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Professors from two colleges win grant to help educators adapt to Common Core Standards

Paul Kelter and Jon MillerThe Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) awarded a $140,000 yearly grant to Paul Kelter, professor of Elementary Education in the Department of Literacy Education, and Jon Miller, professor of Biology in the Department of Biological Sciences.

Grant funds will support the project “Integrating Math and Science with Content, Pedagogy, and Technology (IMSCPT).”

IMSCPT has also established a partnership with Motorola Mobility Corp. and Suzlon, a leading international wind power company.

The project is designed to help teachers create a foundation for and to become familiar with the recently adopted nationwide standards known as the Common Core Standards. Forty-four states have adopted these standards; all schools within these states will be required to abide by these standards.

For the duration of the project, Kelter and Miller will be collaborating with sixth- and seventh-grade teachers in the U-46 School District, which includes Elgin and surrounding communities. The focus for the first year will be supporting teachers in becoming familiar with the common core standards for math.

“Teachers are reasonably unfamiliar with these standards because they are newer,” Kelter says. “The purpose of the grant is to familiarize teachers with the common core in math, its usefulness, and its integration with science and world sustainability issues.”

Common Core State Standards logoIMSCPT will use the partnerships with Motorola and Suzlon to achieve their goals.

The teachers will use Xoom tablets from Motorola to integrate various applications pertaining to math in the classroom. Participating teachers will design curriculum reflecting their tour of a nearby Suzlon facility; more specifically, related to wind mills, which will involve math and science.

The end goal for the first year of the project is to create a group of trainers for the common core standards.

IMSCPT refers to this concept as “trainers of teachers.” The teachers will be able to assist educators statewide in understanding how to incorporate the common core standards into their pedagogy.

If granted the funding from the ISBE for a second year, the project will continue to evolve.

At the end of the second year, the trainers will be recognized as “master teachers” of the standards and teaching materials. The master teachers will implement a plan for assisting educators statewide, helping fellow educators to understand and familiarize themselves with the new common core standards.

Kelter believes that because the U-46 School District is a high needs school district with large percentages of English Language Learners and students on free and reduced lunches, the teachers will be more prepared to understand a variety of situations in implementing the goals for the second year of the project.

A four-week workshop will begin the training process for the U-46 teachers, and there will be a follow-up workshop in the fall.

“Our instructional practice is not taught at people; it’s a multi-way street. We always involve the teachers in the learning process through activities and discussions,” Kelter says. “These teachers are professionals; they know what they are doing. Our goal is to make order out of the occasional chaos of ideas.”

Kelter, who has been working with teachers for more than 30 years, has worked on numerous grants. So has Miller, a longtime high school teacher before coming to NIU. They will draw on those experiences to make the most of IMSCPT.

“Past grants have allowed us to design workshops that teach (educators well, respect their professionalism, and help them learn what they need to know to be maximally effective,” Kelter says.

by Janey Kubly