This five-year project seeks to systematically address the serious problems in the curriculum of the Oakland Unified School District by creating conditions that support teacher-led, school-based reform that results in science becoming prioritized in the curriculum.
Oakland is the sixth largest urban district in California. In the 1990 U.S. Census, Oakland was identified as having the most diverse population of any metropolitan city in the U. S. -- at least 82 languages and ethnic groups are represented: 56% Black, 18% Asian/Pacific Islander, 16% Hispanic, 8% White, 1% Filipino and 1% Native American. Traditionally students, particularly females, Blacks, Hispanics and Native Americans have not succeeded in mathematics or science. Academically, Oakland's students consistently rank in the lowest quartile in the State in reading, mathematics and science. Twenty-six percent of the students are identified with Limited English Proficiency and 48% of the students come from families qualifying for Aid to Families with Dependent Children. The diverse ethnic and socioeconomic population poses an additional challenge to the school system and its efforts to reform the curriculum but it also insures that LITES teachers have the potential for reaching significant numbers of "at risk" youth.
The LITES project targets all elementary teachers located in the 60 schools of the Oakland School District and eventually will impact the entire K-12 student population.. A broad-based coalition of scientists and family educators from colleges, industry schools, community, and science center are involved in the LITES effort.
Teachers participate in a research-based LITES curriculum for 5 weeks each year for two years. They in turn train a school-site cluster for five same grade level colleagues. Key features of the LITES curriculum are 1) a linkage of four informal science centers to teach a 4-day thematic science course on ecosystems in environments that teachers can use year round as living laboratories for their own learning and classroom teaching; 2) a technology course taught in an industry setting where teachers can learn first hand the complex concepts in this often misunderstood discipline; and 3) an integration of pedagogy and science subject matter courses combined with practical classroom experience. The Leader Teachers are assisted in their task by a team of 29 LITES staff who provide school site support and by 72 LITES pilot program teachers who serve as consultants.
There are two major components to the LITES curriculum training. The first is that elementary teachers learn science content, not in formal classrooms, but in science-rich environments - an insectarium, zoo, botanical garden and a marine educational/research center. The second component is a series of five courses covering biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics and integrated science. The central concept of the LITES curriculum is pedagogy and the structure is based on the California Science Framework and the teacher-developed Oakland Science Scope and Sequence Document. It is organized into three major areas: Life, Physical, and Earth Sciences and also include six themes: evolution, patterns of change, scale and structure, energy stability and systems and interactions.
The project is supported by a collaboration consisting of the Oakland Unified School District, the city of Oakland and the East Bay Regional Parks. There is also a commitment from principals and school administrators, parents and the local community to support educational reform in their school district.