SAU ERZ uses federal grant funds for SW Ark. teacher improvement seminar

Dr. Roger GuevaraSouthern Arkansas University recently hosted a two-week Summer Institute to strengthen teaching capabilities for algebra and physical science teachers from 14 school districts across Southwest Arkansas.

Dr. Roger Guevara of the SAU Educational Renewal Zone was the Project Director on a federal No Child Left Behind – Improving Teacher Quality grant application administered though the Arkansas Department of Higher Education. More than $60,000 was awarded to SAU in order to implement the innovative training program, “SAU Math Science Common Core Integration Project.”

More than 25 math and science teachers attended the two-week seminar at the SAU STEM Center for K-12 Professional Development in late June and early July. Dr. Scott White and Stephanie Baxter of SAU’s College of Science and Technology were the faculty providing the instruction along with Susan Johnson, the STEM Center’s Science Specialist.

“This project used an innovative, blended approach to integrate Physical Science with Algebra I under the real world banner of forensics. These concepts were carefully selected based on a teacher needs assessment indicating more direct professional development was need to address incorporating Common Core across academic disciplines and to facilitate math and science integration.” said Guevara.

Prescott Superintendent Robert Poole shared his support for the project with a letter to the ADHE as a part of the grant proposal.

“Our familiarity with Dr. Guevara and the SAU ERZ makes this grant project a natural extension to our current and on-going activities,” said Poole. “I most certainly support this grant initiative to strengthen our teachers in math and science content knowledge as well as in the integration of the Common Core State Standards.”

Southwest Arkansas has long wrestled with obtaining premium educational services to its geographically isolated, rural school districts. This training opportunity made possible by the federal grant goes a long way in shaping instruction geared towards new 21st century demands.  The Education Renewal Zones were created in Arkansas to identify and implement educational and management strategies designed specifically to improve public school performance and student academic achievement throughout the state of Arkansas.

Through quarterly meetings of the SAU ERZ Advisory Council, analysis of state and regional state benchmark scores, and particularly the results of a needs assessment specifically for Algebra I and Physical Science in the Southwest Arkansas, the members of the SAU ERZ Advisory Council identified a universal desire to build expertise at the local level in order to build capacity in Common Core mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards throughout the southwest region of Arkansas.

The SAU ERZ coordinated this SAU Math Science Common Core Integration Project among SAU’s College of Science and Technology, the College of Education, SAU STEM Center, and several public school districts including those located in Ashdown, Prescott, Lafayette, Fouke, Foreman, Genoa Central, Lafayette, Magnolia, Stephens, and Texarkana, plus one private school-Columbia Christian School.

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