Grant aims to raise math scores

Northern Kentucky University received a grant of $575,000 from the Kentucky Department of Education that allows them to participate in the Northern Kentucky Mathematics Specialist Project (NKMSP).

This project will allow 12 local school districts to improve their students’ standardized test scores in mathematics. NKMSP will focus on grades three through eight.

‘Almost half of the funds will go directly to the teachers and districts,’ said Ted Hodgson, co-director of NKMSP. ‘For example, each of the 24 teachers will receive 12 graduate credits from NKU, at a cost to the grant of about $6,000 per teacher.’

‘Teachers also receive yearly stipends and money for classroom materials,’ he said. ‘Other funds support faculty release time (to design and oversee project activities), stipends for district administrators, materials and texts for the summer courses, NKU indirect costs and summer stipends for faculty.’

NKMSP is funded by the Kentucky Department of Education as part of their Mathematics and Science Partnership program. This project came to fruition when the majority of schools of Kentucky tested into the lower quartile.’

‘In other words, mathematics achievement in Kentucky is lower than at least three-quarters of the other states,’ Hodgson said.

To tackle such a problem, NKMSP was created. The program targets teachers’ knowledge about curriculum.’

‘ ‘Teachers develop expertise through a number of means: trial and error, discussions with other teachers, readings in professional journals and workshops like those run by the NKMSP,’ Professor Steven Wilkinson, chair of the Deparatment of Mathematics, said.

The primary goal of NKMSP will be to address pedagogical knowledge injunction with the main focus on high-quality teaching and learning strategies (HQTL).

‘ ‘Recent research suggests that pedagogical content knowledge is more closely linked to student achievement, which is why we plan to focus our efforts on this area,’ Hodgson stated.’ ‘For instance, effective mathematics teachers know how to organize instruction so that students understand complex mathematical ideas.’

It is necessary for teachers to have thorough knowledge of student thinking about mathematics, and provide hands-on opportunities to hash out and apply instruction, which leads to successful instruction in the classroom, he said.’ ‘

‘Our project includes summer coursework to deepen teachers’ understanding of mathematics and academic year follow-up that focuses on student thinking and classroom application,’ he said. ‘This is a job-embedded project.’

Local teachers will participate in 150 hours per year (for three years) of professional development activities. Exactly 100 of those hours will occur in a summer course series.

During two summers of NKMSP, teachers will receive 12 credits of graduate work – six in Education and six in Mathematics. The credits can be applied to a master’s degree or a rank 1 certification.

Several NKU staff will be participating in the project, From the Mathematics and Statistics department, there are Ted Hodgson, Beth Noblitt, evaluator TJ Murphy and statistics consultant Dave Agard. Of Teacher Education there are: Sara Eisenhardt, Mathematics/Pedagogy instructor Sarah Kasten and evaluator Lenore Kinne. Every faculty member who is participating will still teach at NKU during the project.’

Although the grant includes some ‘release time’, i.e. one to two courses per year, this depends upon the faculty member and their responsibilities in the classroom.

Twelve school districts are participating, and two teachers from each district are selected. These teachers, also known as the ‘mathematics specialists,’ will then share their experiences and expertise with others in the district.’

Applications were available to teachers in June – NKMSP has received almost 100 applications from the 12 districts.

Of these applicants NKMSP staff will choose teachers who meet several pre-requisites: existing classroom management skills, openness to new ideas and willingness to work cooperatively to implement new ideas in the classroom. Those who have been selected will be informed of the decision in the next couple of weeks.

While NKMSP is a focused outreach project to local districts and their teachers, there has been dialogue of NKU students aiding the project.’

‘I’ve spoken with several undergraduate elementary and middle grades education majors about assisting the project ‘- either as part of the summer courses or academic year outreach,’ Hodgson said. ‘I’ve also spoken with Noyce Project Director, Kirsty Fleming, about the possibility of involving Noyce scholars-a teacher scholarship program- in various aspects of the project. So, undergraduates will play a supporting role (e.g., assisting with the design of summer courses or visiting the classrooms of project teachers).’