Race To The Top Prep Work Underway Even In Summer

BERLIN — Worcester County teachers at all education levels took the opportunity this July to begin preparing for new statewide Race to the Top (RTTT) standards.

“We introduced them to a lot of new resources,” said Trevor Hill, an eighth grade math teacher at Stephen Decatur Middle School who also served as a “Master Teacher” for Educator Effectiveness Academies where teachers got a chance to preview the changes RTTT would bring the next school year.

Ten academies were held across the state, each over the course of three days. Every school at every level (elementary, middle, and high school) in Maryland was required to send a team of four teachers to an academy. Each team consisted of a math, English language arts, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) teacher and a principal.

“It was quite an adventure,” said Hill.

An academy at Bennett High School (BHS) played host to all teachers from Worcester schools from July 11-13. Some schools, like Berlin Intermediate School (BIS), had to send two teams of teachers, since they instructed students at both an elementary and middle level. Hill explained that all of the participants selected expressed a desire to think outside of the box and look into new programs. He reported the main question for everyone in regards to curriculum changes was: “How can we better use this?”

The three-day academy gave educators an opportunity to preview new teaching methods, curriculum, and theories that will be become standard in Maryland over the next few years.

“The river is getting narrower,” said Hill, “and it is getting deeper.”

He explained that educators are looking for ways to focus further on core concepts, giving students the tools they need to become “patient problem solvers” who look at questions from all angles and take the time to fully develop a solution.

As a math teacher, Hill was especially pleased with some of the changes he’s seeing in that field.

“We spent a lot of time talking about new math practices,” he said. “I was very impressed with the materials we were given to facilitate … It’s going to produce much better math students.”

RTTT strategies concentrate on teaching students to find “entry points” to problems and encourage creative thinking, said Hill.

“It’s teaching them to wade through it,” he said, explaining that students today are often discouraged if an answer isn’t found quickly.

Though educators still have more than a year to become comfortable with RTTT, Hill plans on implementing some of the theories and material into his own curriculum this fall to prepare both his students and himself for the changes to come.

“With any change, there are growing pains,” he admitted.

However, Hill asserted that RTTT would be worth those growing pains.

“It’s a challenge but it’s exciting,” he said. “I’m much more excited than concerned.”

With Maryland public schools once again finishing as one of the best ranked in the nation this year, Hill acknowledged that some worry that RTTT might complicate what is considered an already top-notch education system. But he defended the new program, confidently stating that RTTT would bring positive change and make better students.