Learning partnership to continue

CONYERS - After successfully implementing the Math Science Partnership grant money for the past year, teachers in the Rockdale and Newton County public school systems will receive more funding to continue its partnership programs.

Last year, through federal funding, the Georgia Department of Education awarded $5.3 million to 27 projects in Georgia, including $280,717 for the Rockdale-Newton MSP.

With the funding, Rockdale County Public Schools and the Newton County School System developed a professional learning partnership in math and science in which higher education experts trained the teachers in various areas. Afterward, teachers were able to return to their home schools to share with co-workers what they learned and how to implement it into their classrooms.

"We've enjoyed it," said Kelly Barrow, science, health and PE coordinator for RCPS. "It's been wonderful for teachers to have that collaboration."

It allowed teachers to attend training at Clayton College and State University, Georgia State University and at the Georgia Institute of Technology's Center for Education Integrating Science, Mathematics and Computing program, which helps educational leaders better prepare their students more in science, math and technology. Middle and high school math and science teachers receive 60 hours of content instruction plus 20 hours of extra support with partners.

The grant money also helped pay stipends to teachers who attended training in their free time and paid for substitute teachers when involved teachers had to leave class early or miss a day to attend training.

The program also focused on effective delivery of the new Georgia Performance Standards curriculum and improved teacher's understanding of essentials in math and science performance-based classrooms, said Dr. Craig Dowling, assistant superintendent for instruction at RCPS, in a presentation to the Rockdale County Board of Education.

The teachers also have an opportunity to collaborate with other school systems in the MSP program in Georgia throughout the school year and summer.

This year, the Rockdale-Newton MSP will receive $252,645 from the program that will allow the school systems to continue its partnership together and with its higher educational partners.

"We will continue to focus on effective delivery of (Georgia Performance Standards) through guided inquiry, paradigm shifts in pedagogical practices in math and science and improving the understanding of the critical elements of a performance-based classroom in math and science," Dowling said in his presentation.

Barrow said there is no limit in grant money received in the MSP program, but the school systems together have to continue to reapply for grant money each year in order to continue the partnership. She said it's a competitive grant and how much money a system receives depends on what it did in the past and what it has planned for the future.

The school systems also continuously send the Georgia Department of Education and U.S. Congress reports and data regarding the effectiveness, teachers served and testing, as the grant is designed to serve teachers and help students in critical areas.

"The ultimate goal is to increase student achievement," Barrow said about the program. "And a huge piece of this is retaining math and science teachers - you want to maintain the initiatives you've started."

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.