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KNOXVILLE — Teachers from Tennessee, Kentucky, West Virginia and North Carolina are working on doctoral degrees at the University of Tennessee this summer in a program to improve rural math education.

The five-week summer course began July 8 at UT as part of the National Science Foundation’s Appalachian Collaborative Center for Learning, Assessment, and Instruction in Mathematics, or ACCLAIM.

The project is a partnership of UT, the universities of Kentucky and Louisville, Ohio and Marshall universities and the Appalachian Rural Systemic Initiative.
Dr. Vena Long, UT math education professor and ACCLAIM co-director, said participants receive three years of study through summer sessions and distance learning. Courses include geometry, mathematics education, rural sociology and research methodologies.

Upon completion of a dissertation, they receive a degree from one of the partner universities, Long said.

“The program emphasizes math teaching and learning in a rural setting,” Long said. “It offers teachers an opportunity to pursue an advanced degree without requiring them to leave work and family for long periods.

“We will connect them electronically. They all get web cams, work together on various projects and support each other throughout the life of the program.”

ACCLAIM participant Barbara Buckner, who teaches at Bradley County High School and Lee University in Cleveland, Tenn., said a doctoral degree in education was one of her longtime goals.

“I had looked into several different programs, but to make it fit my schedule, I had to quit my job or move. It was never financially obtainable until now,” Buckner said.

“This first summer session already has challenged me to be a better teacher. Being here with others student-teachers who have the same goals and ambitions makes you strive to be better.”

Brian Boyd, a high school teacher from Dayton, Ohio, said the program has enabled him to pursue a doctoral degree without drastic changes to his lifestyle.

“I had looked at the possibility of earning my doctorate in math education, but I am married with a four-year old son and quitting my job, moving and changing my lifestyle at this stage in my life was not a desirable prospect,” Boyd said.
“After talking with several people, I decided ACCLAIM is the most feasible way for me to achieve a doctoral degree.”

UT in March began working with teachers at York Institute in Jamestown, Tenn., and schools in Oneida, Tenn., through ACCLAIM. 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.