WCU wins $300,000 grant to partner with Transylvania County Schools to develop model

Western Carolina University will partner with Transylvania County Schools to develop a model for supporting teachers in identifying student needs in mathematics and literacy, and tailoring instruction and individual interventions to address those needs.

David Strahan, the Taft B. Botner Distinguished Professor of Elementary and Middle Grades Education at WCU, was awarded a nearly $300,000 N.C. QUEST grant for the program, which is centered on “responsive to instruction.” North Carolina has encouraged school districts to develop new systems that feature responsiveness to instruction, an approach in which teachers analyze assessments with greater sophistication and develop more specific interventions, said Strahan.

“We will be one of the first universities to work directly with teachers in this new venture,” said Strahan, who is co-directing the project with Axelle Faughn, WCU assistant professor of mathematics. “Two intersecting needs will guide our work – the need for more responsive instruction with students who struggle in reading and mathematics, and the need for professional development to help participants implement these interventions.”

Although students in Transylvania County Schools have performed well on end-of-grade tests, a persistent percentage of students have not met proficiency expectations and could benefit from an intervention specifically designed to help them master a basic skill that he or she needs in literacy or mathematics, according to the grant proposal.

As part of the initiative, Jessica Cunningham and Bianca Montrosse from WCU’s psychology department will lead a team of project evaluators that will conduct a needs assessment to guide plans for a summer seminar for teachers.

Then, 30 kindergarten through 12th-grade teachers will become part of school-based professional learning teams in which they examine a range of student assessments and develop research-based strategies to address needs. The teachers will work with WCU education faculty Tommy Hodges, Nancy Luke, Carrie Rogers and Roya Scales to use the data gathered at every step of the process to develop interventions.

During the fall and spring, facilitators will work with teacher participants to identify students who are not achieving well, develop interventions focused on addressing students’ weaknesses and assess progress.

At the conclusion of the project, the professional teams model could serve as a model for other districts across North Carolina, and Transylvania County School teachers will have a set of online learning modules they can use to improve their teaching.