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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teachers adjust to Common Core changes

Sunday, July 14, 2013

High school math teachers used math -- and Legos -- to create a profitable furniture design in a business math exercise last Thursday at Middle Tennessee Education Center. From front left, clockwise: Gwen Davis, Coffee County High School; Lisa Yates, Cascade High School; Chantel Stewart, Shelbyville Central High School; and Shelli Burk, SCHS.
(T-G Photo by Jason Reynolds) [Order this photo]
Sometimes teachers switch roles and become the students, especially when education standards change and they have to get up to speed on new techniques.

Common Core State Standards is an initiative in 47 states to bring school curricula into closer alignment, and Bedford County schools have been implementing the program even before the state's deadline of 2014-2015.

Nineteen high school math teachers from Bedford and Coffee counties have been participating in a Middle Tennessee State University project related to that change. They are doing their most recent round of training at Middle Tennessee Education Center (MTEC) at 200 Dover St. The center is a joint venture between MTSU, Motlow State Community College and the Bedford County government.

Team effort

The recent training session started early last week and will end this coming Tuesday, said Dr. Angela Barlow, MTSU's dean of Basic and Applied Sciences.

Project TeAM (Teaching Algebra and More) is funded through a grant from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Barlow said. The project's purpose is to improve teacher quality.

The group of MTSU professors has been working with the high school teachers throughout this calendar year, she said.

In March, the professors gave the teachers a test to gauge their knowledge of algebra content; the teachers also were subjected to a study of how well they performed in teaching their students. The test and the classroom observation will be repeated this fall, Barlow said, to see if the teachers have improved in their knowledge and teaching skills.

New outlook

Shelli Burk said she was teaching at Liberty Middle School but is moving to Shelbyville Central High School this fall. She said she has learned from the MTSU project.

"My structure of teaching needs changing," Burk said. "It needs to be more student-based versus me leading. I need to be more of a facilitator."

Chantel Stewart, a teacher at SCHS, said she agreed.

"I need to gear myself more to higher-level students," Stewart said. "I'm used to teaching more to lower levels. You're stepping outside your comfort zone. It'll be a learning process for everybody."

Burk said she has been making progress toward preparing for Common Core, but added, "It's still daunting."