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$1.5 Million Goes to Recruit, Train New Math Teachers

— The National Science Foundation is giving $1.5 million to a San Diego-based program that's trying to get new math teachers into struggling schools.

Math For America San Diego secured the grant. The program's goal is to recruit and train college graduates and professionals so they become exceptional math teachers in San Diego County's lowest performing high schools.

Recruits get a $15,000 stipend every year for five years if they agree to teach in the most challenging schools. That's on top of their regular teacher salaries.

Barbara Edwards, director of the program, says the grant money will pay for those financial bonuses as well as teacher training. She says more money and more skills keep teachers in the classroom.

"The data bears that out," Edwards said. "If we are able to support them (new math teachers) and they're successful in low-income schools, which is where we are particularly targeted, within five years they will have the skills, the interest and the commitment to those kids to be able to make it a lifelong career."

Edwards says the training component is key because many school districts simply don’t provide professional development opportunities and other supports on a continual basis. She says the ultimate goal of her program is to change the way math is taught in public high schools.

She says today's math focuses too much on procedure and protocol. Edwards wants teachers to bring math to life by showing how math skills are interconnected.

“Showing how the geometric part (of math) is connected to the algebraic part of it, how that connects to the physical reality. So that's what we're trying to do, is to provide that deep understanding,” Edwards said.

Math for America San Diego is one of the newest non-profit groups trying to fill the gaps in public education. There are currently 16 fellows in the program. Four of them are now working in San Diego County school districts.

Program leaders hope to add another 60 new teachers to local schools over the next six years.