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University of Iowa News Release


April 16, 2008

UI garners grant to help K-6 math teachers boost performance, reduce gaps

The University of Iowa has received a three-year, $447,831 grant to train 50 K-6 elementary school teachers in high-need districts to improve math teaching and learning. The grant will also reduce the math achievement gap of student subgroups, especially those who qualify for free or reduced lunches.

The grant is provided by the federal Mathematics and Science Partnership Program, a part of the No Child Left Behind Act, from the Board of Regents, State of Iowa and the Iowa Department of Education, which jointly administer Title II grants authorized by the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Project co-directors are Walter Seaman (left) and Vicki Burketta (below). Seaman holds a joint appointment as an associate professor of mathematics in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and associate professor of teaching and learning in the UI College of Education. Burketta is clinical associate professor in the UI College of Education Department of Teaching and Learning.

Called the Elementary Mathematics Partnership Opening Windows to Excellence, Rigor and Relevance - or EMPOWERR -- Project, the initiative will provide more than 100 hours of continuous professional development to 50 grade K-6 teachers and principals in Anamosa, English Valleys and Iowa City Community School Districts. This grant is aligned with the Iowa Professional Development Model, which involves whole-school teams in building-wide efforts to improve math teaching and learning.

Title II grants are intended to increase the academic achievement of all students by helping schools and school districts ensure that all teachers are highly qualified to teach. They also seek to increase the academic achievement of students in mathematics and science by enhancing the content knowledge and teaching skills of classroom teachers. Partnerships between high-need school districts and the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics faculty in institutions of higher education are at the core of Title II improvement efforts.

EMPOWERR will offer educators professional development via summer workshops, academic year seminars, ongoing lesson study, ongoing Web-based learning community interactions, and on-site implementation assistance.

Seaman and Burketta said they believe this is critical to helping improve the quality of math education in Iowa.

"The work of EMPOWERR helps further the University of Iowa strategic goal of enhancing our community outreach activities in service to the state of Iowa and its education system," Seaman said.

More specifically, Seaman said, the project's goal is to increase the mathematics achievement of grade K-6 students and reduce the math achievement gap of student subgroups, including those eligible for free and reduced lunch.

"Working with the entire teaching staffs of three elementary schools in the Grant Wood Area Education Association, EMPOWERR will help bring about significant institutional change at the elementary school level," Seaman said.

The EMPOWERR project builds on previous Title II work on the Science and Mathematics Avenues to Renewed teachers and Students (SMARTS) project, which delivered mathematics and science professional development for about 40 Grant Wood AEA elementary school teachers. Like EMPOWERR, SMARTS was a three-year Mathematics and Science Partnership grant from Title II funds and involved the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the UI College of Education and the Grant Wood Area Education Agency.

Seaman said he believes EMPOWERR will leave a legacy that will benefit future generations of students and educators long after the three-year project concludes.

"It is our goal that EMPOWERR will result in institutional and systemic change, not only in the three schools involved, but that change will propagate to other schools in Iowa," Seaman said. "In particular, the school-wide focus on lesson study as a vehicle for mathematics professional development is a key component of EMPOWERR, as it was in the SMARTS grant."

Burketta agreed, adding that real change has occurred in teacher practice as well as the full-district adoption of the lesson study model, in part, because of the SMARTS project.

"By continuing the successful implementations of inquiry-based pedagogies, mathematics content delivery, and lesson study begun in SMARTS, EMPOWERR will continue to bring these powerful teaching and learning resources to an expanding set of teachers and students," Burketta said.

Founded in 1872, the UI College of Education was the nation's first permanent, college-level department of education. Since then, the college has gained an international reputation of excellence in programs as diverse as Rehabilitation Counseling, Educational Measurement and Statistics, Counseling Psychology, Elementary and Secondary Teacher Education, and Higher Education Administration. The College of Education is also home to the Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development. For more information visit

STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa News Services, 300 Plaza Centre One, Suite 301, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-2500

MEDIA CONTACTS: Gary Galluzzo, 319-384-0009,; Lois J. Gray, 319-384-0077,