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Education, Arts and Sciences receive grants for teacher quality program
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JOHNSON CITY (Nov. 4, 2016) – Two grants totaling more than $650,000 have been awarded to a joint effort between East Tennessee State University, Hawkins County School District and the Northeast Tennessee STEM Hub. These grants will sustain continued efforts to increase teacher quality in science and literacy education.

Teachers from across the region will participate in learning opportunities and receive instructional materials funded by the grant through July 2018.  Faculty and staff from the Clemmer College of Education, College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Graduate Studies are involved in the initiative.

Dr. Chih-Che Tai, assistant director of the ETSU Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education, says the goal of the grants is to support neighboring school districts in preparing students for college and career readiness.

“The data show that only 30 percent of Tennessee high school graduates meet ACT science benchmarks and only 38 percent meet ACT reading benchmarks, yet 62.5 percent of the students in Tennessee go to college,” Tai said.

“These percentages indicate that a large number of students attending college are not academically ready to complete the work required of them when they enter college.”

To help teachers better prepare their students for the work they will do when they enter the college classroom or the workforce, school administrators and ETSU faculty worked closely to start an initiative to help teachers learn how to help students read and write about science.

“We are grateful to be able to continue this initiative the next two years,” Tai said.

  The incoming teacher quality program will include over 100 teachers in grades 3-12 science, English-language arts (ELA) and mathematics teachers representing Hawkins County (lead school district), Bristol, Elizabethton, Greeneville, and Kingsport cities as well as Carter, Greene, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties. The grants were awarded by the Tennessee Department of Education Math and Science Partnership program.

 “This is an opportunity for ETSU to share the latest, best-practice methods in ELA and science education and to also open dialogue among the teachers about strategies that have been successful in the classroom,” said Dr. Karin Keith, chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction in the Clemmer College of Education.

“Yes, science and language arts are very different, but they share some common methodologies and themes.  For example, both have a process by which students review information and analyze it to make predictions about what the outcome might be.  We believe that by helping students see these similarities between science and language arts they will develop a love and passion for both.”

Tai added, “We plan to expand the program to project-based learning, integrating math with science and literacy, and instructional technology to support on-site and on-line learning.”

The joint team has received over $1.6 million in grant funding to support initiatives integrating science learning and literacy. The initiative also includes regional business partners Cooper Standard, Domtar, Eastman Chemical Company, Nuclear Fuel Services and Wellmont Health System.

“In brief, the project is all about effective instruction, meaningful learning, college/career readiness, collaboration and partnership,” Tai said. 

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