Teacher Math Training Adds Up

Teacher Math Training Adds Up

According to the state’s proposed scoring standards, 69 percent of Sarasota County students would pass the Algebra 1 test, which is now required for graduation. Establishing a solid math foundation in elementary school will set students up for success throughout their education career.

Research shows an effective teacher has an estimated two to three times the impact on elementary student math test performance than any other factor. It also shows that teachers report elementary math instruction as the most difficult to teach.

Having our teachers well-prepared to teach math is the first step in closing the achievement gap.

Historically, math lessons focus on procedure to find the correct answer. The new Florida Standards Assessment require students to evaluate the math problem, propose multiple solutions, and present their findings. Because finding the correct answer is no longer enough, teachers must become math content experts in order to effectively prepare students to pass the assessment tests and to succeed in the world in which they’ll live and work.

In 2015, the Barancik Foundation invested $619,144 and partnered with the Sarasota County School District to pilot the Elementary Math Teacher Training Initiative. The initiative employs full-time math specialists to deliver math instruction lessons that give teachers more effective methods to help students grasp difficult math concepts.

After the pilot phase confirmed the value of investing in the professional capacity of math teachers, a second investment of $480,000 by the Barancik Foundation extended the training initiative to 800 additional elementary teachers. The initiative benefits students from all socioeconomic backgrounds. “Having our teachers well-prepared to teach math is the first step in closing the achievement gap,” said Laura Kingsley, Executive Director of Elementary Schools.

During the second phase of the initiative, teams of teachers received training to provide structures that allow them to collaborate on highly effective lessons based on their students’ needs. They also gain easier access to resources to plan math lessons that let teachers focus on improving students’ “math mentality” so they can be less reliant on ineffective textbooks. Every elementary school principal also receives training so they can better support and uphold high expectations for effective math lessons in every classroom.

With time, professional capacity building reaches a self-sustaining level where teachers are able to train one another. The impact and sustainability of the initiative has caught the attention of middle and high school principals and teachers. The Elementary Math Teacher Training Initiative set a new standard for professional capacity building in Sarasota County Schools, as teachers and students across the community master math with confidence.