Grant Brings Professional Development to District Math Teachers
Friday, August 19, 2011
PHILADELPHIA (August 19, 2011) - In an effort to boost student achievement in mathematics in the School District of Philadelphia, math education specialist Tetyana Berezovski, Ph.D., assistant professor of mathematics at Saint Joseph's University, applied for and was awarded a highly competitive Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) Grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The three-year award provides professional development for high school math teachers in the District. To date, the University has received $302,000 to administer the program.
According to the most recent Pennsylvania System of School Assessment report, only 32.6 percent of Philadelphia students enrolled in grade 11 are advanced or proficient in mathematics. Berezovski says that assigning responsibility solely to students for their low performance will not solve the problem. She believes that one of several factors in District students' low achievement is inadequate teacher knowledge of mathematics.
To address this issue, Berezovski and the District initiated a summer program called the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Teacher Fellow Program at Saint Joseph's with MSP grant support. Now in its second year, the program allows District secondary mathematics teachers to work with teacher mentors and assistants to complete two graduate-level mathematics courses designed by Berezovski. This summer, 21 District teachers are enrolled in intensive graduate-level geometry courses at Saint Joseph's.
"The first offering is a content course," says Berezovski. "It is all about enhancing knowledge of geometry. In the second course, which covers methodology, teachers revisit the high school curriculum and reassess how it fits into the entire landscape of geometry. This enables teachers to reevaluate how high school geometry is taught, so that subject matter drives their pedagogical decisions."
Berezovski adds that the program brings teachers to District classrooms who are inline with new expectations and Common Core State Standards.
Northeast High School mathematics teacher Rudina Francis returns to Berezovski's program this year as a teacher mentor. She says that the program has positively affected her teaching strategies.
"The classes I took last year deepened my content knowledge and refreshed my memory," says Francis. "Studying different ways of solving and proving a concept prepared me to use differentiated instruction in my classroom."
The U.S. Department of Education's MSP program supports projects to improve math and science education through partnerships, which include, at a minimum, a high-need local education agency and the mathematics, science or engineering department of an institution of higher education.