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The Old Well
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

Campus Briefs

Middle School students and teacher$6.2 million grant funds middle school math programs

A grant recently awarded to the National Implementation Research Network at the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute will help ensure students are receiving high-quality mathematics education in middle school — crucial years that can impact students’ chances at successful high school graduation and post-secondary career success.

Although more middle schools are adopting high-quality math curriculums, research shows the systems that support instruction are often lacking or misaligned, especially for underrepresented and marginalized students.

NIRN will help address this issue as a Learning Partner for the Effective Implementation Cohort, or EIC, thanks to funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Overall, the foundation will invest approximately $47 million into the cohort of curriculum and professional learning providers and their partnering Local Education Agencies. NIRN has received an almost $6.2 million award.

The EIC is an investment within the Gates Foundation’s K-12 Math Delivery body of work, specifically focusing on middle years mathematics. The work is centered on increasing district, school and teacher capacity to implement a high-quality math curriculum with integrity to improve outcomes for priority student populations, which the foundation defines as students who are Black, Latina/Latino, English language learners and/or those experiencing poverty.

“This investment is allowing NIRN to provide implementation supports in an effort to advocate successful mathematics trajectories for middle school priority student populations,” said Ximena Franco-Jenkins, an advanced research scientist at FPG and co-principal investigator on this project.


Religious candles burning in front of a computerOld religions, new rituals

The pandemic has changed ways that some Jews and Christians practice their faith, says Carolina religious studies expert Evyatar Marienberg, associate professor in the religious studies department in the College of Arts & Sciences and director of the minor program in Christianity and culture.

“Before COVID-19, it was unthinkable for many people and religious groups to have their services in any way other than going to and being in their place of worship,” he said. “That’s not the case anymore. Suddenly, things that were obvious became not obvious at all. The impact is not the same for all. For some groups, this didn’t pose big theological, doctrinal or legal problems. Their service’s center was words, sermons, homilies or watching someone doing something. To do it online was not a tectonic shift.”

For others, it was big. “For Catholics, for whom the central part of worship is physical — the Eucharist, taking consecrated bread, drinking consecrated wine — this situation created a problem. Not going to service without a good reason is a sin, but not a severe one. But the clergy told them not to go. They had to make it work by proceeding online or by drive-in or being distanced. They created new prayers, new rituals and continued with this for an extended period. Even though now people do go back, it’s clear to all that nontraditional ways of attending services have been legitimized. Several things have happened in some Jewish groups — especially, but not only, Orthodox ones. For Orthodox Jews, the use of electricity and computers is forbidden on the Sabbath unless it’s pre-programmed in some way, for example, with a timer for lights or left permanently on like hot plates for food or heating. They couldn’t say, “Let’s Zoom our Shabbat services,” when using a computer is forbidden during that day. Some Jewish groups that don’t forbid electricity on the Sabbath tried for years to limit use of electric and electronics in rituals. Suddenly they had to do something different. I know of a Conservative-leaning synagogue in New York that would have never used screens and electronics, but they were forced to and now they continue to do it. People like it. It enables people from around the world to join their services.