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Henry Barnard School 217
Dr. Caroline Caswell, Assistant Professor with a dual appointment in Mathematics and Computer Science, and Educational Studies
Each week, Dr. Caroline Caswell, Assistant Professor with a dual appointment in Mathematics and Computer Science, and Educational Studies, works with teachers from two Central Falls elementary schools and one middle school to strengthen their mathematics content knowledge and instructional strategies. Dr. Caswell is the Principal Investigator and Project Director for the Depth Over Breadth Equals Students Success (D/B=SS), a Title IIA-funded project sponsored by the state’s Office of the Postsecondary Commissioner. Twenty-five teachers from the district participate with Dr. Caswell in building professional learning communities. Groups meet weekly within their own grade levels and they also meet a few times a year across grade levels.
“The purpose is to strengthen each other’s math practice, content knowledge, build confidence in [the teachers’] ability to teach mathematics, and share ideas,” said Dr. Caswell.
The teachers also develop a grade level project. Participants discuss challenging issues and design a project around that topic. Each grade level has a different focus, but all topics relate to mathematics and are specifically focused on supporting English as Second Language (ESL) Learners.
Participation in the D/B=SS project is optional and considered a professional development opportunity. Teachers are provided stipends for their time.
“Even though the compensation may be a motivator for some period of time, if these teachers didn’t feel the project was valuable, it is not enough to sustain their attendance in the program year after year,” explained Dr. Caswell.
The D/B=SS project is now going into year three and Dr. Caswell continues to have 22 long-time members in the group, partially due to Dr. Caswell’s willingness to adapt to the needs of the teachers and the district. While planning for year three, the last year of the project, Dr. Caswell met with Central Falls School District’s administration to discuss the upcoming year. The district is interested in building teacher leadership this year in order to sustain successes after the grant has ended.
Dr. Caswell has also facilitated a five day summer colloquium at Rhode Island College for the teachers which included presentations, demonstrations, videos, readings, articles and more. Furthermore, Dr. Caswell has supported teachers in video lesson studies of themselves and their peers and she has brought a few of the teachers to conferences across the country to present on the work they have been doing together.
“Working with a group of teachers who really want to improve instruction for their students’ benefit is really rewarding,” said Dr. Caswell when asked to describe the most exciting part of this project “And they are not negative about math, which is exciting to me. They want to learn and they are open to trying new things and I love that. It is invigorating to me to go work with them.”
As a side note, Dr. Caswell reported many of the teachers she is working with are Rhode Island College graduates.