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Education advocates secure millions in grants

Improving mathematics education, teacher education and teacher leadership dedication remains resolute as research awards have more than tripled.

USC College of Education Instruction and Teacher Education Associate Professor Dr. Jan Yow is a National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adulthood Mathematics and a stalwart advocate for teaching mathematics methods courses as well as courses in teacher leadership. She views teacher education as a process that begins with pre-service teachers and continues throughout a teacher's career. Her research focuses on mathematics teachers who lead from within the classroom with the ultimate goal of strong mathematics teaching and learning for all students.

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recognized Yow’s teaching distinction by recently awarding a $2.9 million grant for the 5-year program, Developing Master Teachers through the South Carolina Science and Mathematics Teacher Leaders (USC-SMTL). This award of this grant depended on the applicants procuring $1.5 million in matched funding. Yow, along with co-principal investigators Drs. Bert Ely, Edwin Dickey, Christine Lotter and Matthew Irvin, exceeded that by securing almost $1.8 million, bringing the project research budget to $4,776,030.  

Yow and her team's proposal was selected for the NSF Teaching Fellowship/Master Teaching Fellowship Track, awards that are vied for nationally.

The NSF awards support STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) professionals who enroll as NSF Teaching Fellows in master's degree programs leading to teacher certification by providing academic courses, professional development and salary supplements while they are fulfilling a four-year teaching commitment in a high-need school district. Yow’s grant track supports the development of NSF Master Teaching Fellows (MTFs) by providing professional development and salary supplements for exemplary mathematics and science teachers to become Master Teachers in high-need rural school districts.

Yow is in the last year of a $1.45 million, five-year NSF Science and Mathematics Teacher Initiative (USC-SMTI) grant that advanced the USC’s College of Education Master in Teaching program. That research benefited teacher candidates completing a B.S. degree in a STEM discipline with an education core. The USC-SMTI program has graduated 35 Noyce Scholars. The outcome produced highly qualified science and mathematics teachers who committed to teaching at least two years in a high-needs school district. Kathy Henson serves as project director for the USC-SMTI grant, and will continue as the project director for the new USC-SMTL grant. Yow plans to reapply for funding to continue the project.

Yow is currently expanding her research to investigate how teachers develop as teacher leaders in mathematics and science education. In collaboration with South Carolina's Coalition for Mathematics and Science, USC is establishing professional development mechanisms for 20 MTFs. “Our Noyce Scholars from the USC-SMTI will work as interns in the USC-SMTL classrooms,” says Yow. “These programs will also have a joint monthly meeting and support systems to help improve both pre-service and in-service teacher development.”

This project will initiate and evaluate the implementation of four strategies to address challenges faced by rural teachers and their school districts: relative isolation from other teachers; high attrition; need for STEM-specific leadership; and need for more opportunities for continuing teacher education.

The work will be carried out in partnership with high school and middle school teachers within Fairfield County, Lexington Four, Sumter and Orangeburg Consolidated School District Four, as well as Pelion and Gilbert schools in Lexington One. Only four teachers — two from middle schools and two from high schools — will be selected from each district for a total of 20 MTFs.  The goal is that these MTFs will become teacher leaders prepared to work with all secondary math and science teachers within their district.

Based on Yow’s research addressing effective STEM professional development for rural teachers, the project team will employ proven strategies to create a network of teacher-leaders with strong content knowledge through on-site and virtual mentoring and coaching, content knowledge and new mathematics and science standards training. “In years one through three of the project,” says Yow, “teachers will participate in intensive summer workshops or instructional leadership academies. By year four, they will begin to co-lead. Data generated through assessment and evaluation will underpin investigations of how the project components enhance preparation and commitment, and will ultimately govern MTF success rates.”

Evaluation will focus on determining whether or not the conceptual basis of the interventions is sound. Assessment will include both qualitative and quantitative data collected through tracking MTF participation in project activities, perceptions of all aspects of the project, performance in coursework, and classroom observations.

The results of this work will be presented at annual regional and national meetings and be submitted for publication in a variety of teaching journals including Journal of Science Teacher Education, Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, and Journal of Research in Rural Education.



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