The Dean's Column
Stanley H. Kaplan Supports Middle School Math Instruction at CCNY
Several years ago, the math-teacher shortage in New York City secondary schools reached near-crisis level. Despite the best efforts of the Department of Education to recruit the best and brightest new teachers for its schools, the national shortage of math majors and the outflow of experienced math teachers led to the evolution of a largely under prepared and inexperienced math teacher corps in New York City. It became obvious that a steady stream of in-service support would be required to provide the existent staff with the appropriate content and pedagogical strategies necessary to enable them to improve math achievement. It also became clear that the limited number of higher education institutions in New York could not provide direct support to such large numbers of teachers, and that the existing supervisory staff was itself not sufficiently prepared to undertake the task. However, the City College of New York Math Education Program developed a way in which a significant number of math teachers could receive enhanced support through their immediate supervisors or coaches. We reasoned that by providing supervisors and coaches responsible for math staff development with additional content, pedagogy, the latest research in learning, and access to educational math technology, we would have the most direct, far-reaching and cost-effective route into math classrooms across the city.
In discussions with Stanley H. Kaplan, the founder of the famous Kaplan test preparation schools and a graduate of The City College (Class of 1939), we identified the middle school as the area with the greatest need for this program. With the generous support of Mr. Kaplan ($2,000,000), the program was launched in 2004. The structure of the program brings a group of middle-school math supervisors and coaches approximately once a month to the college for a full day of training in specific special areas, such as: problem solving, enhancing instruction through technology, special supervisory techniques for improving math instruction, etc. Each of these workshops of the Kaplan Math Institute is taught by experts in the field, and followed by a full-day support visit by representatives of the program. These math mentors, each of whom is a highly experienced math educator, are able to help the coach or supervisor translate the content of the workshops into the real life of the classroom. In addition, The Kaplan Math Institute has hosted many nationally renowned math educators over the past four years to further enrich the participants, and bring them a deeper understanding of the world of mathematics, as well as how to best help children achieve their mathematical potential. To date, more than 200 assistant principals, coaches and teacher leaders have participated in the program.
We see this program as a paradigm for other large cities, and especially important where small schools are being developed, since they often lack personnel prepared to provide math-specialist training for teachers. As the Kaplan Math Institute moves forward, we remain grateful to the Stanley Kaplan for his continuing support, and enthusiastically accept the challenge of creating an effective and informed math teacher corps with this “multiplier effect” model.#
Dr. Alfred Posamentier is Dean of the School of Education at City College of NY, author of over 40 Mathematics books including: “Math Wonders to Inspire Teachers and Students” (ASCD, 2003) and “The Fabulous Fibonacci Numbers” (Prometheus, 2007), and member of the NYS Mathematics Standards Committee.