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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Report Overview

submitter: A Systemic Partnership to Improve the Teaching and Learning of Science for All Children
published: 04/23/1998
posted to site: 04/23/1998

A Systemic Partnership to Improve the Teaching and Learning of Science for All Children

The Delaware Education Research & Development Center at the University of Delaware provides this Core Evaluation Report to Horizon Research, Inc. It summarizes evaluation activities conducted during the period from September 1, 1996 through August 31, 1997. This time period represents to HRI the baseline year of the Delaware project. Accordingly, appropriate adaptations have been made to the report. The data that serve as the basis of the following narrative sections are limited to the HRI Teacher and Principal Questionnaires administered in May through August of 1997, the HRI classroom observations conducted in May of 1997, and the project's proposal. Additional data collection activities are scheduled for the 1997-98 academic year and, as such, will be included in next year's reporting.

We believe that this report needs to be prefaced by a caveat that concerns professional development activities conducted prior to the initiation of the NSF support for this LSCI. Two major science education reforms that paralleled the current effort include the Delaware Elementary Science Coalition and the State Systemic Initiative. Brief descriptions of both initiatives are provided following Part Three of this report. Their efforts extended to many of the state's school districts, some of which are participants in the current LSCI. As a result, many of the teachers and principals who were selected for our baseline sample cannot be considered "untreated subjects." Throughout the report that follows, we suggest some of the confounding issues that may have resulted because of this situation. For these reasons, the project evaluators found it difficult to respond to some of the core questions and to view these data as truly "baseline" in nature.

Part One: Overview of the LSC Project

This project is a collaborative effort based on a partnership among members of the Delaware Department of Education, the state's business community, and the state's public school districts. Its intent is to improve the teaching and learning of science in the state's elementary schools to enable all students to reach Delaware's Science Standards.

Professional Development Focus

Delaware's LSCI is focused on professional development at three levels within the state's educational system. The first is at the teacher level. The project is designed to provide ongoing professional development to a target group of 1800 teachers over a five-year period. This represents approximately 28% of the state's classroom teachers1. Its professional development activities are linked to a specific K-6 curriculum model intended to foster deep understanding of science content by participating teachers. Concurrently, the activity proposes to strengthen teachers' capabilities in science instruction. An overall goal is to embed science as a central element of curriculum in Delaware's elementary schools.

The LSCI also intends to build the capacity of the state's schools through development of a network of teacher leaders in each participating district. The network will entail a core group of district Coalition Science Specialists (CSS) who will provide direct support to Lead Teachers who mentor teachers at the classroom level. The overall strategy of the network is to decentralize the state's current service delivery system while simultaneously building districts' capacities to support science instruction.

The third focus of Delaware's LSCI is the relationship between higher education and the state's public schools. In an effort to align the state's pre-service and in-service education program for its teachers, the LSCI intends to build working partnerships between those involved in the preparation of teachers at the state and higher education levels. The partnerships are proposed as vehicles to integrate the National and Delaware Science Content Standards into the preparatory and support programs for the state's teachers.

History of Science Education Reform in Delaware

In Delaware, reform in science education has been supported by a five year NSF-funded SSI that was dedicated to promoting the use of exemplary science (and math) curriculum in classrooms. It included activities focused on establishing coherent and mutually supportive policies, programs, and practices intended to enhance student learning. The Delaware State Board of Education adopted the Science Curriculum Frameworks in August 1995 following three years of a broadly participatory development process. Since then a pilot program directed by the Delaware Elementary Science Coalition (DESC) has introduced professional development around curriculum material kits selected by the program. This program has had a high profile within the state. Many teachers in local school districts participating in the LSCI have experienced professional development through the Delaware Elementary Science Coalition program. Many have already used the curriculum materials in their classrooms as is demonstrated by the high percentage of teachers (>50%) of the baseline sample who indicated that they had received training. More than 50% of teachers and 100% of principals in the "baseline" sample have been influenced through their school district's participation in this pilot program.

Part Two: Interpretive Responses to Core Evaluation Questions

Core Evaluation Question I:

What is the overall quality of the LSC professional development activities?

Character of the Professional Development Culture

The Delaware LSCI appears to be promoting a professional development culture that has encouraged the participation of many elementary teachers. Their general responses to the quality of their involvement are positive overall. Thirty-seven (37) percent of the teacher participants in LSCI professional development rated the overall quality of the activities as "good", 29% rated it as "very good" and 23% gave the LSCI an "excellent" rating. Almost two-thirds (65%) of the teacher sample reported that adequate opportunities for science-related professional development had been made available to them. This is of particular import as compared to other studies conducted during the past three years by the Delaware Education Research and Development Center. For the most part, the majority of teachers in the state frequently have criticized the lack of adequate professional development in the state in general. Professional development in science at the elementary level appears to be an exception in regards to access and adequacy. However when examining teachers' opinions more specifically, the general ratings explored above are not exclusively positive. On the overall composite scale, teachers who had participated in LSCI activity, rated the Quality of Professional Development less positively, with only 28% of the teachers scoring 70% or higher (mean = 58.05). This scale examined teachers' rating of the extent to which: 1) they see themselves involved in the planning of professional development, 2) they are encouraged to develop an individualized plan, 3) they are given time to work with other teachers and reflect on what they have learned and, 4) they receive follow-up support.

As far as aspects in need of attention, the issue of time was a central concern among teacher respondents. Most teachers (~75%) expressed that there was little time available to them to work with other teachers or to reflect upon what they have learned and apply it in the classroom. Only a very limited number (6%) of the teacher sample agreed that they have "time during the regular school week to work with (their) peers on science curriculum and instruction." Some 29% of the teacher sample stated their principals "provide time for teachers to meet and share ideas with one another." This lack of time is a common concern of teachers in the state as they attempt to respond to the demands of the state's reform initiative. Moreover, these comments may reveal that the actual structure of the system within which they work has not adapted in ways that facilitate needed collaboration or reflection. Time embedded in the teacher's workday remains a limiting factor to systemic reform.

Quality of Design and Implementation of Professional Development

According to teachers who have participated in LSCI professional development activity, a key strength of the Delaware program is the on-going support that they receive as they attempt implementation. Almost half (49%) of the teachers responded positively to "I receive support as I try to implement what I've learned." Over three-quarters (79%) of the teachers stated that they feel "supported by colleagues to try out new ideas in teaching science." In addition, some 76% of the responding principals described themselves as "well-prepared to support teachers in the implementation of the current national (science) standards." This is a particularly positive endorsement of the local project in that one of its main objectives is to provide a support network to classroom teachers to encourage instructional practice. Furthermore, this component, the need for ongoing and sustained support, a frequently overlooked dimension of effective professional development, appears to be the cornerstone of this project. This focus appears to be successfully creating a professional development culture colored by networks of collegial support.

One dimension of the professional development culture that appears to be in need of further attention relates to the teachers' sense of lack of involvement in decision making. Some 38% stated that they felt little or no involvement in the development of their own individual plan of professional development related to their needs and interests regarding science education. Also, 35% of the teachers expressed a lack of involvement in the planning of their individual science-related professional development. Each of these two issues have direct implications in the results revealed in the overall composite scale of the Quality of Professional Development discussed above. This lack of involvement could be attributed to various factors, one being the structured nature of the Delaware LSCI project, another being the general lack of alternatives available to teachers for professional development in science education. This project represents the state's major effort in science-related professional development. Other opportunities are limited to those provided by individual school districts or higher education course offerings. Considering the limited funds that most of the state's school districts have for professional development, in most cases, local monies are being spent on other content areas such as English language arts, social studies, and mathematics. Consequently, this leaves little room for options for Delaware teachers in regards to the development of their own professional development plans. Other limiting factors have been addressed earlier in regards to teachers' lack of time within the school day to work with other teachers as part of their professional development.

Quality of Disciplinary, Pedagogical, and Leadership Content

One factor by which to judge the disciplinary content of the LSCI professional development activity is to examine participants' perspectives regarding the National Science Education Standards. Teachers expressed a range of responses in regards to their sense of being "well-informed about the NRC National Science Standards." Over half (54%) agreed that they were well informed, while 32% disagreed with this statement.

Furthermore, examination of the HRI scale, "Preparation- Knowledge of Science Topics" reveals that only 18% of the teachers sampled earned 70% or more of the possible points on this scale (mean = 51.95), indicating that a limited number of Delaware teachers expressed confidence in their content knowledge of science. However, there is an inherent limitation of using self-report about science content knowledge and perspectives of degrees of being informed about Standards as accurate and complete measures of the effectiveness of professional development in expanding teachers' content knowledge. To address this issue, we intend, through our local evaluation, to directly examine changes in teachers' science content knowledge during the 1997-98 project year. In addition, further feedback from LSCI professional development participants will be gathered in 1997-98 to examine their perspectives of the degree to which these activities are focused on the state's Science Content Standards.

The pedagogical content of the Delaware LSCI is more readily examined through the responses of project participants on the HRI scale "Preparation- Pedagogical Content." The mean score of teachers who had participated in LSCI professional development activity was 69.38. In this category, 57% of the teachers scored 70% or more of the possible points on this scale, indicating that over half of the sample had confidence in their understanding of current pedagogy as it relates to the teaching of science. These ratings were of teachers' views of their preparedness in areas such as developing conceptual understanding, taking students perceptions into account, providing concrete experiences before abstract treatment, and making connections to other disciplines.

At this point in time, data are too limited to adequately respond to the "Leadership Content" question in this category. None of the composite scales appears to directly address this issue, therefore no interpretations can be proposed in regards to this component.

Until further assessment is made, it appears premature to judge the quality and impact of the disciplinary content of the LSCI professional development activities. However, initial responses of teacher participants seem to imply that there is need to further expand the science content knowledge of the teacher participants due to their lack of preparation or their limited sense of preparedness to teach specific science. Only 18% of the teachers expressed that they felt "very well prepared" to teach science; another 44% felt "fairly well prepared." Interestingly, high percentages of teachers responded that their college coursework had included life science, earth and space science, and physical science, respectively 87%, 68%, and 78%. A parallel demographic indicator that may shed light on this further is that 63% of the teachers in this sample had 11+ years of teaching prior to this school year. It seems that, in their opinion, the preparation they received while in college did not adequately prepare them to teach science in the manner being forwarded through the LSCI. Consequently, in regards to their perceptions of feeling "prepared to teach" specific science topics, those who felt "fairly" and "well" prepared ranged from almost 60% in ecology down to 12% in engineering and design principles.

Building Capacity of Participants

The classroom observation data collected in May 1997 revealed some interesting preliminary findings in regards to the project's potential impact on "improving the capacity of teachers to provide standards-based science education." Although these data derive from only nine (9) classroom observations, they are informative about the role of curriculum materials as related to instructional practice. When permission was sought to observe one classroom, the teacher responded that she had "already had to return the kit." Teachers in the classroom observation sample echoed the same sentiment. There was a perception by the teachers that the "kits" supported "good science". Because they had been returned to the state Science Resource Center, teachers were concerned that the observer would just see "tidying up" science lessons before the close of school. Another teacher was reluctant to invite the observer to her classroom to see her penultimate science lesson of the year. She reported that "this won't be a great lesson" as it was intended as a review lesson prior to the unit test. The teacher seemed aware of what should constitute an exemplary science lesson and that her planned lesson may have contained flaws due to the constraints of the context. The observer rated this lesson with a capsule rating of "2" with the optional comment reported that despite the fact that "the lesson did not ensure understanding of the science content, the teacher maintained a classroom atmosphere that encouraged learning." There appeared to be a belief among the majority of randomly observed classrooms that the "kits" provided access for students to exemplary science.

Of particular interest was that after classroom teachers had returned the "kits", the majority of teachers (5 of the 9) were rated as demonstrating effective or exemplary science instruction. One kindergarten classroom was observed as using NSRC/STC kit materials that had been obtained through a voluntary resource center (Science Alliance). Her purpose was to provide a prolonged classroom activity that could be shared by a number of classrooms in the building. There seemed to be a strong appreciation among sampled teachers of the materials available through the LSCI and that they supported more effective instruction of science. Of greater consequence, some teachers are beginning to demonstrate the instructional practices modeled through the curriculum materials even after the LSCI curriculum materials were not available.

Again, we must advise that the baseline observation data do not entirely represent the current LSCI effort. They also reflect the impact of the previous State Systemic Initiative and the pilot project sponsored through the Delaware Elementary Science Coalition. Both projects were designed to establish exemplary science curriculum and instruction in the Delaware's public school classrooms.

Core Evaluation Question II:

What is the extent of school and teacher involvement in LSC activities?

The initial teacher surveys indicate that 56% of the teachers surveyed have already undergone at least twenty hours of LSCI professional development. Only 26% of the respondents indicated that they have had no professional development. These percentages are for teachers polled in the nine school districts that were part of the original grant. Many of these districts were involved in one or both years of the pilot project.

The LSCI grant proposal targets 1800 teachers over the course of five years. To date, largely due to the existence of a two-year pilot program prior to the initiation of the LSCI, local project records indicate that approximately 1700 teachers have participated in some professional development. However, many of these teachers have not yet reached the target goal of twenty plus hours per year. Considering the effect of previous initiatives, it appears that the LSCI is exceeding its anticipated schedule for delivery of teacher professional development activity. While many teachers have received some professional development, the project's efforts continue and expand. Moreover, project goals not only address participation rates but the instructional effects of such involvement.

Core Evaluation Question III:

What is the impact of the LSC professional development on teacher preparedness, attitudes, and beliefs about science and mathematics teaching and learning?

Core Evaluation Question IV:

What is the impact of the LSC professional development on classroom practices in science and mathematics?

No data other than that collected as part of the HRI baseline are available to address core questions III and IV at this point in time.

Core Evaluation Question V:

To what extent are the district and school contexts becoming more supportive of the LSC vision for exemplary science and math education?

What has been the impact of the LSC on collegiality and other kinds of support teachers perceive for exemplary science reform?

The potential influence of the pilot program and the SSI has been described previously based upon data gathered during a small number (9) of baseline classroom observations. Teachers perceived that the availability of the "kits" (curriculum materials) supported them in the classroom by providing access for their students to "good science".

The analysis of the HRI teacher questionnaire responses indicates that teachers perceive a high level of collegiality with colleagues and within their schools. Of those teachers who had participated in LSCI professional development activities, 61% earned 70% or more of the possible points on the collegiality scale (mean = 73.30). This scale illustrates that many teachers share a vision of effective science instruction, have opportunities within the LSCI to share ideas and materials, and receive support to try out new ideas. Many teachers also rated administrative support as good, with 74% of teachers scoring administrative support with 70% or more of the available points (mean =76.22). This scale addresses the extent to which teachers feel that their principal encourages them to adapt instruction to students' needs, to teach toward the national and state standards, and to explore innovative instructional practices. However, despite many positive perceptions of administrative support, less than one- third (29%) of the teachers agreed that that their "school principal provides time for teachers to meet and share ideas with one another." Furthermore, only 23% agreed that their principal "encourages (them) to observe exemplary science teachers." It appears that conditions being fostered by the LSCI professional development activities are not being as fully supported within the individual school context as would be deemed necessary to fully institutionalize the programs within the participating schools. Work needs to be done to address this need to provide time and ongoing pedagogical support within the school sites themselves.

Parental support was perceived to be low by many of the teacher respondents. Only 4% of the teachers responded positively on the "Parent Support" scale, scoring 70% or more of the possible points on this scale (mean = 38.73). Parent support is defined as parents' volunteering within the classroom setting, donating money or materials for instruction, attending parent-teacher conferences and other school activities, and voicing support for an investigative approach to science education. In addition, teachers expressed mixed opinions as to their capacity to "involve parents in the science education of their students." While about half (46%) said they were "fairly well" or "very well prepared", the other 54% said they were felt only "somewhat" or "not adequately prepared" to address this task. According to the proposal document submitted to NSF, "As teachers are the most important interface with parents, the CSS will work with Lead Teachers ... will build on the successful model 'parent's science nights' which many of the schools established during the first year of the pilot program." The establishment of these programs to introduce parents to the potential contribution of the LSCI may possibly affect teachers' ratings of parent support in the future. However, at the current time, principals expressed varied views about the role of public support. Some 44% of the principals agreed that "public attitudes about reform encourage effective instruction." Yet another 39% of the principals believed that public attitudes had neutral or mixed effects upon effective instruction. As a result, three issues should be flagged for future attention by project directors and staff: 1) the level of community support perceived by teachers and principals, 2) educators' capacity to effectively engage parents in science education, and 3) the degree and quality of public involvement in the LSCI.

What has been the impact of the LSC on the extent of alignment of district policies and practices with the LSC vision?

Delaware principals responded more positively than did teachers to questions relating to the alignment of district policies with the LSCI vision. Alignment is defined as the extent to which educators believe that various school policies and practices encourage or inhibit effective instruction, including specifics such as quality of instructional materials, funding, time for teacher planning, lesson preparation, and collaborative work. Of the principals, 82% earned 70% or more of the possible points on this scale (mean = 84.30) indicating that most principals saw district policies as aligned with LSCI goals. However, teachers differed considerably from administrators on this assessment. On the same scale only 31% of teachers earned 70% or more of the possible points on this scale (mean = 61.01). Some speculations as to these differences may be related to issues that have more direct consequence for classroom teachers. Teachers saw inhibitors to effective instruction in the following areas: 1) 48% complained of lack of time to work with other teachers; 2) 58% believed that there is inadequate time to plan and prepare lessons; 3) 44% indicated a lack of access to computers; 4) 39% stated that there is a lack of funds to purchase equipment and supplies for science. It is important to note that educators' perceptions of the degree of local alignment of district policy and practices with LSCI vision may well be influenced by their responsibilities regarding implementation. While principals are typically involved in the administration and oversight of science education, teachers are closely involved in instructional delivery. Therefore, it is not surprising that principals who are more distant from actual classroom impact would likely judge alignment more positively than teachers who work with the details of implementation with their classrooms.

How has the LSC influenced support for exemplary science education among key stakeholders such as principals, central office personnel, partners and the broader community?

The only evidence that seems to address this question directly comes from the HRI principal questionnaire. There already appears to be high levels of support for exemplary science education from principals. A majority of principals (88%) scored more than 70% of the total possible points available in their responses regarding administrative support for the LSCI vision of instruction (mean = 83.03). This support is defined as the extent to which principals believe that encouraging student questioning is more important than eliciting correct responses. It also includes principals' views of their knowledge about the national standards and how prepared they are to help support teachers as they implement standards in their classroom. In addition, all of the principals (100%) scored 70% or more in regards to their support of inquiry-based science teaching (mean = 92.11). This scale examined principals' ratings of the importance of various reform-oriented strategies related to science instruction. The gap may be attributable to a difference between the ideal and the reality in regards to the implementation of inquiry-based science. This gap was somewhat illuminated in the principals' description of their school's progress toward science reform. Over half (62%) of the respondents judged their schools as making progress, rating them from "well along in improving" to "approaching the ideal." Some 21% judged their schools as "quite far from ideal" to just "beginning to improve." In addition, many administrators have voiced support for science education as it relates to the National Standards and inquiry-based instruction. However, concerns expressed by teachers in regards to contextual and structural issues (as noted in the previous question) remain and need to be addressed by those most able to effect change at that level.

Core Evaluation Question VI:

What is the extent of institutionalization of high-quality professional development systems in the LSCI districts?

To what extent and in what ways has the LSC enhanced the capacity of districts to provide high - quality science professional development?

The goals presented in the LSCI proposal indicate that institutionalization of the program is of primary consideration to the project coalition.

"A major objective of the coalition is to build capacity at the district level to institutionalize the structured / on-site professional development model and the Lead Teacher network" (p.12).

Members of the district steering committee represent each of the school districts that make up the coalition (page 25, proposal). It is the responsibility of these curriculum directors to promote the LSCI vision so that it becomes an integral part of their individual district's professional development program in science education. The curriculum directors' support is pivotal at the district administrative level. Their involvement with the Delaware Elementary Science Coalition, a 2-year science education pilot program that proceeded the initiation of the LSCI, provides an indicator of the ongoing commitment at the school district administration level2. A link between district office and individual schools and classrooms is provided by the lead teacher and coalition science specialist (CSS) positions. The role of the CSS is to "work with the PI/PD to oversee and manage the district and school programs" (page 12, proposal). During the 2-year pilot, lead teachers were identified and recruited to provide contacts between schools; the co-PI and project resource coordinators were located at the state Science Resource Center. A number of lead teachers emerged as instructors for the teacher professional development sessions during the pilot program. One of the largest districts involved in this group supported "teacher at large" positions, where a district teacher was relieved of his/her teaching responsibilities so as to support the district's science program. These teachers, together with established lead teachers from the other districts, were recruited to fill the CSS positions during the summer of 1997. This core of teachers with classroom experience and knowledge of their individual districts provide a link between classroom teachers and administration at both school and district levels. Regular CSS planning meetings with the PD/PI allow coordination of the professional development program for teachers within their districts. One purpose is to explore the relationship between local needs and the demands of the program. The CSS's began the development of their own leadership and content area knowledge during the 2-year pilot program and during the summer of 1997 by attending sessions and graduate level content courses (PD expectations, page 13). The purpose was to increase their capacity to promote professional development within their own districts. Future teacher leadership meetings are planned to further develop lead teachers to facilitate mentoring programs at the school level. The CSS's are currently discussing how this might work within each district. According to the proposal (page 13) "Developing the Lead Teacher and CSS positions will require enormous investment and it is imperative that the positions become institutionalized in order to survive changes" The position of the individual CSS's is perceived by the project leadership as pivotal to the success of the project and to its future institutionalization. According to one of the principal investigators, the creation of these positions was essential and of utmost priority in the plan to institutionalize the program. The CSS positions were filled and ready to operate from the beginning of the current school year. At this point in time, while most districts are not as yet able to provide high-quality professional development, the LSCI has begun to lay the groundwork so that it is a more readily achievable goal at the local level.

To what extent and in what ways has the LSC increased the willingness of the districts to provide resources for on- going, high-quality science professional development?

The LSCI has established a mechanism to use district, state, and NSF resources to provide professional development integrated with curriculum materials that are aligned to the state and national science standards. Several school districts that were not initially a part of the Coalition are currently piloting membership in the program. The LSCI professional development package, including Lead Teachers and CSS positions, offers a different level of teacher enhancement compared to the "make and take" workshops that were so often the only professional development offered for training in classroom science teaching previously. The process provides a vehicle to encourage the use of curriculum materials in elementary classrooms throughout the state. This availability of professional development and support curriculum presents an attractive package to many school districts in Delaware that previously had limited to no capacity to provide professional development in science to their teachers.

The state Science Resource Center also provides a mechanism for the distribution and refurbishment of materials. Without this resource, these responsibilities would have had to be shouldered by the individual districts. In the current model districts finance the refurbishment of LSCI materials as part of their commitment to the program. The state Science Resource Center coordinates the process to optimize the efficient use of the materials throughout the school year. The coordinating role of the CSS's is intended to ensure that teachers, training, and materials are organized through out the coalition districts. According to our observations, this operation is following almost seamlessly from the pilot program. The CSS's represent each individual district's interests from the classroom level through to their relationship with their district curriculum director and the district's classroom teachers. The CSS's have begun to consider ways to provide mentoring to individual teachers. The role of the CSS appears to be pivotal to fostering the district's involvement and commitment to the program.

In summary, the districts' willingness to provide resources is currently represented by their financial and personnel commitment to the LSCI. These commitments will be ongoing as long as a district wished to continue to be part of the project. A relationship has been established that reveals the districts' desire to participate in opportunities to offer high-quality professional development. Some initial steps have been taken toward the goal of having districts capable of offering such quality support independent of the LSCI.

What mechanisms are in place for the continued professional development of science teachers, including teachers new to the system, once the LSC funding period has ended?

It is possible to see the initial steps in this direction. Once again we emphasize that this is not truly a "baseline year" for this project due to the variety of professional development activities that preceded the LSCI. The proposal (Pages 13 -14) lists "discussions" that are underway with the given purpose of institutionalizing this program. There is an awareness (Goal 4 pg. 16) of the need to work at all levels to promote understanding of the program. Again, the establishment of the state Science Resource Center provides regular access to curriculum materials matched to the state and national science content standards. The leadership program, lead teachers and CSS's efforts are directed toward building capacity but allow individual school districts to adapt to local needs. The state is currently undertaking the development of content-specific performance indicators to encourage district curriculum alignment and to serve as the basis of the Delaware State Testing Program. The co-PI of the LSCI plays an active role in the development of the science indicators, increasing the possibility of their alignment with current LSCI efforts. Professional development has focused on embedded assessments at the classroom level. These activities are meant to foster skills among classroom teachers that will endure after the LSCI funding period has ended. An organizational commitment has been made at the state level as the LSCI's co- principal investigator also serves as the Education Associate for Science and Environmental Education in the Delaware Department of Education.

Part Three: Summary and Recommendations

What stands out as the key strengths of this program?

Soundness of the Partnership Model

A key strength of the Delaware LSCI partnership model is its collaborative structure. Based on multi-level participation and diverse support networks, the effort has begun to distribute responsibility for the improvement of elementary science instruction among many constituencies. They include not only teachers and school districts, but community, business, and higher education groups. Some of the initial effects of this model include high levels of educator participation, collegiality, and mentoring, financial and personnel commitment by local school districts, and active involvement as well as financial support of the science business community.

Improving Educator Access

Access to important components of improved science education is another strength of the Delaware LSCI. Improved access is seen at numerous levels: 1) teachers having increased access to exemplary science curriculum materials regardless of the financial capacity of the particular district within which they teach; 2) the state Science Resource Center provides and continually updates curriculum materials aligned with state and national science standards; 3) district access to professional development and curriculum; and, 4) educators access to ongoing professional development.

Influencing the State's Education Reform Agenda

One of the LSCI's principal investigators also acts as the state's lead in science education. She has been able, in this dual role, to significantly influence the path of science education reform within the state of Delaware. Through her dynamic leadership, she has focused on bringing coherence to the reform by aligning its key dimensions: standards, curriculum, professional development, and assessment. This capacity has fostered an alignment of state education policy and instructional practice in science in Delaware's elementary schools. Her leadership, along with the partnerships she has developed in important segments of the Delaware business community, is pivotal to much of the progress of science reform in the state to date.

Please comment on the extent to which the project has been able to make use of lessons learned to date for mid-course correction.

At this point in time, data are too limited to adequately respond to this question.

What are the key challenges for this project in the coming year?

Expanding Teachers' Knowledge of Science

Being able to address the needs of classroom teachers so that they not only develop appropriate instructional strategies but that they develop a true understanding of the nature of science presents on-going challenges to the LSCI. Taking into account teachers' different levels of understanding as well as their varied levels of preparation in science compounds the problem all the more. As the project has aligned itself with national and state science standards, the implications for the content knowledge needs of teachers to effectively facilitate students' learning is magnified. It seems that addressing these needs can not only be the responsibility of the LSCI but must be fully embraced by many of the project's partners, including higher education, the state, business, and the local school districts.

Fostering Institutionalization

One of the biggest challenges faced by this LSCI is to facilitate change in the schools in such a way that they will remain upon the completion of the five-year project. Much progress to date has already been made in this area, even though this is only the "baseline" year of this project. Building districts' capacity so each will be able to continue to address the professional development needs of teachers presents myriad challenges to the project personnel. Districts vary greatly in their readiness and financial capability to continue efforts of this magnitude. Networks that are being currently built partially address this issue. The need for basic structural adaptation, such as increased time for teacher collaboration and mentoring, poses different concerns. Leadership at the district and building level also will play key roles in the continuation of inquiry-based science teaching.

Minimizing Leadership Vulnerability

The leadership discussed as a key strength of the LSCI above can also be construed as an area of potential vulnerability of the project. The commitment of the current co-PI and her extensive influence among state policymakers could pose a challenge to the project should there be a change in leadership for whatever reason. Efforts to disseminate leadership responsibilities have been initiative as more individuals have become part of the partnership and network that supports the LSCI. These efforts, however, need to continue and expanded on a larger scale so as to enable more individuals to shoulder the leadership responsibilities over time and to increase the possibilities of effective institutionalization.

Based on your synthesis of the data, please provide your recommendations for...

  1. Modifying the design and implementation of the LSCI professional development to increase the impact on targeted teachers and their classroom practices.

  2. Moving the system toward greater alignment of district policies and practices and broad-based support for the LSCI vision of reform.

  3. Moving the system toward enhanced capacity, resources, and structures for sustaining a high-quality professional development system.

At this point in time, data are too limited to adequately respond to these questions.

Brief History of Science Education Reform in Delaware

This appendix is presented to briefly describe some of the other initiatives that have been conducted in the state of Delaware prior to the genesis of the Local Systemic Change Initiative. We believe that these efforts have had effects upon the teachers and school districts within the state and need be accounted for in this report. We detail these efforts because it is important to understand that their presence over the past five years have no doubt influenced the state of science education at the levels of both policy and practice.

Delaware Elementary Science Coalition

An additional program that addressed the professional development needs of elementary teachers in science education was the Delaware Elementary Science Coalition Program. Its activities are described more fully in the LSCI proposal. This 2-year project served as a pilot program to the LSCI and developed some of the groundwork and infrastructure that supports the current LSCI project.

It entailed three key components: 1) the professional development of elementary teachers in science content and pedagogy; 2) the identification of and leadership training for a group of Lead Teachers to establish networks with national science networks, and 3) professional development of building principals designed to establish peer networks, to expose them to inquiry-based science, and to effect support for the Lead Teachers.

As can be clearly seen from the above-described initiatives, there has been significant investment in improving science education in the state prior to the Local Systemic Change Initiative. Many of the goals of these efforts resemble those sought by the current project. For these reasons, we believe that it is not appropriate to view the data collected in the spring of 1997 as baseline.

Delaware Statewide Systemic Initiative

The following excerpt is taken directly from the final report of the Delaware Statewide Systemic Initiative submitted to the National Science Foundation in November of 1997 by Paul G. LeMahieu, principal investigator and Helen Foss, project director.

"The SSI effort, Project 21, was one of several components of the State Department of Public Instruction's systemic reform initiative, "New Directions for Education In Delaware." The SSI's overriding strategy was simultaneously top down and bottom up: Shaping policy that drives and supports desired practice AND engaging with school partners to transfer that practice. This site-based development work both built new models of working together and informed policy, all toward producing high quality, standards-based mathematics and science teaching and learning. Sustained work by school-site teams (and later complemented by networks of teachers across districts), engaged practitioners with the best curricula available to pilot, experience, reflect and refine instances of best practice in making the new standards come alive in their classrooms. This work informed the substantial contributions the SSI made to the major "New Directions" reform policy instruments: the Mathematics and Science Curriculum Framework documents, the State Testing Program, and the Curriculum Consumers Information Service website, and standards for high quality and effective professional development. It also modeled and refined a new approach to professional development and needed organizational development issues to be addressed to support reformed practice. The Delaware SSI efforts most valued by the system have been embedded in the Delaware Education Research and Development Center at the University of Delaware and the State Department of Education."

This five-year reform initiative also yielded the following findings that are of particular interest because of how they parallel the goals of the current LSCI effort.

"IMPACT (See Horizon Research Evaluation Report in Appendix 2)

  • Every teacher and every student is being impacted by the SSI contributions to the state standards and the state testing program
  • 60% of the state's math and science teachers and administrators from one-third of the state's schools had direct contact with the SSI's professional development
  • Impacted change in teacher classroom practice"

Appendix A:

Description of Data Collection Activities for the 1996-1997 LSC Core Evaluation Report

Appendix B:

Rating Forms

Appendix C:

Questionnaire Results Tables

Appendix D:

Scannable Observation Protocols and Interview Summaries

The observation protocols have been submitted via the Web. We did not conduct Teacher Interviews as they were not a required part of the baseline data collection activities.

  1. The total number of "classroom teachers" in Delaware's public schools in 1995-96 was reported as 6463 as reported by the Delaware Department of Education in their Report of Educational Statistics, 1995-96. These were the most current figures available at the time of this report.

  2. The purposes and activities of the Delaware Education Science Coalition are more fully described in the LSCI project proposal as well as summarized at the end of this report.