Sahuarita Unified School District is providing teachers a unique training opportunity this July as part of a partnership with the National Math & Science Initiative (NMSI), a nonprofit educational program designed to prepare students for success in science, technology, engineering and math. Two trainings, one in Sahuarita and the other in Texas, will provide teachers with the tools to encourage student enrollment and success in Advanced Placement courses in math, science and English.
“The National Math & Science Initiative is designed to bring high-level learning and academic rigor to the school subjects that help students excel in STEM fields,” says Brett Bonner, SUSD assistant superintendent. “NMSI provides educators with the training, methods, materials and resources that contribute to academic excellence in these areas.” The program, which trains teachers to inspire their students to succeed in rigorous math and science courses, has been shown to dramatically increase the number of students taking and passing AP math, science and English exams: The average increase in passing AP scores is 65% in the first year of program implementation.
SUSD is currently the only public school district in Arizona to implement the NMSI program. The District’s NMSI program is supported by nearly $1 million in grant funds and donations raised by the local community. The Freeport-McMoRan Foundation provided a $500,000, three-year grant to bring the NMSI program to Sahuarita. Local individuals and businesses, including Rancho Sahuarita, contributed another $300,000. “Having a highly skilled and educated workforce is key to bringing the next stage of economic development – high quality employers – to the region,” says Jeremy Sharpe, vice president of community development at Rancho Sahuarita. “Investing in the NMSI effort was an easy decision to make.”
From July 15-18, Walden Grove High School will host NMSI’s Laying the Foundation Summer Institute, a progressive, three-year training for math, science and English teachers of grades 3-12. “This training is critical to preparing our younger students to participate in AP courses later in their education,” says Bonner. “The goal is to provide teachers with the tools to lower the hurdles to AP participation so that more kids will enroll in these courses in high school.”
For four days in each of the next three years, teachers (who must commit to completing the three year program) will complete progressive modules that build on prior year trainings. Of the 50 training slots available, 40 have been filled by SUSD teachers; spaces were also offered to teachers in Continental School District, which feeds into Sahuarita High School, and the Santa Cruz Valley School District.
Also in July, SUSD’s high school AP math, science and English teachers will travel to Texas to attend a training specific to AP instructors. The AP Summer Institute Training is a five-day program held prior to the first year of the NMSI program; the initial Summer Institute Training is supplemented by online resources and additional teacher trainings and conferences throughout the year.
“SUSD is committed to providing unique educational opportunities for Sahuarita students that allow them to tap into higher level learning,” says Bonner. “The NMSI program is putting SUSD on the map for advanced math and science learning, and enabling us to compete with the top schools in the region and the state.”