To compete successfully in the global economy, today’s students must achieve a high level of comprehension in mathematics. The need to increase middle school (grades 6-8) student achievement in mathematics remains urgent as California pushes standards for students to take Algebra I by eighth grade. Success in mathematics is not the province of a talented few; many of these students will be inspired to achieve beyond the minimum standards.
The quality of instruction is the single most important component of an effective mathematics program. Research suggests that student achievement can improve when teachers are able to spend time planning and evaluating instruction.
The KCI’s core mission is aligned with this research: to prepare teachers to use integrated technologies for improving student learning outcomes. The KCI sponsors a professional development program for middle school mathematics teachers called the Faculty Academy for Mathematics Excellence (FAME) to address the need for higher mathematics success in our local schools. The FAME 2011 cohort completed its seven-month program cycle in January, and applications for the new cohort are under review.
The FAME Program comprises two weeks of intensive instruction in July followed by 12 additional hours of professional development in which participants learn multiple ways to teach middle school math concepts and how to integrate technology into instruction. The instructional team models hands-on learning activities, such as discussion, team problem solving and math manipulatives. Integrating technology—the hallmark of all KCI-sponsored programs—makes the FAME program unique. Teacher participants use free online manipulatives, graphing and table functions within Microsoft Excel, and algebraic functions using GeoGebra.
The innovative program prepares teachers based on research included in the Mathematics Framework for California Public Schools, published by the California Department of Education. The Framework states that an effective school mathematics program includes teachers who are knowledgeable about content and able to use a wide variety of instructional strategies. FAME is designed to increase student achievement in pre-algebra and algebra courses, reduce the achievement gap between well? and underserved students, and promote the use of technology to enhance the teaching and learning of mathematics.
The FAME Program model is strongly aligned with best practices found in the Mathematics Framework. Professional development is a long-term, planned investment that is strongly supported by the school administration and designed to ensure that teachers continue to develop skills and knowledge in both content and instructional options. In addition to active involvement during classroom-style staff development, teachers have the opportunity to interact with the instructional team during in-class coaching sessions. FAME teachers are given time and opportunities to work together to plan mathematics instruction.
The KCI received grant funding for FAME for three years from the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and coordinates the program with the Santa Clara County Office of Education and with support from the San Mateo County Office of Education.