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Investing in Math Teachers

Adds Up to Success

If you want students to excel at math, invest in outstanding teachers.

Research indicates that enhancing teachers’ skills is critical to significantly improving mathematics achievement. A newpartnership between UNL faculty and the Omaha Public Schools aims to do just that.

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A $5.5 million grant from The Sherwood Foundation and the Lozier Foundation in Omaha supports a three-year collaboration between UNL’s NebraskaMATH team and Nebraska’s largest school district. Goals are to strengthen mathematics learning in OPS classrooms, narrow student achievement gaps between different populations and conduct research that informs school improvement efforts.

“Thanks to past support from the National Science Foundation, our NebraskaMATH team has a proven record of providing robust content-based professional development for teachers and research that studies teacher knowledge and student learning,” said Jim Lewis, project leader and Aaron Douglas Professor of Mathematics. “We believe that a dramatic investment in OPS mathematics teachers will impact student learning in the OPS district, both short and long term.”

The NebraskaMATH OPS Teacher Leader Academy consists of Primarily Math, a program for K-3 teachers; Math in the Middle, a master’s degree program for grade 4-8 teachers; and fellowships for OPS K-12 math teachers to take courses at no cost through the Nebraska Math and Science Summer Institutes. The grant also supports six K-3 and two middle-grade math coaches for OPS.

Colton_Connie teaching LA Driessen IMG_0829 SV

Connie Colton (left) and Marni Driessen (right) in their Omaha Public Schools classrooms. Both graduated from UNL’s NSF-
funded teacher education initiatives and now are instructors for the NebraskaMATH OPS Teacher Leader Academy.

The project expects to reach more than 250 OPS teachers over three years. The first teachers began graduate coursework in July 2013.

Throughout the project, UNL faculty will study the impact of professional development on teachers’ beliefs and knowledge; student outcomes; and school culture’s impact on student achievement. They’ll also establish a studio classroom as a model for implementing instructional change in K-3 classrooms. This project and its research results will provide a national model for effective mathematics teacher education, said Lewis, director of UNL’s Center for Science, Mathematics and Computer Education.

The OPS Teacher Leader Academy builds on UNL’s NSF-funded teacher education initiatives – Math in the Middle, NebraskaMATH and NebraskaNOYCE. Nearly 75 OPS teachers have participated in those programs, forming a base of teacher-leaders for the current project.