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Universities, Districts to Partner on Common-Core Secondary Math

Universities, community colleges, and K-12 districts in 30 states announced plans this week to work together on redesigning secondary mathematics teacher preparation to align to the Common Core State Standards.

The project is being coordinated by a science- and math-focused initiative of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, a group that supports states' major public research universities.

Called the Mathematics Teacher Education Partnership, the project has already won a $200,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. Overall, there are 38 partnerships involving some 68 universities, nine community colleges, and 87 school systems. (You can find the full list of participants here.)

"We're really trying to move very aggressively with the whole project," said W. Gary Martin, a professor of mathematics education at Auburn University, and the co-chair of the project's planning committee. "There's an immediate need, and if we don't step up and address it we'll have lost a moment to really make a difference and help support the preparation of teachers to really be able to meet the challenges of the common core and other national documents."

To join, each of the partnerships had to apply to the APLU demonstrating institutional commitment, letters of support from administrators, a needs assessment, and evidence that they've discussed the project with their state's education department.

The partnership lists a number of goals, including building consensus on guiding principles of preparing math teachers, promoting better partnerships between K-12 and higher education, and developing a research agenda.

It isn't entirely clear what the policy implications of all this will be, but Martin told me that it could mean discussions of more flexibility or even changes to states' licensure and certification regimes.

Right now, he said, the partnerships have met once and are beginning to set up work groups to focus on sub-areas such as recruitment, mathematics content knowledge, and so on.

Advising the project is a high-powered group of individuals, many with close ties to the standards, such as William McCallum, the head of the department of mathematics at the University of Arizona and one of the writers of the math common standards; William Schmidt, a professor at Michigan State University who has written extensively about the common standards in math; and J. Michael Shaughnessy, the president of the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.

There has been quite a lot of concern lately about how to ensure teachers are fully prepared to teach to the new standards, as I wrote in this story for Education Week's recent special report on the common core. (Make sure to check out the others, too.)

Secondary mathematics carries some particularly interesting challenges where the common standards are concerned. For example, the common standards outline an "integrated" math alternative to the algebra I/geometry/algebra II sequence commonly taught in high schools.

While most states and districts are now wrestling with the challenges of providing professional development for teachers already in the classroom, my read has been that there's been less attention to the standards at the preservice level. Perhaps that is beginning to change with the MTE-Partnership; I'll be watching to see what happens as the project comes together.

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