Georgia Gwinnett College earns innovation grant to provide math tutoring to elementary school students in need

The Georgia Foundation for Public Education (GFPE) has awarded a prestigious innovation pilot grant to the Georgia Gwinnett College Foundation in support of math tutoring for elementary school students in need of targeted support. The Innovative Education Fund Prototype Grant was awarded over one year to pilot an innovative education program that “has the potential to impact student outcomes and transform teaching and learning practices at the school or district.”

Dr. Amber Ebert, assistant professor in science education and department chair of Secondary Education for Georgia Gwinnett College (GGC), collaborated with GGC’s Advancement team to write the proposal in response to a need she saw while working with other grant-funded programs in the local community.

She said the grant proposal was singled out for the award because of the delivery of professional development onsite and the collaboration it encourages between the elementary school teachers and tutors from GGC.

“This math tutoring program is innovative because of the professional development component for the tutors, and the fact that it’s conducted onsite and directly before the tutoring happens,” she said. “There is a tremendous partnership and collaboration between our team and the school assistant principal, principal and teachers. Academic information is shared from the teachers – lessons, content, areas of need for students, curriculum being delivered in the classroom – so that tutoring isn't stand-alone or ‘random,’ but rather exactly prescribed for the needs of the students.”

The $20,000 grant funds the program, which is being implemented at Alford Elementary School (AES) in Gwinnett County. The school was chosen based on a past collaboration with the school and principal and a data-driven need for added math support, as evidenced by test scores and past performance by students in math.

Dr. Bernadette Peiffer, a retired assistant professor in the School of Education now working as an adjunct faculty member, leads the implementation at AES. She based her curriculum development on research and constructed a professional development program about best practices in math tutoring.

“It is a unique approach to serving the needs of first- through fourth-grade students who were identified by Alford Elementary faculty as needing some additional help in their mathematics skills and confidence. Moreover, it is serving the needs of Georgia Gwinnett students who are interested in incorporating tutoring skills into their preparation for professional careers,” said Peiffer. “This program is important because it builds on the critical elements of supporting students’ ability to see and believe in their abilities, as well as develops in the college tutors a depth of understanding of student math-thinking that will be critical to their futures as educators.”

Following each session, the GGC tutors share successes and challenges of the day with each other. In addition to analyzing the instruction they have just provided, they also study research-based best practices in math instruction and tutoring. The program pivots around development of “math thinking” as described by mathematics education researcher Peter Liljedahl, who uses research-based teaching practices to enhance student learning in the classroom.

Peiffer said the program has created a team of elementary students, GGC tutors, Alford teachers, administrators and support staff which the Alford teachers have named “The Math Marathon Team.” In this collaboration, GGC student tutors spend three hours at the elementary school twice a week.

After every session each student in the program proudly pastes examples of their accomplishments in a “brag book,” which also contains a statement from their tutors as to why they are proud of their students.

“Just last week, at parent-teacher conferences, students were able to share their brag books with their parents and classroom teachers,” said Peiffer. “That type of celebration of success for students with teachers and parents is, as research tells us, critically important to keeping the elementary student confident in their STEM abilities and continuing interest in STEM.”

Representatives from the GFPE recently made a site visit to see how well the program is working.

“We were impressed by what we saw and heard from the students, who are now receiving personalized attention as they build their foundation in math,” said Jaclyn Colona, director of Grant Strategies at GFPE. “We hope to continue our collaboration with GGC to support educational excellence in schools and to give students the support they need to be successful.”

View and download GGC math tutoring grant photos.

View and download GGC math tutoring grant b-roll.

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