Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Courses for Middle School Teachers Available at TCNJ

For the past five years, the College of New Jersey has offered courses for middle school teachers as another initiative of the TQE-R Grant. The graduate level math courses are currently held at Fisher Middle School in Ewing, NJ and are taught by Dr. Cathy Liebars, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the College.

Originally, the College held courses like this through an older grant as a response to the No Child Left Behind Act. It was only for Ewing districts and the purpose was to produce more highly qualified teachers.

Now, through the TQE-R Grant, teachers from all over New Jersey are welcome to attend. While the purpose is still to make more highly qualified teachers, Dr. Liebars said she has found that teachers also take these courses to gain a deeper understanding of the mathematical principles that they teach. In turn, they can modify their curricula to give their students a better understanding of these concepts.

There are six courses taught by Dr. Liebars: Number Theory and Systems; Data Analysis and Probability; Patterns, Functions and Algebra; Geometry; Discrete Math; and Calculus. They are all intended for middle school teachers who wish to focus specifically on middle school curricula as they explore math and technology. They also learn how to better engage their students in the material through different strategies and methods.

Dr. Liebars will be teaching Discrete Math in the fall. Typically she only teaches one course per semester. The classes meet once a week for 2 1/2 hours. If interested, Dr. Liebars can be contacted via telephone or email for more information.

Interesting Blog Post

I found this post on the education blog of the Star Ledger. This is definitely interesting and worth checking out!! Google has a free program called the Google Teacher Academy that gives educators hands-on experience with technology so they can incorporate it into their lessons and share their knowledge with other teachers. Check out the Star Ledger's story here and the Google Teacher Academy here.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Changes in New Jersey Mathematics Standards Cause Concern

New Jersey educators are up in arms over the recent changes to the state's mathematics standards. For the past year, a writing team worked to revise the state's standards and develop a newer, updated version. This February, the New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) released the revisions.

To the surprise of many, including those who were on the writing team, the draft released by the NJDOE was not the draft that the writing team had turned in, and contained several key differences. The writing team soon found out that the NJDOE hired someone else to revise the standards, completely foregoing the standards revision process that was designed by the NJDOE.

Educators have come together and created an ad hoc committee of Concerned Mathematics Educators of New Jersey. They state on their website that the new draft "consists largely of cumulative progress indicators (CPIs) that are lifted verbatim from a few other state standards (primarily Indiana and California), and that do not fit in with the rest of the document or connect to the surrounding CPIs or grade-level expectations."

Dr. Cathy Liebars, Associate Professor of Mathematics and Statistics at the College of New Jersey, said that the standards released by the NJDOE could have a negative impact since they focus more on a procedural form of teaching as opposed to furthering conceptual understanding. The new standards also eliminate the use of calculators in grades K-7, which many educators say would have a negative impact on children who are growing up in an increasingly technologically proficient world.

There are also many arbitrary changes in curriculum topics and when they are taught. This poses a considerable problem to teachers, since they might have to drastically change their curricula. What was once taught in 3rd grade may now not be taught until 5th, creating an issue if the concepts contained therein are referred to in 4th grade lessons.

Besides the contents, one of the main issues that the Concerned Mathematics Educators of New Jersey have with the new draft is the "behind the back" way in which the NJDOE went about changing the standards without notifying the writing team. After all, the team had spent a year doing intensive research to develop standards that would be most beneficial to New Jersey's schoolchildren. They should have been a part of the revisions, especially since that is what NJDOE procedure dictates.

The Concerned Mathematics Educators of New Jersey are recommending to the state that the NJDOE follow the standards revision process that they themselves created, reinstate the writing team's revisions, and invite all interested parties to comment on the writing team's version and prepare a new set of standards that are agreeable to all. They are encouraging all other concerned educators to fill out a supportive statement to the Concerned Mathematics Educators of New Jersey, which can be found easily on their website:

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Stimulus Package Brings Hope and Challenges to Educators

Yesterday, President Obama signed the $787 billion economic stimulus package into law. Out of that $787 billion, $115 billion is dedicated to education. This $115 billion is divided into specific sectors such as state aid for schools, special education and child care development, to name a few. To see the exact numbers and where the money is designated as of right now, double click on the pie chart below (this will bring the chart up in another window which allows for better visibility).

This stimulus will help American education a great deal. US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan must now decide where these funds will go in their respective categories. For instance, the $53.6 billion for state aid to schools will have to be split up amongst the 50 states, and then split up amongst the nation's 14,000 school districts. It is going to be very interesting to see how the funds are disbursed.

For the Center for STEM Ed, the stimulus package brings hope, since the TQE-R Grant will run out in September of this year. Mr. Duncan will have the power of distributing up to $650 million worth of grants to districts and non-profit organizations. It is unclear at this point whether any funds will be distributed to the Center for STEM Ed so that it may continue the initiatives that have been created through the TQE-R Grant (such as the Urban Teacher Academy and Tomorrow's Teachers programs).

Hopefully, the New Jersey Department of Education will receive enough money that some can be disbursed to the Center for STEM Ed to sustain and expand its current programs. After the January 27th meeting at the College of New Jersey, it can be expected that New Jersey Department of Education Commissioner Lucille Davy will be keeping the Center for STEM Ed in mind when disbursing funds.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Educators Meet at TCNJ to Discuss TQE-R Grant

On January 27th a meeting about future teacher recruitment was held at the College of New Jersey. Some of the notable attendees included Commissioner Lucille Davy and Assistant Commissioner Dr. Jay Doolan of the New Jersey Department of Education, representatives from the New Jersey Education Association, the International President of Phi Delta Kappa, and representatives from the College of New Jersey, Montclair State University, Rowan University, Georgian Court University and William Paterson University.

They gathered to review the progress made so far with the Teacher Quality Enhancement-Recruitment (TQE-R) Grant the College was awarded in 2005 by the US Department of Education and to discuss the future of teacher recruitment in New Jersey through expansion of the current programs. Leading the meeting were Larry Fieber, Urban Recruitment Coordinator, and Dr. Sharon Sherman, Principal Investigator of the TQE-R Grant, both from the College of New Jersey.

The National Education Association (NEA) predicts that more than two million teachers will be needed in the next ten years. Teacher shortages exist nationwide, but vary by geographic and content areas. The TQE-R Grant was awarded in order to increase future teacher recruitment, especially in high-poverty schools and in high-shortage subject areas.

To give an example of the disparity in New Jersey, 17 percent of Trenton Central High School classes were not taught by highly qualified teachers in 2006-2007, while neighboring West-Windsor Plainsboro High School classes were all taught by highly qualified teachers. Also, 5.5 percent of all Camden School District's classes were not taught by highly qualified teachers in 2006-2007, while all of the classes in neighboring suburban Moorestown were taught by highly qualified teachers.

Shortages are most prevalent in the disciplines of math, science, special education, technology, bilingual education, world languages and early childhood education. Schools that cannot find teachers for these subjects are forced to hire substitutes who are not as qualified to teach the curriculum. This disparity is striking, and sheds light on the need for more qualified teachers in New Jersey.

A major concern at the meeting was the importance of allocating funds to sustain the programs implemented through the TQE-R Grant and expand them statewide. There has been an overwhelming response from students and faculties at New Jersey schools waiting to implement programs such as the Urban Teacher Academy and Tomorrow's Teachers. However, the TQE-R Grant will run out in September 2009.

Commissioner Lucille Davy from the New Jersey Department of Education expressed cautious optimism about allocating funds. She said that she was aware of how important these programs are and would do what she can to maintain these programs and see about possible expansion. With the current economic crisis and budget cuts, it will be hard to find the money to continue future teacher recruitment. The funds allocated to education in the Economic Stimulus Package might be enough to continue future teacher recruitment. However, the money might also need to come from sources other than the state and national governments. The New Jersey Education Association is one of the organizations that intend to contribute to these initiatives.

It will be a challenge for those passionate about future teacher recruitment to keep the programs implemented by the TQE-R Grant going. President Obama’s education platform emphasizes the importance of recruiting well-qualified teachers for every classroom, especially in high-poverty schools. As Dr. Carol Bresnahan, Provost and Executive Vice President at the College, said, “All students, regardless of economic status, need and deserve highly qualified teachers."

New Jersey Future Educators Association Conference

Another strategy being used to implement the TQE-R Grant is the New Jersey Future Educators Association (NJFEA) Conference, which was hosted by the College of New Jersey on May 23, 2008. Around 300 students from 38 high schools attended 31 break-out sessions which placed particular emphasis on teaching in high-need school districts and high-shortage subject areas.

Other than the break-out sessions, a keynote address and advisors' workshop were held during the conference. The keynote address was given by Mr. Tyler Blackmore, principal of Asbury Park High School, who spoke on "The Urban Calling: Saving America's Most Important Schools." The workshop allowed students and advisors to share information about their chapter activities and future teacher recruitment efforts.

There has been an overwhelming response from schools and students that wish to attend the 2009 NJFEA Conference. Thankfully, it is expanding this year to allow students from more geographic areas in New Jersey to attend. There will be two NJFEA Conferences held in the spring of 2009 at Montclair State and Rowan Universities.

Watch a video about the 2008 NJFEA Conference and the Urban Teacher Academy:

Urban Teacher Academy

Another strategy that is implementing the TQE-R Grant is the Urban Teacher Academy (UTA), an intensive two-week summer program in which juniors are recruited from high schools to learn about teaching. They place a particular focus on the challenges and rewards of teaching in high-poverty areas.

Students accepted to the UTA are not charged tuition. They are actually given a $250 incentive upon completion of the program (which is intended to cover the amount of money students could have been making at summer jobs during that two-week period). All expenses for books, materials and food are paid by the UTA.

Students tour the College of New Jersey's campus, participating in teambuilding activities and attending lectures by education professors on teaching. The students also get to try their hands at teaching by planning their own mini-school involving children from Ewing Township’s summer camp.

Mr. Wayne Dennis, Vice Principal from Patton J. Hill Elementary School in Trenton, says that the UTA helps to “dismiss myths about urban teaching." After all, as Mr. Dennis points out, children from urban areas deserve the same quality of teachers as children from more affluent areas.

The UTA allows students to interact with urban teachers. They also observe presentations about topics such as multiculturalism, classroom management, addressing students with special needs, and effective teaching in math and science classrooms. Mr. Justin Friedman, a 2006 UTA student, says that the UTA helped him to see that urban teaching is challenging, but rewarding.

Watch a video about the Urban Teacher Academy:

Tomorrow's Teachers

Tomorrow’s Teachers is one of the programs that the College of New Jersey is using to implement the TQE-R Grant. It is a year-long high school elective course for students who aspire to become teachers.

Training for Tomorrow's Teachers was held at the College in June of 2008. Teachers from 44 New Jersey high schools participated in three days of training to implement the course in their schools in the 2008-2009 school year. Instructors were trained by the South Carolina-based Center for Education Recruitment, Retention and Advancement (CERRA). In June of 2009, teachers from over 100 New Jersey high schools will be trained by CERRA at two locations: Georgian Court University and William Paterson University.

Tomorrow's Teachers has been used in 30 other states and includes intensive curriculum which focuses on observations and actual field experience. Emphasis is placed on high-shortage subject areas like math, science and special education. The course is taught using three themes: experiencing the learner, experiencing the profession and experiencing the classroom.

Ms. Marianne Titus, an Instructor of Tomorrow’s Teachers at Lawrence High School, said that the students who participate in this program end up more prepared for teaching than students who do not. Studies show that 40 percent of students who experience this curriculum become teachers.

Teacher Quality Enhancement-Recruitment Grant

In 2005, the College of New Jersey was awarded the Teacher Quality Enhancement-Recruitment (TQE-R) Grant by the US Department of Education for the amount of $3.3 million. The TQE-R Grant was awarded in order to increase future teacher recruitment, especially in high-poverty, low-achieving schools and in high-shortage subject areas like math, science, world languages, early childhood education and special education. The College is implementing the TQE-R Grant by cooperating with three high-poverty, low-achieving school districts: Trenton Public Schools, Pemberton Public Schools and Vineland Public Schools.

Statistics show that one-third of new teachers leave the profession within the first five years of employment nationwide. The numbers get even higher in high-need school districts. On top of that, around 2% of teachers retire yearly, although some return and work part-time as substitutes. So every five years, around 10% of teachers that were in the workforce retire, and 30% of the teachers coming into the field to replace them end up leaving as well. This has created an obvious shortage.

Research indicates that to deal with teacher shortages in high-need schools, strategies are needed across the continuum of professional practice in order to retain teachers once they are recruited into these high risk schools. The TQE-R Grant is comprised of three strategies which help implement its goals. In the first strategy, the TQE-R Grant uses high-impact recruitment plans for high-need districts, including web-based recruitment services for urban districts, incentives for high-need district placement, and new technology-based practices that help reverse slow-moving hiring processes. The second strategy introduces pre-service program offerings for traditional and alternate routes to the needs of future teachers who wish to work in high-need districts. In the third strategy, tactics are used which promote strong induction and professional learning in all three high-need districts.

At the College, two people have been vital to the implementation of the TQE-R Grant: Dr. Sharon Sherman, Principal Investigator of the TQE-R Grant, and Mr. Larry Fieber, Urban Recruitment Coordinator. Together, they have started many programs with the TQE-R Grant that help to further their goals. In this way, the College is utilizing the TQE-R Grant to help increase teacher recruitment and retention, specifically in New Jersey.

Watch a video about the TQE-R Grant here:

M/S/T Major at TCNJ Increases Technological Knowledge in Future Teachers

One of the fastest growing majors at TCNJ is the Math/Science/Technology (M/S/T) major. It is a unique multi-disciplinary program that prepares teachers who wish to specialize in math and science in early childhood education, elementary education, special education, and education of the deaf and hard of hearing.

The M/S/T major encourages future teachers to integrate technology and engineering principles into the curriculum that they will use. Steve O’Brien, a Technology Studies Professor at TCNJ, says that the M/S/T major is “one of very few, if not the only, undergraduate majors that ties math, science and technology together with education." Brian Rawlins, a recent TCNJ graduate who majored in M/S/T, says that the M/S/T courses provided him with “multiple strategies in developing lesson plans and increasing student understanding."

Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are severely underrepresented in early education right now. Schools must keep up with the rapidly increasing technology of today’s world. In order for schools to produce students with a working knowledge of today’s technology, the curriculum must instill technological principles at an earlier age. It is very important for teachers to be M/S/T literate in order to prepare their students for the world.

In the Department of Labor’s most recent job outlook for educators, it was found that, “employment of teachers is expected to grow by 12 percent between 2006 and 2016”, which will create more than 479,000 new positions. There is a definite shortage of teachers in STEM fields, so a student with a degree in M/S/T should have no trouble finding employment upon graduation. Rawlins, now teaching 6th grade math, says that the M/S/T major allowed him to apply for a variety of jobs and be more valuable to employers. TCNJ has had over 150 graduates and current majors in this field since 2000.

The M/S/T major provides further training which is equal to a minor in one of five specializations: mathematics, technology, biology, chemistry and physics. The M/S/T major is relatively new, but based on its success at TCNJ, it should begin to spread to other major national institutions.

TCNJ Dominates in 2008 TECA Conference

The Eastern Regional Conference of the Technology Education Collegiate Association (TECA) met in Virginia Beach, VA from November 9-11, 2008. Representatives from many notable colleges and universities attended, including the College of New Jersey, Central Connecticut State University, Millersville University, California University of PA and State University of New York at Oswego.

Some of the activities featured at the TECA conference were competitions, a job fair, and a banquet with keynote speakers. Carolyn Jepson, junior M/S/T Elementary Education major at TCNJ, said that one of the main attractions of participating in the TECA conference is the ability to network with potential employers, accomplished educators and other students interested in the fields of science and technology.

The TECA conference attracted many important people in the technological field. Prospective employers from over 50 school systems attended the job fair and recruited TECA participants. The keynote speakers were from the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel Authority: Mr. Jeff Holland (Executive Director), Mr. Robert Johnson (Director of Maintenance) and Ms. Debbie Cooley (Assistant Director of Finance). They discussed the engineering issues related to the building and maintenance of the Chesapeake Bay-Bridge Tunnel.

There were competitions in ten categories: communication, problem solving, transportation, manufacturing, automated systems, elementary design, instructional modules, poster sessions, teaching lessons and technology. Jepson said, “The competitions force you to use all the skills you have learned through your technology classes in order to make and present the best designs." TECA participants from TCNJ took home three 1st place awards, two 2nd place awards and one 3rd place award. Congratulations to the 2008 TECA Conference TCNJ winners!

TCNJ Winners:

Automated Systems - 1st Place
Josh Schorr, Daniel Monzon, Frank Spangler, Jen Berntson

Teaching Lesson - 1st Place
Cathy Huang, Cynthia Cardona, Danielle Romero

Elementary Design - 1st Place
Ashley Delloiacono, Brianna Rae Kurowski, Carolyn Jepson

Poster Session - 2nd Place
Adam Brunner, Jessica Kerley

Technology Challenge - 2nd Place
Adam Brunner, Dan Watson, Matt Emmett, Mike Sullivan

Transportation - 3rd Place
Jameson Chin, Joe Carson, Melissa Bradley, Mike Sullivan