Communication Center  Conference  Projects Share  Reports from the Field Resources  Library  LSC Project Websites  NSF Program Notes
 How to Use this site    Contact us  LSC-Net: Local Systemic Change Network
Newsclippings and Press Releases

LSC Reference Materials

LSC Case Study Reports

Annual Report Overviews

Summer Workshop Plans

Annual Report Overviews


Annual Overview

submitter: Valle Imperial - Project in Science
published: 11/25/1998
posted to site: 11/25/1998

PART I: Annual Overview

The Valle Imperial Project in Science (VIPS) is a $3.3 million, four year Local Systemic Change Initiative focusing on K-6 science education reform for 14 rural, geographically isolated school districts in Imperial County, California. Imperial County is both one of the largest (4597 square miles) and most sparsely populated (130,000 people) counties in California. The county is located in the southeast corner of the state, adjacent to the Arizona and Mexican borders. VIPS is a collaboration between the 14 districts and San Diego State University, Imperial Valley Campus. The initiative serves more than 22,500 predominately poor (70% Title I eligible) Hispanic (81%) students in 14 rural districts consisting of 37 elementary schools. VIPS has been in operation for approximately five months at the time of this report.

In this context, the following activities and accomplishments of VIPS in its first five months include:

A Model for Reform

VIPS is an outgrowth and an expansion of the successful K-6 elementary science reform effort undertaken by the El Centro Elementary School District as part of their involvement in the Pasadena Center for Improving Elementary Science Education project, another NSF funded project. The Pasadena Center initiative, in turn, was founded on the successful elementary science reform program in the Pasadena Unified School District. El Centro has just completed its three year association with the Center. It has, as a result, developed the teacher leadership and design capacity to provide the nucleus of the LSC, and to extend the work of elementary science educational reform from El Centro to the rest of Imperial County in collaboration with the 14 participating districts and San Diego State University, Imperial Valley Campus. The presence of key components from the El Centro experience not only have jump-started the project, but also serve as the major design elements of the VIPS LSC. The experience with the Pasadena Center by El Centro , including pilot schools, the training of a Pilot School Coordinator and Pioneer Teachers and moving outward toward whole district reform, has established a model with specific implementation procedures and structures which serve as the foundation for VIPS.

High Quality Curriculum

Also based upon the El Centro experience with the Pasadena Center, 27 well-designed standards-based kits were selected to form the nucleus of the curriculum. The materials are matched to local, state and national standards by VIPS staff. The kits have been adopted by all participating districts and serve as the curriculum for the project. They have been used by the El Centro pilot school teachers for the past three years.

Sustained Professional Development

The El Centro effort is also responsible for providing the first generation of teacher leadership to the VIPS LSC. The current VIPS Project Director was the El Centro Pilot School Coordinator (PSC) with the Pasadena center project. She has received extensive training and support over the last three years. Two of the three School Resource Teachers (SRT) were pioneer teachers at the pilot schools and have received extensive training as pioneer teachers. Since they became SRTs, they have received extensive training at the Exploratorium Institute for Inquiry and at the Pasadena Center during the summer of 1998. The first group of lead teacher trainers also were pioneer teachers at the pilot schools. The principals from the pilot schools were leaders along with the VIPS staff in conducting an orientation meeting held in May for principals from all 37 participating schools.

During the summer of 1998, 116 teachers from five districts received initial six hour training on their first unit. The training consisted of investigating the big idea underlying the unit and the developmental storyline of the supporting activities. Issues related to content and pedagogy were addressed. Lead teachers and science professionals provided examples of student notebooks, lessons learned and content and questioning strategies. The same training was provided for another 76 teachers in October bringing the first cohort of participants to almost 200. Teachers new to the pilot schools and those who were previously trained at the pilot schools who changed grade levels were also included in this cohort. These teachers along with the continuing pilot school teachers bring about 25% of the eligible teachers in the county into the program. A round of training on a second unit of study will take place for Cohort 1 in the spring of 1999.

Each trained teacher receives regular in-class support from the SRTs using a supportive, coaching approach. The regularly scheduled visits of the SRT involve a range of supports - from helping first time kit users inventory their materials, to informal discussions and reviews of classroom sessions.

Teacher debriefing sessions have been scheduled this fall to follow-up the introductory sessions. The sessions are intended to give teachers an opportunity to "debrief" their units to deepen their understanding of the units as well as to share promising practices and exemplars of student work. The sessions will also provide a basis for surfacing teacher’s developing needs in content and pedagogy and to initiate the project work on student assessment.

The project has initiated a strong preservice component with San Diego State University. The VIPS Project Director now teaches the science methods class for all new elementary candidates. A three day summer institute was held for 33 university staff, student teachers, supervising teachers and principals to establish parameters for student teaching and develop a set of common experiences for an articulated preservice program. All student teachers have been placed with trained project teachers and will teach a unit this fall. A one day debriefing will be held in January to provide formative feedback to this. Information will be used to revise the content, as necessary, for the next institute this winter.

Materials Support

El Centro established a Science and Mathematics Resource Center as part of its scaling up with the Pasadena Center. Additional buildings were added this summer. It now serves as the hub of the VIPS materials support component. Located adjacent to an elementary school, it serves as the locus for kit storage, refurbishment, training and office space for the project. Each participating district has already signed an memoranda of understanding regarding cost sharing, stipend payment, kit ordering and refurbishment procedures. The superintendents and chief business officers of each district meet regularly to deal with financial and logistical issues. A new software package was installed this fall to track kits, training, billing and refurbishment costs.

Key Lessons Learned

Using an existing model of pilot schools, proven curriculum, and a time tested scale up model were instrumental in this project emerging to the degree it has in so short a time. The existence of the pilot program in El Centro has provided a source of model schools to build from county wide.

Careful planning and vertical communication were key elements in reaching consensus regarding how decisions are made in the project. Each district has a vertical team consisting of the superintendent, business officer, district teacher representative, principal and business partner (as appropriate) to deal with the various roles and responsibilities in this systemic process. This vertical team is represented on a project wide steering committee along with VIPS staff and university staff. This has been critical to deal with the diverse needs in this geographic region.