IUP has received $166,058 from the Pennsylvania Department of Education to help math teachers become more highly qualified.

IUP is one of five Pennsylvania universities sharing a $2.6-million federal grant for the project, Pennsylvania Education Secretary Gerald L. Zahorchak said.

The Title II grants will be used to encourage more teachers to continue their educations, so they will be better equipped in the classroom.

“Mathematics and science are the foundations for student success in this high-tech era,” Zahorchak said. “We must have knowledgeable, enthusiastic teachers who can challenge our students to excel in these subjects.”

Members of the IUP education faculty will work with regional school districts to provide distance-learning opportunities to math teachers.

“IUP takes great pride in its nationally accredited teacher education program, which is one of the best in America,” Dr. Tony Atwater, IUP president, said. “Winning this competitive grant award reflects IUP's expertise in teacher training, our natural sciences program, and the outstanding reputation of our teacher educators.”

At IUP, funding for this proposal will support the development of on-line testing that will identify practicing teachers' needs in mathematics content and pedagogy.

“This grant combines the use of technology with effective pedagogy to increase the skill levels of teachers in the field and capitalizes on programming and curriculum developed for IUP undergraduates,” Dr. Mary Ann Rafoth, dean of the College of Education and Educational Technology, said. “It is truly a model of university-community partnership.”

Dr. Keith Dils, associate dean of the College and Education and Educational Technology, authored the grant proposal. He will work with Dr. Brian Sharp of IUP's College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, IUP's Research Institute, and the Woodland Hills, Laurel Highlands, and Greater Johnstown school districts, as well as other school districts in the region.

The program is especially designed for practicing special-education or regular-education teachers who have not yet been designated as “highly qualified” mathematics teachers at the secondary or middle-school level.

“Once the needs have been identified, funding will support IUP's delivery of mathematics coursework and Praxis preparation,” Dils said. “We can all take great pride in IUP's reputation in the field of teacher education and in our pre-teachers' 100 percent passing rate for Praxis teacher education testing.”

Praxis testing is used by many states, including Pennsylvania, as part of the teacher licensure and certification process.

The program includes three parts: the pretest, skills development, and the post-test. After the pretest to determine a teacher's skill level, teachers will be given options for improving their mathematics content knowledge. These options include on-campus courses taught in the evening or summer months by IUP faculty, on-line tutoring modules, or a combination of the two.

After teachers complete the skills development program, they will be eligible to retake the Praxis II (subject-focused) test.

“It is our intention that these teachers, after skills development, will receive a score that reflects the ‘highly qualified' level,” Dils said.

All public school teachers with primary responsibility for direct instruction in one or more of No Child Left Behind's core content areas are required to demonstrate that they satisfy the definition of a “highly qualified teacher.” This means that they hold at least a bachelor's degree, hold a valid Pennsylvania teaching certificate, and demonstrate subject matter competency for the core content area they teach.

The efforts of the five partnerships will benefit Pennsylvania's high-need districts in other ways, including increasing the percentage of core academic classes taught by highly qualified teachers, Pennsylvania Department of Education officials said.

A total of 657 mathematics, biology, chemistry, general science, and other science teachers from northeastern, southeastern, south-central, and southwestern Pennsylvania will participate in programs that will enable them to meet highly qualified teacher requirements.

For more information about Highly Qualified Teachers and the grant program, visit the Pennsylvania Department of Education website.

For more information about IUP's program, contact IUP's College of Education and Educational Technology at 724-357-2480.