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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Overview

submitter: Elementary Science Education Partners (ESEP) Program
published: 12/03/1998
posted to site: 12/03/1998


The ESEP program is a partnership between the Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and a consortium of colleges in the metro-Atlanta area. Its goal is to enhance science instruction at the APS elementary schools. The Atlanta Public Schools' student population is over 90% African-American and three fourths of the students are eligible for free- and reduced-lunch services. The need for retooling elementary teachers in science content and inquiry pedagogy is great across the system. The program serves approximately 1600 teachers in 69 elementary schools through a grade-level phase in of professional development, science materials and support. The foci of the ESEP project this year were (1) recruitment and training of college students as partners for the elementary school teachers; (2) collaboration with APS to select science kits for the classrooms that cover the state-mandates and local science curriculum as well as complement the textbooks and capture the spirit of the national science standards; (3) provision of quality professional development opportunities and support for the classroom teachers; (4) recruitment of science professionals as school mentors; and (5) a program of participatory reform that ensures that the project is culturally compatible with the system needs and that the administration and faculty are actively engaged in the design and implementation of the reform. As noted in the list below, the ESEP project has had many successes in 1998, but also some setbacks. These are reported below.

Major Accomplishments

Science Partners

In this calendar year, 344 undergraduates partnered with 341 teachers to provide 8470 hours of assistance. This number represents 21% of the elementary teacher population in the APS. A major accomplishment in the spring quarter this year has been to form a link with the Georgia Institute of Technology through the establishment of a campus coordinator position located in CEISMC (Center for Education Integrating Science Mathematics and Computing). The increase in the number of Georgia State student partners coupled with the addition of the Georgia Institute of Technology campus partners allowed us to fill 99% of the teacher requests for partners.

Professional Development

A total of 1408 teacher participants will have received professional development support in 1998 through intensive two-day science kit class workshops. The professional development effort targeted 259 third-grade teachers who were provided in-service workshops on their second and third of three kits. Three hundred fifty-three teachers at the second grade were introduced to the program via their first ESEP science kit class. Over 100 are expected to complete their second kit class before the end of December. Maintenance of the fourth- and fifth-grade teachers' support was through professional development for 313 teachers new to the grade level or the system. Each will have participated in at least two science kit classes by the end of November. Additional support was provided in the form of two half-day workshops to 115 first- and second-grade teachers in 16 pilot schools. Thirteen new SKIL (Science Knowledge Inquiry and Leadership) teachers were added to the cadre of teacher leaders in the ESEP program. Three 80-hour summer leadership institutes were provided for 39 lead SKIL teachers. Each teacher participated in the appropriate level summer institute: Advanced (14 participants), Intermediate (12 participants) or Introductory (13 participants). Professional development was provided to 69 Instructional Liaison Specialists via a full day inservice and to all 69 elementary principals in the form of two half-day workshops.

Kit-based science curriculum SKIL teachers piloted first- and second-grade kits and a final selection for those grades were made. The appropriate number of second-grade kits was purchased for use in the classroom. Over 96% of kits delivered to the schools were actually used. Reliability and accuracy of kit refurbishment has become a trademark of the Science Materials Support Center. Kits were delivered and picked up on time. Errors in refurbishment were negligible. To account for changes made in the state mandated Quality Core Curriculum (QCC), ESEP staff began recorrelating the kit lessons, the textbook and the QCC. Work is also underway to help teachers link science content with the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (ITBS). Teachers will be provided instruction and practice in constructing test items that use an ITBS format and will use content taken directly from the science kit. Student achievement in critical thinking, formulating good questions, and comprehension of science content will be an emphasis in preparing elementary students for this high stakes test.

Lessons learned or confirmed

Participatory reform, i.e., a program explicitly designed to elicit 'ownership' of the reform effort by APS teachers and administrators has proven to be absolutely essential. We have devoted much time and energy to this aspect of the program, but more is needed. As anticipated, a single two-day kit focused workshop provides insufficient opportunity for many teachers to develop the content knowledge base and pedagogical skills to be able to offer engaging, information-rich inquiry science lessons to the children in their classes. Materials-driven science lessons dramatically increase the level of interest of children in science. After a year or more of experience teaching with science kit, teachers routinely report that they use the science lessons as a reward system: 'if you behave well this morning, I'll let you have an extra half-hour of science.' Even after two or three years with the program, not all of our lead SKIL teachers are prepared to be leaders. Forming a semester-long relationship with a classroom full of urban children has a significant, often life-changing impact on college undergraduates. It is unclear how the ESEP program will be assimilated into the Atlanta Systemic Initiative grant.