Editor's note: This is part one of a two-part series. Greene Education Services used grant funding to help Greene County schools work together to prepare for upcoming changes in curriculum. This is the first of two stories about the GES.
As Greene County nears the end of the second federal math grant, it is becoming apparent Greene Math Advancement Partnership Project (MAPP) has helped create several opportunities around the county.
Greene Education Services (GES) Executive Director Sophie Haywood said the county is in the third, and final year, of the Greene MAPP-2 grant.
Haywood and Greene MAPP-2 Math Coach Jennifer Lee explained the grant has allowed several changes in the way math is taught in order to prepare for the implementation of Common Core Standards, which will replace Indiana Standards in 2014-15.
Lee said a representative from the Indiana Department of Education visited Greene County schools and was impressed that all five county schools were ahead of the curve.
Lee and Eastern Greene Director of Learning Maggie Daiton worked together to create a plan for the transition from Indiana Standards to Common Core Standards.
"Common Core (Standards) goes so much deeper. It gets down to why they are doing what they are doing," Lee stressed, noting the planned transition will help to ensure there are no gaps in learning. "Common Core was set up so that students are not learning things they are not developmentally ready for."
This transition also helps teachers as the schools began working under the RISE evaluation system, which grades the teachers' work in the classroom.
Lee noted teachers are learning new techniques in the classroom, and are implementing reading and language skills into math problems.
Math classes are working on problem-based learning, in which the students are using real-life scenarios to work out problems.
Lee noted in the future the classes will be working on project-based learning, which will be two-to-three-week long projects focusing on real-life scenarios.
"When you walk into the classrooms now, it's never quiet. This is not your traditional class anymore," Lee explained.
She added the county is working on a similar curriculum time frame at each school because students frequently transfer to other schools across the county.
Lee stressed this is also important because it allows the teachers throughout the county to work together as they set up their projects for the year.
"We find we are seeing a lot of pushback from parents. The biggest struggle is the adjustment for parents. Their children are coming home with homework they have to answer with paragraphs, and they are coming back saying they don't know how to help," Lee said.
Haywood said since the second round of the grant was implemented, scores have risen in the math departments around the county.
The Algebra I End of Course Assessment results increased to 67.37 percent in 2011 from 49.212 percent in 2010. In addition the third through eight grade ISTEP grades rose to 76.8 percent from 74.45 percent in 2010.
Along with students being held accountable for the learning material, teachers involved in the program also have to take pre- and post-assessments.
"This is a federal grant awarded through the state. Congress looks at the test scores (ISTEP and ECA) and content knowledge of the teachers. The teachers have to do a pre- and post-test every year," Haywood explained. "If the teachers better understand the math, they can teach it better."
The grant allows Lee and math professors from Indiana University to visit with Greene County teachers and discuss ways to improve techniques in the classroom.
Indiana University Associate Professor of Mathematics Education Enrique Galindo has played an instrumental part in helping teachers since the first round of the MAPP Grant in 2008. Associate professor Kevin Pilgrim also serves as a lead advisor with the program.
Greene Education Services is currently waiting to hear about another grant to incorporate science in the program as well, which will be known as Greene SMAPP.
"Science is exciting for kids. It's not something they want to read out of a book," Haywood said.