LEXINGTON, KY – Teachers in six Kentucky school districts will be among the first in the nation to explore new ways to teach mathematics under a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. The ninth and tenth grade teachers will work with new teaching and testing resources that have been developed by national experts to accelerate students' mastery of mathematics.
"We’re tremendously excited by this opportunity," said Robert F. Sexton, executive director of the Prichard Committee. "The new materials will help schools implement Kentucky's brand new mathematics standards, tracking each student's level of understanding and developing teaching methods that keep all students moving forward. It's an early look at the kind of professional development all Kentucky teachers will need."
The new approach—known as "assessment for learning" or "formative assessment"—fits well with legislation passed by the 2009 General Assembly requiring that Kentucky adopt new mathematics standards and develop a new testing approach. The "assessment for learning" approach emphasizes classroom-level activities that provide teachers with better insight into student learning needs. The emphasis is on quickly helping teachers adjust their teaching to help all students reach high standards of learning.
During intensive professional development sessions, the participating teachers will work with classroom "performance events" that provide immediate information on what part of a topic students already understand and what still needs work. In turn, that will allow teachers to adjust instruction so that all students ultimately master the mathematics being taught.
"Each performance event will allow teachers to shape future learning," said Ann Shannon, a mathematics researcher with a leading role in the project. "We'll be working on how teachers can quickly address student difficulties, pose follow-up questions that deepen understanding, and ensure that all students end up with a strong grasp of the key concepts they need to master."
The pilot testing in Kentucky is part of a larger nationwide effort by the Gates Foundation to support the development and testing of prototype math and literacy classroom assessments and instructional tools to help educators better prepare all students for life beyond high school.
The Prichard Committee has selected the following high schools to participate in the project:
- Boone County, Conner, Cooper, and Ryle high schools, Boone County
- Apollo, Beacon, and Daviess County high schools, Daviess County
- Doss and Iroquois high schools, Jefferson County
- East Jessamine and West Jessamine high schools in Jessamine County
- Dixie, Scott, and Simon Kenton high schools in Kenton County
- Warren Central and Warren East high schools in Warren County
The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is a nonprofit citizens' organization that works to improve education for all Kentuckians.