A U.S. Department of Education grant providing support for area school districts to advance elementary school students’ performance in mathematics is being administered through The University of Southern Mississippi’s Frances Karnes Center for Gifted Studies.
Titled “Continuous Progress Curriculum Model for Elementary Schools in Math,” the project is designed to organize schools around the acceleration of students through their established elementary curricula. It provides training and technical support for elementary educators and administrators to establish an individualized plan for a continuous progress curriculum in mathematics, considered a critical academic need area in the state.
Target areas to be served by the elementary component will be math instruction in kindergarten through third grade, said Dr. Frances Karnes, director of the Karnes Center for Gifted Studies, who is assisted by Southern Miss graduate students in coordination of the project. She hopes that, if successful, the project’s format can be followed throughout a school’s curricula. The project will be administered through May 2010.
“These schools are provided a model in which their students’ progress is tracked through not only the established math curricula, but may be replicated in other subject areas and grade levels so that all students could benefit from moving through curricula at an accelerated rate,” she said.
Following an orientation meeting for each superintendent, principal, and selected teacher leaders, each school was provided initial training by an educational consultant who visits each school at least once a month to provide technical assistance and guidance to establish a curriculum committee charged with creating the individualized plan for implementation.
The project’s two-part focus is now underway, which began with the creation of multiple entry points in an instructional setting for students of any age or academic strength in order to advance their progress in the school’s mathematics curricula. This is followed by training and continued support for teacher leaders and administrators through periodic monitoring of student progress and data gathering and interpretation.
A review of the students’ periodic progress is also facilitated by assisting teachers and administrators on scheduling methods and flexible instructional grouping scenarios.
The elementary level project director and educational consultant assess the schools’ progress toward completion of the implementation plan monthly, assisting school personnel as needed. At the end of the school year, a viable plan will be created based on the data that is collected and analyzed.
The project not only benefits teachers and students in local schools, but helps Southern Miss in its efforts to train future teachers, said Dr. David Daves, chairman of the Department of Curriculum, Instruction and Special Education.
“It’s not only helping teachers help their students succeed in math, but helps us build partnerships between P-12 schools and the university,” he said. “That allows us to take what we do here and break it down to real field-based work that our teacher candidates can benefit from.”
While the stated mission of the Center for Gifted Studies is to further the education of gifted students and those with leadership abilities, Karnes said she and her staff are also interested in the advancement of students at all academic levels and giving their teachers the tools to make that happen. The current project focusing on math follows a similar project undertaken last year by the center that dealt with reading curricula.
“We’ve always been interested in the instruction progress of all children, including the gifted,” she said. “We hope this particular model puts each child at their instructional level, further increasing their chances for success in mathematics.”
About The University of Southern Mississippi
The University of Southern Mississippi, founded in 1910, is a comprehensive doctoral and research-extensive university fulfilling its mission of being a leading university in engaging and empowering individuals to transform lives and communities. In a tradition of leadership for student development, Southern Miss is educating a 21st century work force providing intellectual capital, cultural enrichment and innovation to Mississippi and the world. Southern Miss is located in Hattiesburg, Miss., with an additional campus and teaching and research sites on the Mississippi Gulf Coast; further information is found at www.usm.edu.