By Elyse Pitkin
Over $14 million was distributed across Ohio by the Ohio Department of Education, and Hiram College was one of the thirty-three schools selected for the Statewide Mathematics and Literacy Tutoring Grant. According to the Department of Education Request for Applications “Grants will assist in expanding high dosage tutoring programs meeting local needs for mathematics and/or literacy supports and aligning to Tier I core instruction. This funding is available to support the development, initial (startup) implementation, or extension/expansion of existing Institutions of Higher Education-district tutoring programs grounded in evidence-based practices.”
Dr. Roxanne Sorrick and Kathleen Maretka, Co-Directors applied for the Statewide Mathematics and Literacy Tutoring Grant with three longtime school partners: James A. Garfield Local Schools, Rootstown Local Schools, and Windham Exempted Village Schools. The goal of the grant is to expand and strengthen field/clinical partnership and the ongoing relations with school districts in Portage County while implementing a tutoring program designed to meet the districts’ need for additional mathematics instruction due to pandemic learning loss.
“I think school districts recognize that there has been a learning loss because of the pandemic, and we are all searching for ways in how we can work together and get students where they need to be in their learning,” says Dr. Roxanne Sorrick, Head of Teacher Education at Hiram College.
Starting in the fall of 2022, Hiram College education students enrolled in specified foundational Mathematics and upper-level Mathematics Methods courses will complete paid, field experience hours tutoring district-identified students in classrooms. Partner districts will determine the focus grade bands based on student learning data with a likely focus on grades 2 through 8. The goal is that First-Year and Sophomore Hiram tutors will complete three, 30-minute sessions each visit with 1-3 students in each session. Given the format, around 180 students can be served each semester by 19-27 tutors.
In reference to course-based field experience opportunities in foundational Mathematics, “we are always looking for opportunities for tutoring, not on such a large scale, but some sort of experience where my students can get out in the schools,” said Kathleen Maretka, Director of Student Teaching and Field Experience. This early experience often helps solidify the choice to pursue an education degree and teacher licensure. Additionally, it provides an opportunity for Hiram teacher candidates to apply the strategies they are learning in their math coursework with children and adolescents, a critical step in understanding the mathematics they will teach.
When deciding between focusing on tutoring literacy, mathematics, or both subjects in the local districts, Sorrick and Maretka knew there was no question about what should be implemented. Maretka says, “There are a lot of individuals coming to college that don’t feel confident about their math ability (education majors or not). It is quite common to hear an adult or student almost bragging about their dislike for mathematics or their inability to understand it. I am working hard to change that narrative.” One of Maretka’s biggest worries is for an elementary or middle school student to have a teacher that says, “I don’t like math” or “I am not good at math.” “My hope is that the college students I work with gain confidence and a deeper understanding of math concepts. My classes focus on the positives with the hope that when teacher candidates go into schools they are focusing on the positives as well,” she says.
Sorrick comments that Maretka does a great job with her math courses and building confidence in understanding math. “It’s a heavy lift,” she remarks. “In some ways, this opportunity for our teacher candidates has the potential to make that lift better. Not easier. If the students see the purpose for what they are learning, it’ll ease frustration.”
James A. Garfield Local Schools, Rootstown Local Schools, and Windham Exempted Village Schools will be provided with funding to purchase mathematic supplies and manipulatives and Hiram tutors will have similar materials to take with them to the schools when tutoring. “I try to teach my students strategies that schools are using. A lot of the time, there is some push back from students because it’s not the way they have learned math when they were in elementary/middle school,” says Maretka. “I am excited about this opportunity because the textbook series these schools are using aligns with the math that I am teaching. My students will be able to implement some of these strategies and topics with the students they tutor. As teachers, we know that when you teach it, you learn it so much better.”
Sorrick shares Maretka’s excitement. “This is field experience outside of class time,” she says. “This is not just building content strategies, but about building professional skills and dispositions for working on a team, being in a school, and understanding the structures and policies that teachers follow.”
To stay organized and to keep data recorded efficiently, Maretka has utilized Google Classroom to create forms and templates for the Hiram tutors and district teachers. Hiram tutors will complete and report to district teachers their recorded hours, observations, strengths, and weaknesses of each student, and what lessons were taught. A grant-funded supervisor position will be created through Hiram’s Education Department to offer support to Hiram tutors and ensure that the program is running efficiently.
“By having these earlier experiences, my students can better their skills and find out if teaching is what they want to do with their life,” said Maretka.
“This is different. This is early teaching experience and it’s specific targeted teaching,” said Sorrick. “It’s the whole planning, teaching, assessment cycle for first-year students.”
Another exciting grant-funded opportunity Sorrick and Maretka have planned will be an intensive, mathematics summer camp in both June 2023 and 2024. Here, thirty recommended students from each of the three selected districts will be taught by Hiram tutors in an in-depth exploration of mathematics concepts designed to ready students for the following academic year.
One final piece to Sorrick’s and Maretka’s grant proposal was providing professional development opportunities for district teachers via a mathematics course focusing on the Standards for Mathematical Practice in the summer of 2023 and 2024. Each of the three partnered districts can select three teachers to participate, with tuition paid by the grant. “We wanted the grant to benefit Hiram and the district teachers as well,” said Sorrick. “We specifically partnered with small, rural schools because we are a small, rural college. It’s a win-win for all of us. A win for the children, for the Hiram students, for the Hiram College Education program, for the districts, and the district teachers.”