The Niswonger Foundation

The Niswonger Foundation “Reaching for Excellence in Math Partnership” is designed to build a strong partnership among East Tennessee State University and with several school districts in the western portion of the First Tennessee Congressional District, most of them rural, low-income, and low achieving.  The project seeks to achieve the following goals: (1) provide math teachers (grades 4-9) in the targeted school districts opportunities to learn advanced math content and learn and implement standards-based strategies; (2) increase student achievement and reduce the math achievement gaps in elementary and middle school as measured by TCAP; (3) increase the number of elementary and middle school math teachers participating in  standards-based professional development and equip teachers in the targeted schools to become highly qualified; (4) and provide project participants training on standards-based resources and instructional materials during the summer leadership institutes.

The project consists of a summer component and an academic year component. The summer component will train approximately 30 math teachers (elementary and middle), over a three-year period, during a ten-day, 50 hours of instruction, summer workshop, followed by extensive follow-up professional development and training activities for each participant during the academic year. Thirty new teachers will be added each year.  In addition to an intensive summer workshop, participants will be heavily involved in follow-up in-service training during the academic year (on school site). The ETSU math instructor involved in the summer component will work with the teachers throughout the academic year to deliver additional professional development, thereby increasing the total number of teachers impacted by the project. The specific components of the math project will address the Tennessee curriculum standards, NCTM Focal Points, local school district curriculum, and needs of local school districts.

The Niswonger project will put a face on math reform in the aforementioned school districts. Operationalzing our goals and objectives will demonstrate commitment to show how that commitment translates into real efforts and activities to change the culture, practices, and policies. The project justifies interventions based on a thorough needs assessment. The project stresses the critical role of math teachers in reform through a large investment in professional development, attending to teachers’ content knowledge and skills as necessary for substantive changes in teaching and learning. In contrast to grade-level mastery objectives, which are endpoints for learning, the Niswonger math project will focus on instruction that will help students learn content that gives them conceptual understanding and a foundation for increasing their understanding as they encounter richer and more challenging mathematics (at the high school level). The proposed partnership will also build credibility among key constituents, including university math faculty and school administrators and use these interventions to demonstrate commitment to change. In particular, the project will monitor and evaluate our interventions.  As we establish data systems and track quality and impact, the information will be used by the school districts to show that the impact of the project is producing desired results and achieving the goals and objectives of the project. 

For more information about this program please contact Dr. Jack Rhoton at .   If you are a math teacher in one of the aforementioned school districts, please contact Dr. Rhoton or your school system math coordinator. 

       16 Gilland Street
     Tusculum College
       P.O. Box 5112
       Greeneville, TN 37743

       Phone: (423)798-7837
       Fax: (423) 636-0523