Supporting Urban Science and Mathematics Educators grant nears end

“I feel very positive about this project because research proves that the most effective professional development occurs when teachers are actively engaged in ongoing professional activities that connects directly with their ability to positively impact student learning.”That’s how coordinator of Grambling State University’s Supporting Urban Science and Mathematics Educators (SUSME) National Science Foundation (NSF) TPC Grant, Dr. Doris Williams-Smith, describes the achievement of the program that comes to an end in May.

SUSME is a professional development grant sponsored by the NSF that supports lesson study, a collaborative professional development process designed to improve instruction and student learning, to create lessons that will enhance student performance on Louisiana high stakes tests, LEAP and iLEAP science and math constructive response questions.

Williams-Smith, who is a professor in the College of Education, has hailed the initiative as successful and insightful to teachers positively impacting student learning in math and science.

The original $4.4 million five-year grant was awarded to the University of Alabama, Memphis, and the University of Houston (UH), where Williams-Smith served as Co PI and associate dean in the College of Education. However, once employed by GSU, the Grant PI, Dr. David Radford, of UAB, contacted Williams-Smith and informed her that although the program had ended there were still funds remaining and suggested that she serve as Co PI again (this time at GSU).

The funds from the grant extension have covered two years of programs that were executed by Williams-Smith and the GSU team she selected, namely: Shirley Drumgo, grant administrative assistant; Rudolph Ellis, graduate assistant; Bobby Rabon, mentor teacher; Dr. Felicie Barnes, instructional technology faculty mentor; Eugene Taylor, math education faculty mentor and Alan Blakeney, videography coordinator.

Williams-Smith said many teachers within this region have given the project a ‘thumbs up’.

“They get information and ideas that they can actually use in their classrooms and unlike other professional training programs that do not provide methods of applying the training, the SUSME training gives the teachers practical tips and ideas on how to use the information while developing their own strategies,” Williams-Smith said.

She said, “Many of the teachers have taken advantage of the opportunity to attend national conferences such as NSTA and NCTM. These conferences are more beneficial as there is a wide access to all types of materials that they can actually use in their classrooms.

In addition to the opportunity to attend the national conferences, the teachers also benefit by engaging in the lesson study process, becoming acquainted with instructional strategies and updates on content knowledge.

The teachers have the opportunity to collaborate with peers to improve instruction delivery in the classrooms.

Although the program is nearing an end, Williams Smith has plans to seek a new grant, in an effort to provide additional professional development. She said the program has garnered interest from a wide cross section of teachers.

Last year’s grant included nine teacher participants, while this year has an increase participation of 14 teachers from learning institutions such as: Ouachita Parish High School, Ruston Junior High, Jonesboro-Hodge Middle School, Youth Rescue Centre and Choudant Elementary.

During the final workshop on May 14 participants will be asked to evaluate their participation in the program by outlining how the program has benefited them.

“We are going to give them the forum to recommend changes to this program, if we were to do it again.we just want to get lots of feedback from our participants,” Williams-Smith said.

“They have already said if I were to do another grant like this, they would be willing and ready to participate,” she said.