District-Focused Math and Science seminars hone teachers’ skills

More than 2,000 math and science teachers converged on the Georgia World Congress Center this week to improve their skills through the two-day, third annual District-Focused Mathematics and Science event. The event also served as an opportunity to get teachers better acquainted with the third phase of the Georgia Performance Standards rollout of the new math curriculum, as well as the some $4 million worth of new equipment thanks to federal stimulus aid.

The program is sponsored by the GE Foundation’s Developing Futures in Education Grant and is part of the Math & Science Initiative. Professional learning sessions were used to refinforce district-wide instructional strategies proven by research to improve student engagement and achievement in math and science. “As we enter our third year, we’re becoming extraordinarily focused on our math and science instruction,” said Dr. Dottie Whitlow, director of APS’ Math & Science Department (pictured above, top middle). “We’re doing a better job of balancing the content we teach with the way that content is taught. So often what gets learned is dependent on how it gets learned. Whitlow also noted that the event allowed district staff to begin immediate implementation of a 12-week intervention program for students who struggled in last spring’s Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests (CRCTs).

The event is one of the most comprehensive professional-development programs offered by APS. Marie Killory (pictured above, top left), a science teacher at North Atlanta High, came to APS from her previous position as a researcher, and marveled at some of the programs that are at her disposal. “This is the best job you can have,” she said. “I have an amazing opportunity to get students interested in science early.” Killory has added incentive to fully maximize her APS experience; she has three sons attending Inman Middle and Grady High. “I want my students to have the same experience that my children have in Atlanta Public Schools.”

Some of the math highlights included First In Math, an online program a new solution, proven results, and easy to use and love.  Students play the 24® game online and improve their math fluency with this easy-to-implement program. The “team” approach is a great way to get children excited about math. More than just a fun activity, First In Math® offers substantive content that supports any core curriculum. Eight Skill Set® groups offer a full range of challenge and tie into national and state standards. Each group is comprised of three 24®game editions, and each game builds upon the skills acquired in previous games. Repeated game play helps students succeed in timed test-taking and helps boost confidence and achievement.  Students progress at their own pace, earning electronic “award stickers” for each level completed, and a record is kept of individual member and team progress. When Teachers log on they can track progress through Assessment Reports. Games can be played on any computer with internet access—including at home—to involve parents and family. Students will advance at different rates, according to their individual skill levels, but ALL players should experience improvement in numerical fluency, and increased speed. Studies show that students who play the 24® game on a regular basis see measurable improvement in math skills.  First In Math® Online is a groundbreaking approach to technology education and is committed to constant improvement of the program. Many improvements and additions come directly from suggestions made by educators and students.

Science highlights included:
* Facilitators helped teachers explore scientific inquiry as a learner and elaborate on ways in which inquiry can be used as a tool for teaching.
Highlights for the two day event include:
* All science teachers received the new APS Laboratory Safety Manual, and took a lab-safety test.
* Middle and high School teachers experienced NeuLog™ Neuron Logger Sensors available through Fisher Science Education. The user-friendly NeuLog sensors aid scientific and hi-tech experimentation in classrooms, labs and outdoors – anywhere that you can take inquiring minds. They operate with equal efficiency either in the school lab or out in the field. Powered by a USB or a battery pack, research can be conducted without the hindrance of wires or cables.
* High school teachers received training and resources from Pittcon. Pitton is the world’s largest annual conference and exposition for laboratory science. Pittcon 2011 will be held March 13-18, 2011, at the Georgia World Congress Center. APS teachers and students will be able to participate in workshops during the conference.
* At the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Learning Center, APS teacher in grades 3 -12 enjoyed unlimited use of resources including vetted web links for lesson plans, links to state and national standards, professional organizations, safety tips and more.

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