Ashland University, Mansfield City Schools Join in Math Turnaround Project
Ashland University and Mansfield City Schools have agreed to collaborate on a school turnaround project – focusing on middle school math instruction -- that could become the model for change in schools facing rigorous challenges in Ohio.
“Ashland University was awarded a $33,000 grant from the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation to develop a School Turnaround Program for Low Academically Performing Schools, and the Mansfield City School District has been selected as a case site for the program,” said Ashland University President Dr. Fred Finks.
The announcement of the project was made at a news conference held on March 14 at the Mansfield City Schools’ central administration building.
Dr. Finks and Provost Dr. Frank Pettigrew said the University will work with the Mansfield City School District to develop a program that will be focused on assisting teachers and principals as well as seventh and eighth grade math students, math teachers and principals/assistant principals.
“Mansfield City Schools is eager to work with Ashland University on this school turnaround project,” said Mansfield Supt. Dan Freund. “It offers a solid base for sustainable improvement in learning mathematics by directly involving students, parents, teachers and principals.
“Partnering with a respected institution such as Ashland University provides an opportunity for the University and Mansfield City Schools to make a major contribution in terms of defining key components of culturally shifting norms and expectations in a small urban school district.”
Dr. James Van Keuren, dean of the Schar College of Education at Ashland University, is the project coordinator for the School Turnaround Program.
“This program is focused on providing opportunities for seventh and eighth grade math teachers and students as well as district principals and assistant principals to become change agents and a sales force that is able to deliver knowledge and improve student achievement,” Van Keuren said. “We plan to develop a school turnaround program that can be replicated in school districts across the state and serve as an avenue for institutions of higher education to re-examine teacher education and principal preparation programs to ensure that their candidates are prepared to provide leadership in low academically performing schools.”
Because the School Turnaround Program focuses on providing principals and teachers with leadership skills in the context of mathematics education, it addresses the Foundation’s priorities of strengthening teacher’s and administrators’ leadership skills and improving learning in mathematics, science or technology, according to Van Keuren.
The project will cost approximately $60,000 and, in addition to the grant, Ashland University will commit $16,300 to the project, while Mansfield City School District will commit $5,200.
An additional $5,000 will come from an Ashland University education professor in the form of in-kind services.
Van Keuren said the staff and faculty of the Dwight Schar College of Education will team with those in the Dauch College of Business and Economics to develop parts of the program, which will take place during 2011 and 2012.
According to Van Keuren, the initiative will focus on developing the following strands:
1) a Student Success Indicator Model for six math teachers and 430 math students and their parents in grades 7-8;
2) A Learning Management System for six math teachers and 430 math students in grades 7-8;
3) A Principal’s Leadership Academy for 12 principals/assistant principals.
“Ashland University has a history of being in the forefront of education initiatives and reform, and we believe that this will provide the opportunity for students to learn in an environment that is caring and stresses a sense of community,” he said. “If this can be accomplished in the Mansfield City School District case study site, the School Turnaround Program for Low Academically Performing Schools will become a model and create a sea-change that can be replicated in other low academically performing schools in Ohio and serve as a model for institutions of higher education to emulate in their teacher education and principal preparation programs.”
Ashland University (www.ashland.edu) is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.
(Photo courtesy of Tom Puskar and the Ashland Times-Gazette)