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NCSS awarded $216K grant
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Teachers in Newton County may have the opportunity to gain extra professional learning experiences with a grant given to the school district.

Newton County School System (NCSS) was awarded a $216,010 Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) grant from the Georgia Department of Education (GADOE). Although this is the third renewal of the grant, this two-year award is larger than the previous years. Newton County previously received a two-year MSP grant for $174,772 in 2012-2013 and for $163,585 in 2013-2014.

“The Newton County MSP project included two components, with each consisting of 160 hours of professional learning over the two-year period,” said Kathy Garber, NCSS grants coordinator. “Classes were held periodically during the 2012-13 and 2013-14 school years, as well as during weeklong summer workshops held in June 2013 and 2014.”

In the first two installments, these courses included a K-5 math endorsement program consisting of three courses that included math content and pedagogy: numbers and operations, geometry and measurement and algebra, patterns and data analysis, according to an NCSS press release. The courses were taught by a math consultant from Griffin RESA and a math instructor from Gordon College.

“Upon completion of the three courses, 28 Newton County teachers had the K-5 math endorsement added to their Georgia Teaching Certificates. The courses emphasizes the application of the Concrete-Representational-Abstract (CRA) approach to teaching mathematics, so teachers engaged in many hands-on activities to help them help students to truly understand mathematical concepts,” the release said. “In addition, teachers had the opportunity to attend the Georgia Math Conference sponsored by the Georgia Council of Teachers of Mathematics at Rock Eagle last October, and many of them will be attending that conference again this fall with MSP funding.”

Previous courses also included a middle school science professional learning program in Earth, life and physical science taught by professors from Georgia Tech and Georgia Tech’s Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing.

“Teachers engaged in numerous lab investigations in all three areas of science taught in middle schools, with emphasis on showing students how to ‘do’ science as scientists do and not just read about science. They also participated in a number of field trips and attended the Georgia Science Teachers Association (GSTA) Conference in Macon last year and will have the opportunity to attend the GSTA Conference again in 2015. Twenty-five Newton County middle school teachers completed the entire two years of the program,” the release said.

The Newton County MSP project’s success has been recognized as having one of the highest attendance and retention rates in the state, according to the release, with teachers remaining in the program for the entire two years. As a result, Garber, who serves as the MSP project director, was invited to do a poster presentation called “MSP: Maximizing Success for the Partnership” at the MSP National Convention in Washington D.C. Sept. 29-Oct. 1.
Garber said the success of the previous MSP project was considered in the new grant being awarded for two years beginning in October 2014 and lasting through September 2016.

“It is anticipated that the district will receive an additional $200,000-plus next school year, pending continuation of federal funding for the program,” Garber said.

The new MSP project includes the K-5 math endorsement program, where the three required courses will be taught by a math consultant from Griffin RESA and a math instructor from Georgia Perimeter College. Thirty teachers will be enrolled in the classes, and there is already a waiting list for the program.

There will also be a 7-12 science professional learning series consisting of two cohorts of teachers. The MSP budget allows a total of 50 teachers to be included, and 47 of those slots had already been filled as of Sept. 4. One cohort will include seventh grade life science, high school biology and environmental science teachers, while the second cohort will consist of eighth grade and high school physical science teachers and chemistry or physics teachers.

All classes will be taught in partnership with Georgia Tech faculty in biology and physics, doctoral students in biology, chemistry and physics and the Georgia Tech Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing. Coursework will be appropriate for high school and middle school teachers interested in more advanced content in life science and physical science.

“Both the mathematics and science programs will offer teachers opportunities to work and learn in vertical teams, allowing them to participate in ongoing communication and collaboration with teachers from other schools and other grade levels to share ideas and learn about local resources, as well as to become more connected with what students are learning before they get to them and what is expected of them in the later grades,” Garber said. “Vertical teaming provides a different way for educators to learn math and science content, process and teaching strategies from each other to work toward common goals.”