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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Report Overview

author: Jane Hazen Dessecker
submitter: Project SEEDS: Science Education Enhancing the Development of Skills, K-6
published: 02/05/1998
posted to site: 02/05/1998


Science Education Enhancing the Development of Skills

Stark County, Ohio

PI Annual Progress Report

Year III Report: 1996-97

Prepared by:

Jane Hazen Dessecker, PI


Part I. Annual Overview

SEEDS (Science Education Enhancing the Development of Skills) is a community driven, teacher led initiative to radically change the way science education is taught and learned in the elementary schools of Stark County, Ohio. The project is a collaboration and cost-sharing between sixteen local schools districts, three private schools, and the Stark County Educational Service Center (42% cost-sharing), The Education Enhancement Partnership, a local school-business foundation (10% cost- sharing), Ashland University, (1% cost-sharing), and the National Science Foundation (46% cost-sharing). The Stark County schools consist of 2 urban districts, 4 rural districts, 4 suburban districts and 6 small town/city districts with a total of 74 buildings, one thousand teachers, and 25,000 elementary pupils in grades K-6. All schools work cooperatively through the assistance of the Stark County Educational Service Center. The demographics of Stark County as a whole are: 93% white, 6% black, 1% other and 15% disadvantaged.

A unique feature of the SEEDS project is the major role that teachers play in taking charge of their own learning. Six teachers conceived the project and are responsible for its overall implementation, serving as the Program Management Team with the Principal Investigator. District Lead Teachers and Leadership Teams (n=165) are responsible for designing and implementing the training in their respective districts. A Personal Development Plan is designed by each teacher to meet individualized professional development needs over the duration of the grant period 1995-2000. Other unique components are the use of exemplary materials, a national standards-based curriculum, and use of alternate assessments.

The basic components of the SEEDS model consist of (1) ongoing Leadership Training and support for the Leadership Teams, from an intensive two-week training in the summer of 1994 through an additional five days during each school year; (2) five days of Immersion (Kit) Training for all the teachers in the school district provided by the district Leadership Team; (3) an annual yearlong after-school Action Research Seminar that is planned and implemented by the district Leadership Team; and (4) one week Content workshops in the summer which focus on biology, chemistry, physics, earth science, integration with math, integration with language arts, assessment and technology, from which teachers may choose; and (5) External Options such as mini-sessions offered by individual districts, state science conferences, and professional development opportunities offered outside the county or state. Teachers will complete a hundred hours in their personal Professional Development Plan over the five year period 1995-2000, while Lead Teachers complete 150 hours.


Accomplishments 1996-97

During 1996-97, all districts conducted Action Research Seminars for 15 hours. Teachers met approximately two hours after school once a month, and they had the option of enrolling in one hour of graduate credit from Ashland University. There were 477 enrollees in the Action Research Seminars or 49% of our teachers. This was an increase from 40% actively involved in the 1995-96 school year. During the summer of 1997, eight districts held Immersion (kit) Training for 1-3 days. There were a total of 257 teachers involved in the district led trainings. All districts but two have completed their five days of Immersion Training at the end of Year II. Also during the summer of 1996, ten content workshops were held with 209 participants. These were one week workshops on earth science, biology, chemistry, physics, technology, integration with language arts and math, and assessment. Six districts also held one day Assessment workshops during the summer with a total of 164 participants. During the summer a total of 434 teachers or 44% were involved. During the entire year 1996-97, 70% of our teachers were involved in some aspect of training. At the end of Year II, the districts have completed their major training on their new science program. The new science programs will be fully implemented at the end of 1998 (Year III).


Lessons Learned

Tremendous growth in teacher involvement in the SEEDS project continues to occur. Ninety-four percent (94%) of our teachers have been involved in the project during the first two years. This is an increase over the 90% involved at the end of Year I. There has never been a county-wide project that has involved this great a percentage of teachers in professional development related to a new curriculum implementation. Twenty percent of the teachers have completed over 100 hours of professional development to date. These are members of the district leadership teams. Forty-six percent of the teacher population have completed fifty percent of the required hours, an increase from last years' 35%.

After two years, the SEEDS project is on schedule with its implementation of a new standards-based science curriculum. All districts have completed training on the new kits and are entering the first full year (1997-98) in which all districts have their new fully implemented curriculum.

A visit to any school in the SEEDS project will provide an overall sense of change in science education throughout the county. The differences are evident when observing science classes and speaking with teachers and principals about how science instruction has changed at their schools. Teachers who previously had taught science from a textbook now teach science with activities. They are not yet at the Level 5 stage of accomplished instruction but the change from passive to active learning has occurred. Teachers recognize that they need to acquire more content knowledge in order to teach effectively and to embed alternative assessments within their teaching. Lead teachers report a very small number of teachers who are unenthusiastic about the move toward hands-on science , however, even these teachers use some kit activities in their classes. The results of teacher and principal surveys generally are very encouraging, although some of the composite scores are not as high as desired. Assessment, parental support, and investigative culture need additional assistance while attitudes, behaviors, and classroom practices steadily improve and reflect a standards based program. The Program Management Team is pleased with the over all progress of the project after two years. The strengths of the program are: (1) Teachers as Leaders. This project is creating leaders at all levels. Teachers are capable of leading reform initiatives with their peers. Teachers can work as teams to create systemic change within their district. (2) District Ownership of Program. Reform works best from within. This is a district led reform initiative where the teachers have choice over the curriculum, the instructional materials and the design of the staff development. (3) SEEDS Model of Sustained Professional Development. Sustained professional development over time is essential for change to occur. Summer training followed up during the year with support and networking are essential for change. Teachers are not used to sustained professional development of more than one year in one area. (4) Integration with other Curricular Areas. The SEEDS program focuses primarily on science, but we attempt to integrate science with other curricular areas. This has given the districts flexibility in their professional development opportunities.


Challenges for Remainder of Project

We have accomplished much, but we still have much to accomplish before the end of the grant funding period. The major challenges and changes for the project are: zWe want to move to "teachers as researchers" and a greater understanding by teachers of their role in continuously improving student achievement. (2) Content/Assessment Workshops. Originally the kit training was separate from assessment as well as content. This year we will integrate them. We plan to change the summer content courses to become more kit specific and integrate the development of specific assessments as well as greater content understanding. (3) Student Achievement. We want student achievement in science to continually improve on state proficiency and district CBE measures. We want to develop alternative assessments that are aligned to the science units and show continuous improvement in student achievement. (4) Investigative Culture. This is one of our lower composites and we plan to offer some sessions this year on open inquiry. (5) Principal Support. Administrative support for reform is essential. Teachers report high administrative support, but some of our principal data is disappointing. We will offer our 4th special session for principals. (6) Parental Support. This is another low composite. We plan to continue our efforts to offer a parent newsletter, training in Family Science Nights, and encouragement of district opportunities to involve parents in the science education of their children. The lessons learned in Year I and Year II are directing the changes in the program for Year III.