Building Better Teachers

Indiana school districts receive grants to train math and science teachers

The Indiana Department of Education awarded grants to four Marion County school districts for professional development for math and science teachers.

Indiana distributed seventeen Math and Science Partnership (MSP) grants in total to districts across the state. Grant recipients will work with universities, foundations, and other local institutions to develop projects to help math and science educators improve their teaching strategies and knowledge. Past projects have involved teacher workshops, summer institutes, field trips, and pairing teachers with mentors who work in science fields.

“Focusing on STEM is vital to the future success of not only our students, but also our state,” state superintendent Jennifer McCormick said in a statement today. “I applaud the efforts these schools have shown in this area and congratulate them on receiving this grant.” STEM education refers to integrated science, technology, engineering, and math programs.

Expanding teacher development opportunities is a big goal for districts like Indianapolis Public Schools, and could help schools hold on to their teachers longer.

Under the MSP program, Indiana receives federal dollars according to its student population and poverty rates, and distributes them to selected districts with above average rates of low-income students and below average test scores in math and science. This year’s recipients were part of the program for the past one or two years. Some districts received multiple grants.

Here are the recipients and their university partners:

  • Indianapolis Public Schools, University of Notre Dame: $80,000
  • Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township, University of Southern Indiana Warsaw Community Schools, Ball State University: $180,000
  • MSD of Pike Township, Butler University: $135,000
  • MSD of Washington Township, Ball State University: $84,000
  • Elkhart Community Schools, Purdue University Calumet: $180,000
  • Evansville Vanderburgh Schools, University of Notre Dame: $125,000
  • Evansville Vanderburgh Schools, Community Schools of Frankfort, South Vermillion Community School Corporation, $210,000
  • Evansville Vanderburgh Schools, University of Southern Indiana, Butler University: $220,000
  • Fairfield Community Schools, Goshen Community Schools, Purdue University: $154,652
  • Greencastle Community Schools, DePauw University: $83,228
  • Loogootee Community Schools, Barr Reeve Community Schools, North Daviess Community Schools, Shoals Community Schools, Washington Community Schools, Washington Catholic Schools, Indiana University: $135,000
  • Michigan City Area Schools, LaPorte Community Schools, North Judson Schools, MSD of New Dunham Township, Purdue University North Central: $200,000
  • Purdue University Calumet, Griffith Public Schools, School City of Hammond, Hammond Academy of Science and Technology, and Merrillville Community Schools: $80,271
  • South Bend Community Schools, Indiana University South Bend: $135,000
  • Spencer Owen Community Schools, Richland-Bean Blossom Community Schools, Indiana University: $200,000
  • Vigo County Schools, Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, Indiana State University: $150,000 and $140,000.

race in the classroom

‘Do you see me?’ Success Academy theater teacher gives fourth-graders a voice on police violence

Success Academy student Gregory Hannah, one of the performers

In the days and weeks after last July’s police shootings of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, teachers across New York grappled with how to talk about race and police violence. But for Sentell Harper, a theater teacher at Success Academy Bronx 2, those conversations had started long before.

CNN recently interviewed Harper about a spoken-word piece he created for his fourth-grade students to perform about what it means to be black and male in America. Harper, who just finished his fourth year teaching at Success, said that after the police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, he wanted to check in with his students.

“I got my group of boys together, and I said, ‘Today, we’re going to talk about race,'” Harper told CNN. “And they had so much to say. They started telling me stories about their fathers and their brothers, and about dealing with racism — things that I never knew that these young boys went through.”

Inspired by their stories, he created a performance called “Alternative Names for Black Boys,” drawing on poems by Danez Smith, Tupac Shakur and Langston Hughes.

Wearing gray hoodies in honor of Trayvon Martin, who was killed while wearing one, the boys take turns naming black men and boys who have been killed: Freddie, Michael, Philando, Tamir. The list goes on.

Despite the sensitive nature of the subject matter, Harper says honesty is essential for him as a teacher. “Our kids are aware of race and want to talk about it,” he wrote in a post on Success Academy’s website. “As a black male myself, I knew I wanted to foster conversation between my students and within the school community.”

Click below to watch the performance.

Half-priced homes

Detroit teachers and school employees are about to get a major perk: Discount houses

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is announcing an educator discount that will allow employees of all Detroit schools to buy houses from the Land Bank at 50 percent off.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is getting ready this morning to announce a major effort to lure teachers and other school employees to the city of Detroit: Offering them half-priced homes.

According to a press release that’s expected to be released at an event this morning, the mayor plans to announce that all Detroit school employees — whether they work for district, charter or parochial schools — will now get a 50 percent discount on houses auctioned through the Detroit Land Bank Authority.

That discount is already available to city employees, retirees and their families. Now it will be available to full-time employees of schools located in the city.

“Teachers and educators are vital to the city’s future,” Duggan is quoted as saying in the release. “It’s critical to give our school employees, from teachers to custodial staff, the opportunity to live in the communities they teach in.”

If the effort can convince teachers to live in the city rather than surrounding suburbs, it could help a stabilize the population decline that has led to blight and neighborhood deterioration in many parts of the city.

For city schools, the discounts give administrators another perk to offer prospective employees. District and charter schools in Detroit face severe teacher shortages that have created large class sizes and put many children in classrooms without fully qualified teachers.

Detroit’s new schools superintendent, Nikolai Vitti, has said he’s determined to make sure the hundreds of teacher vacancies that affected city schools last year are addressed by the start of classes in September.

In the press release, he’s quoted praising the discount program. “There is an opportunity and need to provide innovative solutions to recruit and retain teachers to work with our children in Detroit.”

The Detroit Land Bank Authority Educator Discount Program will be announced at an event scheduled for 10:45 this morning in front of a Land Bank house in Detroit’s Russell Woods neighborhood.

The Land Bank currently auctions three homes per day through its website, with bidding starting at $1,000.