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Charlo, Dixon chosen for new math project

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CHARLO — After establishing Reading First practices in the school, the Charlo elementary and Dixon School administrators are now focusing their attention on the improvement of mathematics scores. With the help of a multi-million dollar research grant, they may be able to do just that. 

Dixon and Charlo schools have been chosen to participate in a ground breaking new research study, which places a math coach in grades one, three and five mathematics classes. The research study, called Examining Mathematics Coaching Project, involves 240 elementary and middle school teacher coaches in 60 schools across six western and mid-western states. It is being led by researchers from the RMC Research Corporation in Denver, Colo. and Montana State University in Bozeman.

The project is funded by a $3.5 million grant from The National Science Foundation and will examine the effectiveness of math coaches inside and outside the classroom. 

“It’s a long term project that answers questions about what makes math coaching effective,” Montana State University associate professor of mathematical science Jennie Luebeck explained. “We are trying to find the best way to use a math coach so districts can use funding effectively.”

Luebeck visited Charlo school on Friday to explain the details of the project to the Charlo and Dixon teachers and coach. She will visit the schools every year to observe progress in mathematics coaching. 

According to a press release from the EMC Project Director James Burroughs, little research exists on the what affect coaches have on the mathematic classroom. After the five-year program, researchers hope to discover how math instruction changes based on the coaching teachers receive and the training that coaches receive. The results of the study should have a long-term affect on how instructional coaching is used in schools across the states. 

Jan Rasmussen, Charlo/Dixon Math coach and former reading coach is excited about the opportunity to work with math teachers in this capacity. 

EMC allows some math coaches, including Rasmussen, to attend a two week seminar in Bozeman about math coaching. 

It will also provide special training in mathematics to Rasmussen and other coaches. The teachers will be required to take a series of tests on mathematics and teaching methods. 

Rasmussen worked in education for over 20 years as a teacher and a reading coach and has spent the last 11 years at Charlo. 

She explained that many times it is crucial for teachers to have another professional educator working with them to improve teaching methods.

“It’s an important aspect of coaching,” Rasmussen said. “(You are) giving a chance for teachers to talk and share with their peers.”

Coaches don’t just sit in on classes during the day, but also assist teachers before and after their classes. They model lesson plans for teachers and offer advice on teaching methods.

“Coaching is a great form of professional development because it offers constant presence of someone who can support teachers in class,” Luebeck adds.

For now, Rasmussen is brushing up on her coaching skills and mathematics abilities, preparing to enter the classroom and lesson plans in the spring. 

She and Dixon and Charlo math teachers, Tyson Cottet, Amy Delaney and Wendy Hall will work together in order to teach math more effectively.

“It’s just one tool in tool box for making improvements in the math program,” Luebeck said.

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