Teacher instruction needs to be improved, especially in the area of early math.
In November 2006, Erikson Institute and CPS surveyed CPS Pre-K and kindergarten teachers’ math knowledge, attitudes and practices. Of the 340 Pre-K and kindergarten teachers surveyed, 66% did not feel confident about teaching math and reported limited knowledge of basic math concepts. Ironically, despite the lack of confidence in their skills, almost 100% indicated that they teach math frequently in their classrooms. This sign of math deficiencies is not limited to Illinois or early education. In 2010, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a report ranking 15 year-old student achievement in math and science. Among the 30 countries studied, the US ranked 25th in math.
Grantees in Early Math
In 2007, the McCormick Foundation provided a grant to help launch Erikson Institute’s Early Mathematics Education Project which is designed to (1) decrease the math achievement gap between low-income, minority children and their more advantaged peers, (2) improve the math teaching of early childhood and early elementary teachers, and (3) provide effective professional development for teachers in mathematics.
Between 2007 and 2011, about 300 Pre-K and kindergarten teachers have received this high quality, year-long early mathematics training. Students whose teachers received this early math training demonstrated an additional three months of math learning during a school year when compared to similar students whose teachers did not receive it. Fueled by our early investments, Erikson was recently awarded one of only 49 “Investing in Innovation” (i3) grants from the U.S. Department of Education to expand this project to include Pre-K through third grade and over the course of the next five years, Erikson will reach about 10,000 students in eight CPS schools serving high needs children in Pre-K through third grade.
A grant approved in June 2011 will allow Erikson to adapt its early math professional development program to a curriculum that community colleges can apply to early childhood teaching candidates so that teachers enter the profession with a better early math foundation. Leveraging those early math investments, in June 2010, the Foundation also approved grants to University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (NORC). Under the leadership of Professor Steve Raudenbush, U of C will develop teaching strategies tied to early math assessments so teachers can draw on different teaching strategies when they discover students have not mastered early math concepts. A June 2010 grant will also help the Big Shoulders Fund schools to increase the early math skills of the teachers in Big Shoulders Fund schools.