BSC Office of Communications

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October 21, 2004

Birmingham area higher, secondary education systems team to receive $9.9 million NSF grant to improve middle grade math education

BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—The National Science Foundation as part of the Mathematics Science Partnership grant program has awarded $9.9 million to the Greater Birmingham Mathematics Partnership (GBMP) to improve the teaching and learning of mathematics in local middle schools.

The GBMP is a consortium made up of Birmingham-Southern College, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, the eight school districts of Bessemer, Fairfield, Homewood, Hoover, Jefferson County, Mountain Brook, Shelby County, and Vestavia, and the Mathematics Education Collaborative, a Seattle-based nonprofit organization established to promote partnerships and to provide education communities with the necessary support to accomplish the goal of quality mathematics education for all.

“This is a tremendous boost for our local middle school teachers and the young students they educate,” said Dr. Bernadette Mullins, associate mathematics professor at BSC and principal investigator on the grant project. “It will pump nearly $10 million over the next five years into making stronger mathematics teachers and stronger mathematics learners.”

The partnership is a multidimensional program that will provide high-quality professional development to all middle school teachers in the eight districts, select pre-service teachers, some elementary school teachers, and higher education professors.

The cornerstone of the professional development will be a series of two-week, in-depth mathematics content courses to be offered in the summer that model best practice teaching methods. The Mathematics Education Collaborative will provide the instruction for the summer courses and the year-long follow-up. The follow-up during the year not only will involve the teachers from the summer courses, but also provide sessions for administrators, parents, and the public. Mathematics, education, and engineering professors from BSC and UAB will participate in the summer courses and in the follow-up along with the teachers.

“We believe that by involving all the stakeholders in this project we can have a significant impact on mathematics education,” said Dr. Ann Dominick, math specialist for the Hoover City School System and project co-director.

“In particular we want to significantly improve the mathematics achievement of the approximately 22,000 students in grades six through eight in the eight school systems, while narrowing the mathematics achievement gaps among the varied populations of students,” added Dr. Faye Clark, a community volunteer and project co-director.

The professors from BSC and UAB will make other important contributions as well. For example, the engineering professors will design engineering projects for middle school students. These units will help make mathematics come alive and will demonstrate the relevance of mathematics in real-world settings. In addition, the mathematics professors will collaborate with education professors to develop new courses tailored specifically for future middle school teachers as well as a middle school certification.

There also will be a strong evaluation and research component of the project managed by Dr. Scott Snyder, director of the UAB Center for Educational Accountability. The major question being researched is whether involving and educating all the stakeholders and providing quality professional development translates into improved mathematics learning and narrowing the achievement gap.

Clark said that the project was funded in part because of the interest and financial support the GBMP received from school districts, local corporations, and individuals for pilot projects conducted the last three years.

“The local funds and support provided in the first years of the pilot project, along with the evaluations of the participants, helped to convince NSF of the merit of the GBMP proposal,” she said.

“The GBMP summer course is the best professional development I have ever offered teachers during my eight years as secondary mathematics supervisor of Jefferson County,” said Dr. Peggy Harrell, who attended a summer pilot course with her teachers. “We left the course with the goal of becoming more powerful teachers in order to produce mathematically powerful students.”

Other principal participants in the grant are Dr. Michael Froning, dean of the UAB School of Education; Dr. Melinda Lalor, UAB associate professor of civil and environmental engineering; Dr. John Mayer, UAB professor of natural science and mathematics; Dr. Eileen Moore, BSC professor of education; and Dr. Ruth Parker, Mathematics Education Collaborative CEO.


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