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KNOXVILLE — University of Tennessee faculty are helping math teachers in the state’s rural schools earn master’s and doctoral degrees in mathematics teaching and education.

The UT service is part of the National Science Foundation’s $10 million Appalachian Collaborative Center for Learning, Assessment, and Instruction in Mathematics, or ACCLAIM, to help improve mathematics education in isolated rural schools.

NSF predicts that 50 percent of faculty now teaching math education will retire in two years and 80 percent will retire in 10 years.

Dr. Vena Long, UT professor of education, said that means a shortage of math teachers and lower test scores for students, especially in rural schools.

-Across the nation, math education is suffering from low achievement and scarcity of teachers at all levels,” Long said. “Rural education has a background of low achievement and lack of qualified teachers.”

Long said one of the first schools to benefit from Project ACCLAIM is York Institute in Jamestown, Tenn., where UT faculty recently met with math teachers seeking their master’s or doctoral degrees in math education.

York Institute teacher Brenda Pearce says the program will help her achieve her master’s degree.

“I have worked a lot with UT professors and it’s been great for them to come here and teach or present classes to us through technology,” Pearce said, “It is very inconvenient to have to drive back and forth to Knoxville, which is 90 minutes one way.

“It makes getting an advanced degree possible, where it was almost impossible before.”

York Institute teacher Greg Matney says ACCLAIM will make it easier for teachers to fit graduate coursework into their busy schedules.

“With UT bringing the ACCLAIM program here, it definitely makes it a lot more convenient to teachers,” Matney said.”

ACCLAIM is a partnership of UT, the universities of Kentucky and Louisville, Ohio and Marshall universities and the Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative.

UT also will be working with teachers at schools in Oneida, Tenn., under the ACCLAIM program.

Dr. Mark Taylor, a UT education faculty member who will be training teachers in the rural schools, said UT would take a leadership role in preparing math educators at the doctoral level.

The program also includes professional development for high school math and science teachers; support for math and math education faculty at universities and colleges; and more research on teaching math in rural areas, Taylor said.

“The thing about this grant is that it covers multiple levels,” Taylor said. “It includes teacher preparation; producing more math teachers; professional development to improve the quality of the math teachers; and it’s doing it right here in the Appalachian region.”