Park alum and Excellence Fellowship recipient Mark Darby (2004) evaluates North Carolina schools.
When Mark Darby (2004) entered the Education Research Methodology department in the School of Education at UNC-Greensboro last year, he did so with a unique distinction. The Shallotte native was among the youngest recipients of UNCG’s Excellence Fellowship, a $14,000 merit scholarship given to first-year doctoral students.
Now in his second year of the Master’s/Ph. D. program, Mark has a research assistantship. But his focus is still on excellence—excellence in teaching.
This past summer, Mark worked with the Center for Education Research and Evaluation observing the NC-PIMS program (North Carolina Partnership for Improving Mathematics and Science). Working as an evaluator, he looked at the professional development and content training that teachers received from the program. The evaluation team also tracks student scores to determine if the program has made a significant difference in students’ performance in math and science.
For Mark, the program has personal relevance. “The evaluation has been especially interesting for me because my home county, Brunswick, is one of the 12 county school districts involved in the program,” he says. “I’m a product of the educational environment that the NC-PIMS program seeks to improve.”
That background gives him a unique perspective: “I am able to reflect on how my educational experience in the Brunswick county school system affected my progress (both positively and negatively) as I pursued a Math degree at NC State.”
The research also helps inform Mark’s academic pursuits. While most students in his program leave for careers with testing and assessment companies, Mark hopes to take what he’s learning back into the classroom as a University professor. He is conducting meta-analysis that could be applied to how teachers can better prepare students for advanced level studies beyond their current academic courses.
“I believe that middle school teachers can do better to academically prepare their students to do well in high school, and high school teachers can do better to academically prepare their students for college,” says Mark. “The ultimate goal is that students have a clearer and deeper understanding of what they’re learning and teachers have a clearer and deeper understanding of what they’re teaching.”
He hopes that NC-PIMS, now in the third year of its five-year mission, will achieve such a goal.
“I don’t know what the long-term impact of NC-PIMS will be,” says Mark, “Hopefully, positive for both students and teachers. Nonetheless, it is a privilege to be a part of the evaluation team and I feel that I’m playing a small but vital part in the improvement of not only Brunswick county, but all the other counties’ school systems.”