UM gets $1.25 million to help middle schoolers in core subjects

(The Center Square) – A federally funded program to help middle school students improve in math, science and language arts showed favorable outcomes and will be increased and extended through the University of Missouri.

The National Institutes of Health awarded a new $1.25 million Science Education Partnership Award to the university to create teaching resources and professional development for teachers. A previous $1.2 million grant, expiring in August, funded the development of a sequence of resources for learning, including short stories, videos, art, podcasts, comic books, music, cartoons and picture books. A variety of resources was found to help students improve their reading of complex text.

Jeannie Sneller, a teacher at South Callaway Middle School in Mokane, was part of the first grant. As her students completed the Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) testing this week, she’s looking forward to analyzing test scores and seeing if students made progress after the influences of the pandemic.

“I do believe these types of unit plans can help us get back that learning that they weren’t able to do,” Sneller said.

Last year’s MAP scores for eighth graders in South Callaway Middle were generally higher than the state averages in English language arts, math and science. No student tested “below basic” proficiency in language arts compared to the state average of 16.3%.

“I’m interested in seeing what their scores will be like this year after having this program for a couple of years,” Sneller said. “We really do feel like we see growth in both areas because they are making connections and using these skills in multiple places.”

The Show-Me Institute’s Missouri School Rankings project gave South Callaway Middle a “C” in English Language Arts and math compared to the rest of the state. It included an evaluation in “Growth,” a measurement of whether students are gaining more or less than a year’s worth of knowledge. South Callaway earned a “B” in language arts growth and a “D” in math.

Sneller said the curriculum resources from the grant are available for free from the university’s program website, scienceandliteracy.missouri.edu, and emphasized the advantages of collaboration with other teachers.

“The majority of what we get for this grant goes back to the schools and to the teachers,” said Delinda van Garderen, a professor in the Department of Special Education at the University of Missouri. “We are committed to giving all of this back to the community and to the schools.”