Skip to: Content
Skip to: Site Navigation
Skip to: Search


At Andover, summer planting bears fall harvest

By Robin RichardsonSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / September 7, 1982



Andover, Mass.

This fall, at least 30 inner-city junior high and high school teachers are returning to their classrooms with rekindled enthusiasm and a greater knowledge of higher mathematics.

Skip to next paragraph

The reason? They studied this summer in the Andover-Dartmouth (Urban) Math Teachers' Institute at Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass.

Why an institute for teachers? Math teacher Frank Eccles, director of the program, says:''This is an experience they couldn't get anywhere else. They learned the math they have to teach from other high school teachers familiar with the material. At a college, the mathematics might have been too advanced. In an education program they might have only learned methodology.''

The Teachers' Institute grew out of the success of Andover's Math and Science for Minority Students program, (MS)2. Now in its sixth year, (MS)2 recruits high school minority students who are talented in math and the sciences. It gives them three summers of supplementary study to assist them to college majors and careers in math and science fields.

Graduates of (MS)2 have been accepted at highly acclaimed colleges and universities, such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth and Stanford.

The Ford Foundation, one of (MS)2's main financial backers, recognized the logical next step: a corresponding program for math teachers.

Andover supplied the facilities and instructors for the program. Collaborating, Dartmouth College provided the directional counseling of its math department and sent professors to hold a weekly seminar and discussion group. The Ford Foundation agreed to finance the program for two years as part of its broad Math and Minorities funding initiative.

Both the Teachers' Institute and (MS)2 strive to correct two recognizable problems: the inner city schools' shortage of qualified math teachers, and the national under-representation of minorites in math/science careers.

In 1975, fewer than 1 out of 40 engineering degrees were granted to blacks or Hispanics. One reason: in college, many minority students who aspired to technological careers found they were not suitably prepared for required math science courses and switched to other majors.

Also, there is an ever-increasing need for qualified graduates in technology, a field that depends on strong preparation in math and science. Yet, fewer high school students take advanced math and science courses and fewer teachers are able to teach those subjects.

The Teachers' Institute recruited teachers from four of the dozen city schools that send students to (MS)2: Atlanta; Baltimore; Chicago; and Dayton. Of the 30 chosen, 22 were black, one Hispanic, and 7 white.

Working closely with local boards of education, recruiters looked for teachers not currently teaching above the geometry level. They wanted teachers who felt weaknesses in their understanding of algebra II and trigonometry. These teachers had either been away from college a long time or had attended colleges with low expectations in math.

The course program concentrated on secondary-level mathematics and the assignments provided institute participants problems they could use in their home classrooms.

Mr. Eccles claims the program was a total immersion in math. Participants attended 84 hours of class, 4 Dartmouth seminars, 10 hours observation of (MS)2 classes, and 4 discussion groups. Additional sessions were held nightly in the dormitory for help with homework.

No tests were given. Homework collected weekly, plus classroom response and questions, provided gauges of mastery of the material.

Improvement of teaching ability through good role models was an important aspect of the institute. Both the Teachers' Institute and (MS)2 used textbooks written by Andover faculty for use in regular Phillips Academy classes. Teachers watched the (MS)2 students learn some of the same concepts they were encountering. Many teachers discovered how increased use of visual aids could help.

At the end of the month, participants were asked to evaluate the institute. Their response was overwhelmingly positive. Many teachers expressed a desire to return to the program and study even more advanced math. Participants agreed they found the opportunities to share ideas and experiences with fellow teachers invaluable.

Douglas Crabtree, an instructor, reflected that ''as mathematics teachers of adolescent kids we all had a common bond. The potential for a ripple effect was really exciting.''

Asked whether their home schools would benefit from their experience, most teachers replied they would.

One teacher said, ''I think my school will try to utilize my participation in the program, if not this school year, then next. Even if they don't, I feel a certain amount of self-growth that I can utilize in whatever I teach.''

Of the institute's goal of helping public education, Mr. Eccles admits candidly, ''We know they're not going to change the whole system. But they will return to their schools with their enthusiasm rekindled, able to do a better job at teaching. We hope they will also influence other teachers.''

The Teachers' Institute is funded for just one more year. Andover's headmaster, Donald McNemar, says he thinks ''it is working to fill a need in society and will be instrumental as long as that need exists. We'll make every effort to continue.''

(MS)2 will also continue. Besides Ford Foundation funds, it is currently getting help from other foundations and corporations. Already it has had a ripple effect. A school in the Chicago area is planning a similar program that will serve areas that (MS)2 cannot. But Richard Lux, chairman of the Andover math department, says he thinks that ''similar programs are not going to spread out at a great rate until federal funding for education is stepped up.''