This 5-year Local Systemic change project involves four school districts -- Linden, Rahway and Readington Township Public Schools in New Jersey and the North Penn School District in Pennsylvania. The districts entered into a partnership with the Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) in 1993 to improve K-8 science education, stimulate education reform and raise the scientific literacy of American youth. Each of the districts interacts differently with MISE due to their unique histories so each district is currently at a different stage in SMT reform.
The partners envision an increased knowledge of science, mathematics and technology (SMT) and mastery of an inquiry approach to teaching for teachers and administrators; classrooms where students' interests and curiosity are stimulated by teachers who pose questions and challenge students to construct their own learning; schools which provide a network of support for inquiry and a context for sustained learning; and districts where parents, the community, corporations, and teachers and administrations share the responsibility for improved teaching and learning of SMT. In order for the project to reach these goals, it provides professional development for 825 teachers in 35 schools, promotes inquiry-centered learning for all students, engages the stakeholders in systemic reform, and disseminates information to encourage project replication.
The professional development program has four components -- Lead-Teacher Institutes, Peer Teacher Workshops, District Inservices and Additional Professional Development Opportunities. During the professional development, teachers explore the content of the curriculum modules - NSF-funded STC, FOSS, GEMS, EDC-Insights, National Geographic Kid's Network and TERC's Investigations in Number, Data, and Space. The Lead Teacher Institute is an intensive three-year program for teams of teachers and administrators from each elementary and middle school in the district. Specialists in science and mathematics content lead each team. The goal is to build a cadre of lead teachers to lead SMT reform. Lead teachers responsibilities include mentoring new teachers, peer coaching, and development of assessment and presentation of professional development programs to peers.
The lead teachers plan and in some cases provide instruction at the Peer Teacher Workshops. The workshops enhance teachers' abilities to use the science modules, mathematics materials and supporting technology for their grade level and improves skills in integrating SMT and using a variety of assessment strategies. District inservices are available during the course of the project and are customized to meet each district's needs. Additional professional development opportunities are available to teachers such as: team teaching, participation on committees to align curriculum with standards, develop assessment tools, select curriculum materials and writing and implementing mini grants.
A network of Merck scientists and engineers volunteer their time and expertise to assist teachers in classrooms, demonstrate science and computer technology and serve as role models for the students. A Materials Distribution Centers has also been established in each districts to distribute and replenish materials.