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Math coaches to focus on improving test scores

The McDuffie County School System is hoping government stimulus funds will stimulate math scores on end-of-course tests. Six new math coaches were hired at the last regular meeting, all to be paid by stimulus funds.

A full-time position at each school, the math coach will provide direct math instructional support for all classroom math teachers at the home school. The main duties include observing teachers in their classroom environment, and providing training, modeling, professional learning and support based on data research.

"It's teachers teaching teachers," explained Debbie Price, the McDuffie County director of student services. "And how they do that will vary from school to school."

One math coach was hired for each of the elementary schools, the middle school and the junior high school.

Barry O'Neill, the assistant superintendent in curriculum and instruction, said the position was created to help ease the implementation of the state's new math curriculum.

"We looked at the new high school curriculum, Math 1 and Math 2, and it's very rigorous," Dr. O'Neill said.

In the past, algebra one was taught in ninth grade, followed by geometry in 10th grade. Dr. O'Neill said the new Georgia curriculum combines algebra, geometry and statistics in both ninth and 10th grades. This year, ninth graders will take Math 1, and they will take Math 2 next year as 10th graders. Dr. O'Neill said Georgia is the only state to implement this method of teaching math.

"So we're still working on what to do when students transfer in from other states," he said.

At the lower grade levels, the school system is switching from teaching exclusively from Saxon math to combining Saxon and Harcourt curriculums.

Math coaches must have their certificate in math from an accredited institution and have at least five years of classroom teaching experience in the subject of math. The printed job description provided by the school system had a disclaimer revealing "the position will be paid from stimulus funds which are anticipated for only one or two years. Continuation of the position is contingent upon receipt of stimulus funds."

Most of the positions were filled by math teachers who transferred to the coach position. Ms. Price said the principals hired new teachers to fill the vacated teaching position.

The math coaches for the 2009-2010 school year are: Sonya Strong at Thomson-McDuffie Junior High School, Felicia Cullars at Thomson Middle School, Sarah Alfriend at Norris Elementary School, Janet Poss at Dearing Elementary School, Christian Wilder at Thomson Elementary School and Penny Whitaker at Maxwell Elementary School.

Web posted on Thursday, July 09, 2009

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