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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Report Overview

submitter: Asset Teacher Enhancement Program
published: 02/02/1998
posted to site: 02/02/1998
I. 1997 Annual Overview

ASSET (Allegheny Schools Science Education and Technology) Inc. is a non-profit organization formed in 1993 through the leadership and fiscal support of Bayer Corporation. The organization and the program are comprised of collaborating partners who represent business, education and the community in Allegheny County. Their mission is to bring about systemic change in the way children learn science through teacher enhancement and teacher support. The comprehensive program espouses the five components of exemplary science programs as identified in research by the National Science Resources Center: quality hands-on curriculum materials, ongoing professional development, centralized materials support, assessment, and community involvement.

Sixteen of Allegheny Countyís 43 school districts, selected to participate in the ASSET program, have moved through a pilot phase to a vision of inquiry-based science instruction in their elementary classrooms. ASSETís partners, such as the Allegheny Intermediate Unit, Bayer Corporation , Duquesne University, and the Learning Research and Development Center (University of Pittsburgh), contribute resources and expertise to facilitate implementation of the comprehensive program.


Under the two main program goals of the LSC grant, Teacher Enhancement and Teacher Support, significant progress has been made in the 1996/97 school year.

Teacher Enhancement has been taken to new levels of pedagogical content and teacher leadership, and Teacher Support is growing through broad-based district and community awareness of the need for teacher leadership in science education reform. Building on the secure foundation of the learning cycle, called FERA (Focus, Explore, Reflect, Apply), teacher enthusiasm for their own learning has grown. The annual ASSET Leadership Conference saw 95% teacher-led professional development sessions on the topics of assessment, questioning skills, and constructivist learning theory. On a warm, sunny afternoon in August on various sections of the patio at Linden Hall, six leadership teams, consisting of administrators and Building Lead Teachers, charted their plans to deliver the new knowledge and skills to their peers in the coming year.

In the area of Teacher Support, two major changes have taken place. The Materials Support Center has seen significant growth and development. The Center now offers all of the Science and Technology for Children (STC) and all of the Full Option Science System (FOSS) units to participating districts, so that they are better able to fit the units into the district curriculum. Growth has been exponential. Requests for STC and FOSS materials have tripled, from 675 modules to 1747 for the year. Since the workload to prepare the classroom materials has increased dramatically, ASSET employs Duquesne University students to work in the Center along with volunteer parents.

Secondly, the growth of involvement of regional institutions and recognition in the press point to the growing sense in the Pittsburgh community that working cooperatively to provide science to children and teachers enhances student learning and maximizes institutional impact. Six local organizations, Pittsburgh Voyager, Phipps Conservatory, Civic Garden Center, the Carnegie Science Center, the Pittsburgh Zoo, and the Allegheny Intermediate Unit have devised new programs that enhance the ASSET program.

Lessons Learned

ASSET has learned that professional development for Resource Teachers precedes learning for all classroom teachers. The Resource Teachers made progress in adjusting to their leadership role through a joint retreat held in Tennessee with the Resource Teachers from Nashville, TN, and from Huntsville, AL. Additionally, two of the Resource Teachers joined peers from across the country at the Inquiry Institute at the Exploratorium. Their understanding of inquiry will influence the quality of the professional development sessions during the year.

It has also been confirmed that the approach of teachers teaching teachers, cross-district collaboration, and addressing the five components of a comprehensive program simultaneously is an effective strategy to promote systemic change in schools. However, as reported last year, change takes time, and partnerships require patience and effective communication. We have learned that our system of communication with district liaisons, through a regular exchange of faxes and meetings, has proven to be increasingly successful. The system of Building Lead Teachers is still evolving, but their various roles are becoming more clearly defined. We anticipate that as electronic communication becomes a reality, their leadership role will grow.