics and science education.

What has SSI accomplished?

In its short tenure, SSI has affected mathematics, science and technology education in several major ways:

  • Invested over $500,000 to develop and pilot standards-based preservice mathematics education for prospective elementary teachers in at least 10 two- and four-year institutions for the 1996-97 academic year.
  • Invested more than $1 million in 28 projects statewide to improve student performance in mathematics on Title I campuses.
  • Supported the development of the first draft of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
  • Developed five mathematics institutes aligned with the new TEKS for teachers in grade clusters of one to two, three to six and six to eight and in high school algebra and geometry.
  • Organized a powerful board that includes leaders of Texas business and industry, the mathematics and science communities, the superintendents of the three largest Texas school districts, a former president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM), a former member of a university board of regents and others.

The Texas SSI is dedicated to working with local communities to assure access to a high quality mathematics and science education for every student in Texas.

Dr. David Hill is the program director for SSI with the Charles A. Dana Center for Mathematics and Science Education at The University of Texas at Austin.

For more information on the Systemic Statewide Initiative contact the Charles A. Dana Center at (512) 471-6190.Comments and questions may be directed via e-mail to feedback@idra.org.

[©1996, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the June – July 1996 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]