The Virginia Mathematics Specialist Initiative of the Coalition has been a high priority effort of the Coalition over the last twenty years. Over $20,000,000 of external support has been provided for the effort and additional support is being requested. The effort of Virginia as a leader has been recognized nationally. The Coalition provides continued resources, funding, and research to support full implementation of K-8 Mathematics Specialists.
The following report, Virginia’s Mathematics Specialist Initiative: Overview of Program and Course Annotated Syllabi for Preparing Mathematics Specialists was prepared to share a bit of history about the Mathematics Specialist Initiative and to also share an annotated syllabus for each of the 6 mathematics and 3 mathematics education leadership courses compiled from the many iterations of each of the courses over more than ten year period.
For more than 20 years the Virginia Mathematics and Science Coalition (VMSC) and the mathematics and mathematics education community have championed the Virginia Mathematics Specialist Initiative (VMSI) and the potential for K-8 school-based mathematics specialists, in-school coaches who support teachers, to improve student learning. The VMSC with support from a grant award through the State Council for Higher Education in Virginia (SCHEV) and several National Science Foundation (NSF) grants has supported statewide collaborations to develop answers to the following questions (Pitt, 2005, 24).
- What is a Mathematics Specialist and what do Specialists do?
- What are the principle ingredients of content, content pedagogy, and leadership training Mathematics Specialists will need to be effective?
- How can we implement Mathematics Specialist training programs and quickly bring well-prepared Mathematics Specialists into the schools?
- What are the elements of school culture and administrative support that Mathematics Specialist programs need to be effective?
The report, Virginia’s Mathematics Specialist Initiative: Overview of Program and Course Annotated Syllabi for Preparing Mathematics Specialists, has been prepared by the VMSI steering committee for the VMSC. The document is informed, in particular, by the knowledge gained and products developed as a result of the NSF grant projects that supported preparing and launching school-based mathematics specialists. The report first presents an overview of the VMSI and then a general description of the Virginia Mathematics Specialists Preparation Program (VMSPP), and finally, an annotated syllabus for each of six mathematics content courses and three mathematics education leadership courses developed and taught as the core of the VMSPP.
The paper describes the SCHEV and NSF grant supported efforts; and also, the ExxonMobil Foundation support since the Foundations support was crucial for the early efforts of VMSC to inform various audiences about the potential of improving mathematics education using school-based mathematics specialists. The various audiences included members of the K-16 mathematics and mathematics education community, professional organizations such as the Virginia Council of Mathematics Specialists (VACMS), Virginia Council of Mathematics Teachers (VCTM) and the Virginia Council of Mathematics Supervisors (VCMS), and the mathematics leaders in school divisions across the state.
The partnerships that emerged during the activities supported by ExxonMobil provided a foundation of knowledge and support for successful grant proposals for NSF and Virginia’s State Council of Higher Education (SCHEV) awards. The awards supported statewide collaborations including a comprehensive project, the Virginia Mathematics Specialist Initiative (VMSI). The activities of the VMSI under the umbrella of the VMSC paved the way for the Virginia Licensure Regulations for School Personnel to add the K-8 Mathematics Specialist endorsement. Furthermore, VMSI provided leadership for identifying a program and creating core courses to prepare successful classroom teachers to seek the licensure endorsement and to assume the role of a K-8 school-based mathematics specialist. Significant collaborations among institutes of higher education (IHE), school division mathematics leaders, and state organizations dedicated to improving mathematics education are described in this report along with the efforts that clarified the vision for the knowledge and skills that mathematics specialists require to fulfill their various roles successfully. The report concludes by describing the VMSPP and the core mathematics and leadership courses included in the Program.
The information presented in this report has been compiled by reviewing and extracting information found in various curriculum projects, reports, and journal publications resulting from activities in the grant-supported Virginia Mathematics Specialist Program produced by the numerous collaborators in VMSI project over the last ten years. The contributions of the following people filled key roles as curriculum development committee members, higher education instructors, school division co-instructors, researchers, and grant management committee members have been instrumental in developing this report. Please note that the list presented below is not an exhaustive list of the many people who also made important contributions to the program including those school divisions, mathematics specialists, and teachers who graciously agreed to participate as research subjects.