PCHS selected for national project

At the board of education LSIC/Faculty Senate meeting at Hillsboro Elementary School Monday, math coach Joanna Burt-Kinderman informed board members that Pocahontas County High School has been selected to participate in the United States Department of Education project, Promoting Student Success in Algebra I.

“In the past month, we have been notified that we are one of ten exemplar schools in the country that are going to be the focus of the policy brief for the US Department of Education,” Burt-Kinderman said. “So, a research team from the American Institute for Research will be coming here for a two-day visit, doing interviews with myself, our math teachers and administration. Then that profile of what we’ve been doing here is going to be included in a policy brief.”

PCHS is one of two high schools profiled nationally to comment on how instructional coaching is implemented in the math classroom.

“While this is by no means saying we are one of the best instructional coaching programs in the country, it is giving a pretty serious nod to the work we’ve been doing here and to the support we’ve gotten from administration and from all of you and your predecessors in the last four years that we have been doing this project,” Burt-Kinderman said. “I am for the first time in my life a little bit nervous, but super excited to host these folks and to have a chance to just speak a little piece in the national conversation of what should be happening in education.”

Burt-Kinderman was hired in 2010 as an instructional math coach to assist teachers and students transition to the new math program implemented by the West Virginia Department of Education.

The board showed appreciation to Burt-Kinderman for her update, but members informed her that many parents are concerned about the math and students’ abilities to use the math correctly.

“In this change period – the past couple of years and probably the next couple of years – we are having to struggle to get kids to grade level with this new alignment and getting parents and community on board to understand why it is we’re asking kids to write and talk in math class, and why it is that the ‘whys’ are equally as important as the answer to a math problem,” Burt-Kinderman said.

“I do understand that there are concerns,” she continued. “I see that students are struggling and I think across the board, we need to understand that much like on the football field, if somebody says this is hard, we don’t say, ‘okay, sit down and take a break, that’s okay.’ we say, ‘buck up.’ We say ‘dig deeper,’ and we say ‘stick with it a little bit longer.’ We need, as parents and community members, to be sharing that same message with our children in their math classrooms. Their futures are hinged at least to an equal degree on success in the math classrooms as success on the sports fields.”

Although there are concerns and the students are still figuring out the new math, Burt-Kinderman said the teachers in the math classrooms are giving everything they have to ensure the students succeed.

“These teachers’ commitments to what they’re doing in classrooms is unlike anything I’ve ever seen,” she said. “They’re there before school, after school. They’ll have lunch with the kids. They’ll have breakfast with the kids at the high school. I have never seen teachers with such openness to meet with kids at anytime. That message doesn’t always get translated at home as well as we would hope it would.”

The researchers from AIR will visit the county this school year to collect data on the instructional coaching in math for the project.

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