This article looks at how teachers understand recent mathematics reforms. Case studies of three California teachers in a disadvantaged, urban elementary school are presented. Framing the study are issues of teacher learning and systemic reform. These teachers have access to multiple opportunities to learn about reforms. But access guarantees no common understandings. Teachers' understandings are influenced by the kinds of students they have, their prior knowledge and experience, their views of mathematics, textbooks, and tests. If teachers understand reforms in different ways, this raises questions about systemic reform and the notion of alignment. But there are other problems as well. Questions about what it means to be aligned, how all students' needs might be considered, and what the multiple goals of a decentralized system mean for teachers suggest that efforts at systemic reform will be challenged on several fronts.
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