June 13, 2013

VSU Partnership Focused on Improving Student Achievement in Math, Science

VALDOSTA — Valdosta State University is helping third-, fourth-, and fifth-grade teachers from school systems across South Georgia discover the power of science and mathematics. The goal is to improve classroom instruction and, thus, student achievement.  

VSU’s James L. and Dorothy H. Dewar College of Education has invited 150 teachers to participate in Discovering the Power of Science and Mathematics for Teachers in Grades 3-5. It is a professional development opportunity designed to provide them with content and instruction strategies to improve their ability to teach science and mathematics to their students.

Beginning Monday, June 17, the participating teachers will spend two consecutive weeks attending various workshops, meeting each day from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on the campus of S.L. Mason Elementary School. The teachers represent the 12 school systems served by the Coastal Plains Regional Educational Service Agency (RESA) — Cook County, Brooks County, Berrien County, Tift County, Echols County, Lowndes County, Lanier County, Valdosta City, Ben Hill County, Turner County, Irwin County, and Colquitt County.   

“We currently have 137 teachers of grades third through fifth who have registered, but we do expect to have a full group for the startup next week,” noted Dr. Ellice P. Martin, an associate professor in the Department of Middle, Secondary, Reading, and Deaf Education. “The first week focuses more on content with applications, and the second week will focus on powerful strategies to be used in delivering that content.”

Martin said Discovering the Power of Science and Mathematics for Teachers in Grades 3-5 is funded by a $559,000 U. S. Department of Education Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) Grant, administered through the Georgia Department of Education. She and Dr. Brian L. Gerber, professor and acting dean of Dewar College of Education, serve as the co-principal investigators on the grant project.

“The U.S. Department of Education,” she added, “provides grant monies to states for partnerships between science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) faculty at institutions of higher education and high-needs school districts. Valdosta State University and the 12 school districts of the Coastal Plains regional area have partnered to provide workshops for teachers for the purpose of improving classroom instruction, with the ultimate goal of improving student achievement in science and mathematics.”

This is the first year of what is designed to be a two-year program, Martin noted. It involves work within the school year and two weeks of intensive workshops each summer. The teachers will receive a stipend of $1,500 each year.

Discovering the Power of Science and Mathematics for Teachers in Grades 3-5 kicked off in early February with a five-hour Saturday session. Throughout the following spring semester, the teachers participated in an additional five-hour Saturday session plus 10 more hours of training — some online and some after school at various locations throughout the Coastal Plains RESA.

“Teachers participated in an opening session to orient them to the project and to excite them about science and mathematics for elementary students,” Martin said. “After the opening session, teachers cycled through three other sessions, where they explored science and math topics and worked with technology that can improve student learning.”

During the upcoming fall, the teachers “will be participating in online professional development that is strictly designed for this workshop,” Martin said. “Completing that professional development will span this fall and early spring of 2014. The idea is that continued work with a topic creates a situation where teachers are more likely to be good at implementation.”

Martin and Gerber have been awarded grant funds over the past eight years to work in two-year cycles with a variety of groups, from elementary school teachers to high school teachers.

“We would hope that, with the partnership of the Coastal Plains RESA, VSU can continue serving math and science teachers at all levels in our service area,” Martin said.

Contact Dr. Ellice P. Martin at (229) 333-5611 or epmartin@valdosta.edu or Dr. Brian L. Gerber at blgerber@valdosta.edu to learn more.