This project is the result of a collaboration between the National City School District, the University of California, San Diego (UCSD), the National City government, local businesses, industry and the community. It closely aligns with the NSF funded California State Systemic Initiative -- California Advocacy for Mathematics and Science (CAMS), the California State Science Framework and the national science standards. This project intends to enhance the science and technology backgrounds of the entire K-6 instructional staff of the district over four years.
National School District is located in National City, California just south of the city of San Diego and ten miles north of the Mexican border. With a population of 56,000, National City comprises ten square miles of low-income housing, attracting new immigrants from Mexico as well as military families. It is the thirteenth poorest city by per capita income in the United States with a median income of $14,000 and 52 percent of the school district's families are headed by a single parent. The National City School District serves an ethnically diverse and poor student population. The population of students consists of 0.6 percent Alaskan/American Indian; 1.7% Asian, 13.7% Filipino, 5.7% African American, 8% white, 69.1% Hispanic and 1.1% Pacific Islander. Forty percent have Limited English Proficiency; 55% have Chapter 1 eligibility; and 75% of newly enrolled students come from Mexico.
This project combines the resources of the school district, UCSD, private industry, and the community to institute and support an integrated, inquiry-based, hands-on science curriculum in all National City elementary schools. The curriculum to be implemented includes NSF funded FOSS and the State of California's Child's Place in the Environment as instructional modules for grades K-6. In addition, all students take an active part in the activities at the Stein Farm, a farm purchased for the students and community members by the city. A two week Summer Computer Camp is offered to upper grade students in addition to grade level and special education summer science enrichment classes available to all students.
Major goals have been set forth to tackle the social, cultural and academic challenges currently faced by the National City School District. There is a serious achievement gap in mathematics and science among the historically underserved students in the National School District. Hispanics and African Americans score at much lower levels on all measures of achievement. This project plans to: 1) implement an inquiry oriented, activity based science curriculum; 2) upgrade the science content background and leadership skills; and 3) initiate systemic reform.
Each year 60 lead teachers attend a four-week inservice program. The program is held in conjunction with a district wide summer enrichment program that incorporates a practicum for the participants. University scientists, science educators, and master teachers from the district staff the summer leadership institute. Parent and community members assist in both managing and maintaining the instructional materials.
This cadre of 60 lead teachers form a science leadership team at each school site to oversee continuing science education reform. They provide full day staff development programs, weekly school year selected inservice programs and act a peer coaches and resources to the school site. Staff and parent volunteers attend six Saturday academic year sessions and receive university extension credit from UCSD for their participation.