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County receives major grant for VIM project to improve math performance

published: August 15, 2001
posted to site: 10/26/2001

County receives major grant for VIM project to improve math performance

By KELLY GRANT, Staff Writer
Imperial Valley Press
August 15, 2001

Imperial County students in kindergarten through eighth-grade, their teachers and administrators are the recipients of a $5.7 million dollar grant aimed at improving student performance in mathematics.

The five-year Valle Imperial Mathematics Teacher Enhancement Project, or VIM, was one of only eight teacher enhancement grants given nationwide by the National Science Foundation this year.

"Mathematics is a critical issue facing students and teachers all over California, even more in a rural area like the Imperial Valley," said El Centro Elementary School District Superintendent Michael Klentschy.

ECESD, VIM's lead agency, has partnered with all other Imperial County school districts with kindergarten through eighth-grade students and teachers, Imperial County Office of Education and San Diego State University-Imperial Valley campus.

Klentschy explained VIM is designed to do several things.

The first is to improve mathematics training for people studying to be teachers at SDSU-IV. The university now employs two full-time math professors to teach both math and math education, Klentschy said.

A second component of VIM is the 130 hours of professional development existing teachers will be exposed to over the next five years. Teachers will receive training in state standards, research-based teaching practices and specific mathematic content understanding, Klentschy said.

Administrators also will receive content and standards training, Klentschy said.

To streamline professional development in mathematics, all such training in Imperial County will be funneled through one program to avoid duplicating lessons in different training sessions and to be mindful of teachers' and administrators' time, Klentschy said.

VIM also provides teacher leadership development to ensure that even after the five-year life of the grant there will be leaders on campuses to mentor and teach other teachers in this program, Klentschy said.

Already a group of 50 teachers has received this training and Klentschy expects 250 teachers, or one-fifth of the teachers serving grades K-8 in the county, to become teacher leaders after five years.

Similarly, VIM will provide classroom support for teachers.

"Sometimes they (teachers) need a little help in the classroom or have a question," Klentschy said.

Five resource teachers will be assigned to go to Imperial County schools to assist teachers throughout the year, Klentschy said.

"If these other things go well, then the question arises, 'How are the students doing?,'" Klentschy said.

VIM coordinators are working with Michigan State University to implement standards-based assessments to monitor student progress.

"We can't wait until the end of the year to find out someone didn't learn something," Klentschy said.

VIM will use technology, such as video conferencing, to assist professional development. Teachers will use computers to view videos of well-taught classroom lessons.

"We can analyze and dissect lessons to improve upon them," Klentschy said.

The program has a research component to study the effects of VIM training on both teachers and students.

"Obviously this (math education) is a major issue we need to address in our schools," Klentschy said.

"We are very excited about the opportunity," he added.

Staff Writer Kelly Grant can be reached at 337-3441.