California Schools Awarded Grant for Teacher Math Training

By Elisha McNeil — March 04, 2016 2 min read
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The California Department of Education has awarded a $500,000 grant for a project focused on helping teachers in rural schools in teaching the Common Core math standards, according to a release.

A partnership between the University of Pacific and the Teachers College of San Joaquin, the two-year project will provide specialized math training and make an effort to “train the teachers to become leaders in math education for their schools.” The program will offer 180 hours of professional development to select 35 teachers from 10 small, rural schools in Tuolumne, San Joaquin, and Stanislaus counties.

The staff and faculty of UOP and TCSJ will work together on developing the program.

“Historically, smaller districts in rural areas have had few options regarding mathematics education professional development,” said Sylvia Turner, TCSJ graduate studies Director. “This project will offer a unique opportunity to further teacher education in mathematics, improve leadership skills, and build a culture of collaboration and networking.”

The project will include two summer institutes, planned for this July and next. It will offer Saturday sessions, after-school meetings, and address ways to expand family involvement in math homework.

Some teachers are on board to give up a part of their weekends for two years to participate, CBS 13 reports. Five teachers at Banta Elementary School in Tracy, Calif. have signed up for the program—including Linda Duchnick, a veteran kindergarten teacher.

“There’s always something new to learn,” Duchnick said. “We want the best for our students and you can’t give them the best unless you seek out the best and this is part of that.”

According to a new pair of surveys, teachers nationwide say they seem to be getting a lot of professional development aligned to the common core in math, however, it’s not always focused on the topics that they say they need the most help on—like problem-solving and applying math in the real world.

Corey Drake, an associate professor of teacher education at Michigan State University, says neglected topics and teaching practices like these is what makes being a mathematics teacher challenging. In an opinion piece published this week by the Hechinger Report, Drake advocates for an approach to mathematics teacher preparation that supports novice teachers in making small changes in the status quo of teaching—like using textbooks as a tool and asking students “why” at least once a day—while working together with veteran teachers to create more transformational changes at both the classroom-level and larger systems in the U.S.

“As teacher educators, we must also work together with teacher candidates and teachers to advocate for systematic changes in systems that continue to perpetuate oppression in mathematics education, that allow for the same groups of students to be denied opportunities to learn rigorous mathematics year after year, and that are silent in the face of crumbling and unhealthy school buildings,” Drake said.

“We know how to do this, but we need to be willing to work together across all of our communities to make these kinds of instructional practices and systemic changes accessible to every teacher and every student in the United States.”

More on common-core math education:

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.