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Math Specialist Profile

MSP Institute: Mathematics Specialists in Middle Schools


The NSF Mathematics Specialist Partnership Institute is supporting 50 outstanding middle school teachers to become mathematics specialists. Each teacher participates in a 66 day Institute offered over three consecutive summers; completes a total of 33 graduate credits during the Institute sessions and the subsequent academic years; and participates in various Institute enrichment activities. The teachers will earn a master's degree and certification as a Mathematics Specialist. Each of the 50 participants will serve as a Specialist within their home school district, annually coaching an average of 15 other teachers and impacting 1200 middle school students. Therefore, a total of 750 teachers (50 x 15) and 60,000 students (50 x 1200) will be impacted by the Institute Partnership.

The proposed project is based on the research of a developed and refined program which has prepared and inducted over 250 Mathematics Specialists into K-5 schools in Virginia. The exciting results from the prior research, which used control groups in the experimental design, indicate the positive impact of Specialists on teacher knowledge, teachers' attitudes and beliefs and ultimately student learning as measured on the high stakes Virginia Standards of Learning tests. The established preparation program will be refined and adapted to meet the curricula needs in grades 6-8, including algebra. The research of these adaptations and refinements of currently developed programs is necessary to validate statewide implementation of Mathematics Specialists at the middle school level and to model their work nationally.

The research questions for the project are 1) Can we prepare Mathematics Specialists for service in grades 6-8 by adapting and refining training and induction programs which have served well in K-5 schools? 2) Will this Institute produce intellectual leaders in Virginia? 3) Can these Specialists impact student learning in grades 6-8 to enhance student success in the middle school curriculum, including algebra? Mathematics Specialists have been recommended by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics and prominent national educators as a possible way to help close the achievement gap for U.S. students. The project research could be transformative in validating a national model for training Mathematics Specialists for their role in middle schools. The mixed design research featuring controlled matched pairs of schools and case studies could validate the positive effects of student learning of Mathematics Specialists in middle schools. This study, following successful initial research based results in grades K-5 is needed to support the introduction of Mathematics Specialists nationally.

This award is funded under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Public Law 111-5).