College selected to administer $1.8-million grant for public-school teachers

College selected to administer $1.8-million grant for public-school teachers

Feb. 13, 2008
Karen B. Eldridge, Director of News and Public Information

Maryville College has been awarded a Tennessee Department of Education Math Science Partnership grant, the East Tennessee Math Science Partnership (ETnMSP). The ETnMSP focuses on effective, data-driven and sustainable mathematics and science improvements in teaching and learning in the public schools.

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According to Dr. Terry Simpson, chair of the College’s Education Division and project director for the grant, Maryville College will oversee the $1.8-million budget and commit three additional faculty members to work with teachers of participating schools.

“Our grant will serve 80 public-school teachers who are teaching mathematics and science in eighth, ninth and 10th grades in four school systems: Blount County, Fentress County, Union County and York Institute,” Simpson explained, adding that principals of the participating schools will also be served. “The State Board of Education recently announced that new curriculum standards and an increase in rigor are forthcoming. This is especially true for mathematics and science. The goal is to have students college-ready and/or work-ready when they graduate from high school.

“Partnership grants like this one are aimed at improving the quality of instruction in those math and science classrooms,” he added.

This is not the first time the College has provided professional development opportunities for public-school math and science teachers. Through several Dwight D. Eisenhower Teacher Professional Development Grants awarded in the 1990s, Simpson, Dr. Terry Bunde, professor of chemistry, and Dr. Paul Threadgill, professor of biology, collaborated to design summer workshops and courses like “grocery store chemistry” and “the physics of toys.” And as late as 2005, Simpson, Bunde and Dr. Drew Crain, associate professor of biology, were conducting science workshops for teachers through a $33,000 grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

The ETnMSP is different than previous grants, Simpson said. One of the biggest differences is that instead of MC faculty determining topics and concepts to introduce to the middle and high-school teachers, the curriculum will be “data-driven.” That is, the courses will be designed to address students’ deficiencies (as identified by test scores), as well as teachers’ unfamiliarity with certain topics and teaching methodologies and employers’ recommendations for the skills, experiences and knowledge recent graduates should possess for employment.

SouthEast Educational Inc., a local non-profit consulting group, is contracting with the College to deliver the programs associated with the grant. SouthEast Educational will be the “arms and legs” of the project, according to Dr. Terry Lashley, SouthEast Educational president.

Lashley is the author of the grant. She said the ETnMSP includes three primary components for every participant.

“The first is data analysis assistance leading to an individualized professional development plan for each participating teacher and principal,” she explained.

To accomplish this task, Lashley and SouthEast Educational, Inc., will assist the Maryville College and Pellissippi State Technical Community College faculty members with the interpretation of student achievement scores from tests such as the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) and Gateway. Lashley also will work with the higher education faculty to clarify some of the new science, technology, engineering and mathematics standards. Utilizing that data, the higher education faculty will develop curricula and lesson plans for on-site teacher sessions and “Summer Content Institutes” that will allow for more comprehensive and more intense instruction.

At the College, Bunde and Crain have signed on again to teach and mentor the public-school teachers. Dr. Margie Ribble, associate professor of mathematics and a former public-school math teacher herself, will also participate.

The grant also funds the formation of an advisory committee made up of “non-academic” science professionals (such as engineers and physicians) and teachers, which will meet at least twice a year to weigh in on the real-world applicability of science and math concepts presented to the public-school teachers.

“Strategically selected and focused professional development” and “coaching/mentoring for effective implementation of each intervention for every teacher and principal” are the remaining components of the grant.

Simpson described the ETnMSP as a “very intensive program,” but he said he has “always wanted to be a part of a grant like this.”

“After all the data is compiled and all the evaluations are completed, I’m interested to see, in three years, if it made a difference. And if it did, why? If it didn’t, why not?”

Simspon said he is confident that the grant and program will greatly improve the quality of instruction in public-school math and science classrooms but regardless of what the collected data suggests, he said he knows that Maryville College students and the participating faculty members will benefit from the College’s participation in the ETnMSP.

“These faculty members are going to have a greater understanding of what’s going on in the high schools, what’s missing [curricular-wise],” he said. “They’ll know why some of their first-year students may be struggling with particular math and science concepts and be able to identify needs more quickly.”

Because Bunde, Crain and Ribble all advise teacher licensure students, their participation in the grant will specifically aid those future teachers because they’ll have insight into what public-school teachers are facing in the classroom and may be able to share teaching strategies with their advisees, he added.

Faculty members’ exposure to more real-world applications, suggested through the advisory committee, will also enrich current college students’ classroom experiences, the grant director said.

Lashley said she wrote the ETnMSP grant with Maryville College in mind as the administrator.

Since 1995, more than 80 percent of students enrolled in Maryville College’s teacher-education program have been placed in full-time teaching positions within a year of graduation.

“Maryville College has a highly respected teacher education program, and I knew that Dr. Simpson was an excellent person with whom to work,” she explained. “I have heard a lot about the College’s outstanding faculty in mathematics and science.”

That’s a reputation – a legacy – of which Simpson is obviously proud, mentioning that the College’s division of education enjoys a good working relationship with the state department of education and that Maryville leads many peer institutions when it comes to recognition and visibility among state and national education-related organization.

He and Lashley just returned from attending a conference in San Francisco, Calif., where they presented information about the ETnMSP.

“We’re committed to the children and schools of Tennessee, and I want people to know that,” he said. “We have faculty here who are very good at working with teachers, and they’re committed to making our schools the best they can be. I want the college to remain active in the area of teacher education.”

Maryville College is ideally situated in Maryville, Tenn., between the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Knoxville, the state's third largest city. Founded in 1819, it is the 12th oldest institution of higher learning in the South and maintains an affiliation with the Presbyterian Church (USA). Known for offering its students a rigorous and highly personal experience that includes an undergraduate research requirement, Maryville College is a nationally ranked institution of higher learning that successfully joins the liberal arts and professional preparation. Total enrollment for the fall 2016 semester is 1,197.