What is believed to be the largest 2012 public education research project in the country is under way right now in Chesterfield County. TESLA, a mutually beneficial relationship with Harvard University, will encompass 18,000 students in grades 5-8.
TESLA stands for Transforming Engagement of Students in Learning Algebra, and this brief video describes the project: teslahgse.wordpress.com/home/media/. Through TESLA, the Harvard Graduate School of Education is researching the relationship between technology-based motivational activities and student interest in careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
Led by Harvard researchers (including Professor Chris Dede who helped create the National Education Technology Plan), all Chesterfield math and special education teachers are learning how to deliver TESLA lessons to their students. The professional development sessions will run
8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. every day this week. The teachers will then implement TESLA lessons in their classrooms — some as soon as March 15, but most will begin March 19.
Why is Chesterfield County Public Schools participating in the TESLA project? The school system’s Design for Excellence 2020 strategic plan emphasizes preparing students for careers in science, technology, engineering and math. Success in algebra is widely recognized as vital to students’ STEM opportunities. For several years, every Chesterfield student has taken algebra during middle school, rather than waiting until high school. Over the past three years, algebra achievement has steadily improved. The school system’s pass rate on the Algebra I SOL test is on the rise, going from 87.4 percent in 2009 to 90.3 percent in 2010 to 92.0 percent in 2011. In Chesterfield middle schools, the 2011 pass rate on the Algebra I SOL test ranged from 99.2 percent to 90.5 percent.
TESLA will take the school system’s commitment to algebra for all students in middle school to the next level by instilling a belief in them that learning mathematics is personally valuable and by using online games and other digital technology to boost student interest in math. The lessons are a perfect fit with Chesterfield’s curriculum and with the blended learning approach of the Design for Excellence 2020.
Funding for TESLA comes from the National Science Foundation. In addition to Harvard-led professional development, teachers will receive a set of math manipulatives and schools will receive money to spend on math projects.