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ODU's Center for Educational Partnerships Poised to Receive $25 Million Federal Grant

John Nunnery

A proposal from Old Dominion University's Darden College of Education is expected to receive the largest single award of nearly $25 million in the second round of the U.S. Department of Education's Investing in Innovation, or i3, grants competition.

The ODU proposal, submitted by John Nunnery, executive director of The Center for Educational Partnerships (TCEP) in the Darden College, is for a "scale-up" project designed to improve mathematics achievement and enhance access to challenging mathematics courses for high-need middle school students.

Old Dominion is one of 23 finalists for the latest awards. In all, there were 587 applicants seeking a portion of nearly $150 million in this round of the i3 program. The Department of Education last summer awarded 49 grants valued together at approximately $650 million.

The awards are contingent upon the applicants obtaining matching funds from the private sector equal to at least 5 percent of the grant award. Nunnery said that TCEP would need to secure $1.25 million in private commitments by Dec. 9; actual expenditures from this funding would be spread out over a five-year period.

More than $1 million will be allocated to support math instructional improvements in the three Virginia school divisions that are official partners in the pilot implementation of the ODU project. The project will go to scale in subsequent years, and Nunnery is hopeful that private matching funds will ensure that many additional Virginia schools will join the initiative. "Private benefactors who want to contribute to improving math education, particularly in high-need urban and rural settings, will get tremendous leverage from their investment," he said.

ODU's i3 project, titled "A Technology-facilitated Scale-up of a Proven Model of Mathematics Instruction in High Needs Schools," focuses on providing students in high-need middle school with increased access to rigorous and engaging coursework in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) via scaled-up implementation of a proven cooperative learning model in mathematics instruction. That model, called STAD-Math, is an innovative, high-quality, multi-tiered approach to professional development that employs school-based math coaching, an online platform, and teacher-made videos of their own practices. Nunnery noted that the use of technology would play a key role in providing professional development to rural and urban areas in a highly cost-effective way.

"The intervention and associated professional development are designed to improve the mathematics achievement of middle school students in general, and specifically the achievement of sub-groups of students that are traditionally under-represented in STEM fields," Nunnery said.

"Advanced mathematical understanding is required for advanced study in most STEM fields. Middle school has been identified as a critical period for math learning, a time when students must develop mathematical understandings that lay the intellectual foundations for advanced study in STEM areas if they are to continue in these fields. At the same time, data show that participation and achievement in STEM subjects falls off in middle school, particularly among under-represented groups."

The interventions to be implemented via the ODU project are designed to help schools turn this trend around, boost student achievement in STEM subjects, increase access to rigorous STEM curricula for all students and increase participation in advanced STEM learning.

Expected outcomes are statistically significant improvements in math achievement among students by the third year of implementation, including closing achievement gaps for students with limited proficiency in English and students with disabilities.

The project is designed serve 135,000 students in 185 high-need middle schools across the United States over five years.

"Mathematics achievement is a key predictor of success in high school and college. This project will raise achievement. More important, this work will change lives by providing wider opportunities for students in underperforming schools," said Linda Irwin-DeVitis, dean of the Darden College at ODU.

"The i3 grant is a major example of our commitment to improving our region and the commonwealth - the core of Old Dominion's mission as a metropolitan research institution. Congratulations to John Nunnery, the faculty in The Center for Educational Partnerships, the school divisions and other partners in this grant. TCEP was chosen for funding from a very competitive group of proposals."

An interdisciplinary group of ODU faculty members with expertise in mathematics education, instructional design and teacher professional learning will serve as co-principal investigators on the project. They are: Linda Bol, professor of educational foundations and leadership; Gary Morrison, professor of science, technology, mathematics and professional studies; Melva Grant, assistant professor of science, technology, mathematics and professional studies; Pamela Arnold, research associate with TCEP; and Shanan Chappell, research assistant professor with TCEP.

Official partners for the proposed project include Johns Hopkins University, the Success for All Foundation and a number of local educational agencies (LEAs). LEA partners in the project's pilot group include Norfolk Public Schools, Portsmouth Public Schools, Halifax (Va.) Public Schools, Judson (Texas) Independent School District and Unified School District 428 (Great Bend, Kan.).

"These school partners represent a broad range of high-need LEAs, including a predominantly African American rural school, a rural school with a substantial population of students with limited English proficiency, five predominantly African American urban schools and a predominantly Latino urban school," Nunnery said.

Recruitment of schools for the scale-up project will focus on those identified as being in need of improvement; rural low-income schools; high-poverty urban schools; schools in which the population of students with disabilities exceeds that which should be expected; and schools in which there is a significant population of students with limited English proficiency.

This article was posted on: November 15, 2011

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