NCSS considers hiring firm to help boost math scores

COVINGTON — The Newton County Board of Education is considering hiring a consulting firm to work with teachers to help bring up high school math scores.

Richard Nyankori, executive vice president of Insight Education Group, presented the proposal during Tuesday’s BOE work session. He said the six-month Algebra Acceleration Project would work specifically with 10 teachers in the Newton County School System for a period of six months between October and April and offer a hybrid approach of in-person and online coaching. The goal is to help Newton County students “learn algebra and demonstrate their learning through increased proficiency rates on the coordinate algebra End of Course Tests (EOCT),” according to the recommendation of Newton County School Superintendent Samantha Fuhrey.

The estimated cost for the professional development is $95,950.

The need to work with teachers to boost math scores came to light when NCSS reported this summer that most math scores on the 2012-13 EOCT had fallen. Coordinate algebra, which is taught to ninth-grade students, had a pass rate of 19.4 percent, below the statewide pass rate of 37 percent.

Shannon Buff, coordinator for Title IIA funds for NCSS, explained that scores began to suffer when Newton County introduced in 2012 the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards in math.

“The Common Core results were not what we expected,” she told the board members. “It was very difficult for the teachers and students alike. .. We feel a partnership with Insight is very important.”

She said that Insight conducted a pilot program in the spring in Newton County that was well-received by the teachers who participated, largely because professional coaches were educators themselves.

Nyankori said the philosophy of Insight when working with teachers is “growth versus gotcha.”

He said that his company’s area of expertise is to work with minority and low-income students to help them achieve at the same levels as their peers. Some of the school districts Insight has worked with include Baltimore City Public Schools, Chicago Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools and the Tennessee Department of Education.

“We have seen the most success in schools with persistently low-performing students,” Nyankori said, adding that he believes that improving algebra scores has social justice implications as well.

“Algebra I is an important gateway course to entering college,” he said. “We take that very seriously.”

School board member Eddie Johnson said he was concerned about adding another professional development program to teachers who are already stretched for time.

Buff said they would not add any more professional learning time to teachers and that most teachers she has talked with are excited about receiving coaching from other math teachers.

The school board is slated to vote on the proposal at its regular meeting scheduled for 7 p.m. Tuesday.