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Annual Report Overviews


Annual Overview

author: Jack Collette, Rachel Wood
submitter: A Systemic Partnership to Improve the Teaching and Learning of Science for All Children
published: 01/14/1999
posted to site: 01/14/1999

Annual Report of the Delaware LSCI: A Systemic Partnership for Improving the Teaching and Learning of Science For All Students

November 16, 1998

Rachel E. Wood and John W. Collette

A. Overview

The purpose of the Delaware LSCI is to build capacity at the district and school level to ensure that all children have the opportunity to obtain the skills and knowledge needed to meet the expectations of the Delaware Science Standards and Performance Indicators. The LSCI is the responsibility of the Science Coalition of Delaware, a coalition of fourteen school districts in partnership with the Department of Education and the Delaware Science, Math & Technology Education Foundation.

The program, called "The Smithsonian" locally, has gained significant recognition throughout the state based on the enthusiastic response of students to the inquiry-based science; the model of teacher enhancement that provides on-going professional development to all elementary teachers; and for the comprehensive approach to reform which considers curriculum, instruction, leadership, policy and community support.

Major Accomplishments

1. Implementation Proceeding Smoothly

This last year was eventful as the elementary program evolved from a major pilot program to full-scale implementation in the nine original districts and expanded to five new districts. This expansion included two of the larger districts in the state and increased the number of teachers who will be involved in professional development program by more than 50%

With these additions:

  • The LSCI has now been adopted by fourteen of the fifteen school districts with elementary grades in the state and has the potential to reach >90% of the public schools students and teachers in the state.

  • The number of Coalition Science Specialists (CSS) who work closely with the PI to oversee implementation at the district level has expanded from 12 to 18. State and district funds support 4.5 of the 6 new CSS.

  • The number of schools being served has increased from 89 to 119 and the number of Lead Teachers has increased to 141 (some schools have more than one Lead Teacher). Lead Teachers take 40 hours of professional development beyond the kit training and work to implement the program at the school level.

2. Increased Funding Obtained

With strong support from local districts, the State Board of Education, the Department of Education and the business community , the legislature increased funding for the program from $428,000 to $680,000. The additional funds support 3.5 new Coalition Science Specialists, the purchase of new science materials and expansion of the Science Resource Center. This is a significant endorsement for the program, and an important step in the process of sustainability.

A supplemental grant of $250,000 was obtained from NSF, based on the increased number of teachers who would be reached by the LSCI.

A four year grant of $90,000 was obtained from the Hewlett Packard Foundation \ to support introduction of more inquiry based curriculum and instruction into Grades 7 and 8.

3. Performance Indicators Developed

Grade level Performance Indicators (PI's) are being developed in all major subjects under the leadership of the Department of Education. These indicators will provide a greater degree of specificity to the Delaware Science Standards by defining measurable indicators of the science concepts that students need to understand at each grade level. They establish a clearer basis for measuring student performance against the Standards and are an important element in a system of accountability.

The Principle Investigator is responsible for the development of the K-12 Performance Indicators in science. The Coalition Science Specialists have been actively involved with the PI in the development and the review of the K-5 Indicators which will help ensure that the curricula used in the LSCI districts are aligned with the Standards and the PIs. They are also determining if new science units need to be added to any grade to allow students to meet the PI's.

4. Assessments Developed

The CSS and the Lead Teachers have worked with Assessment Director over the last year to better understand concept mapping and to identify the major science concepts in each of the science kits. Through their work, one End of Unit Assessment has been developed and is being tested at each grade level this year.

The CSS began work with an Assessment Consultant with expertise in TIMSS to develop scoring rubrics, End of Year Assessments and to eventually set Performance Standards.

5. Middle School Pilot Program Established

A middle school pilot was initiated this year to meet a number of urgent needs. First, many students who had been in the Smithsonian Program for two or more years have been disappointed with the lack of inquiry-based instruction in Grades 7 and 8. Second, students and teachers are concerned about the Delaware State Testing Program which will be field tested at grades 4, 6, 8 and 11 in spring 1999 and will be be a high stakes test at Grade 8 in 2001.

A Middle School Committee consisting of the PI, LSCI staff, outstanding middle school science teachers and representatives from the University of Delaware and Delaware State University have defined a grade 6-8 curriculum aligned with the appropriate Performance Indicators. One curriculum unit for each grade was selected for a pilot project using existing curricular material where possible. With the aid of a four year Hewlett-Packard grant, 42 teachers from grade 6 -8 received training this summer. These teachers will test the units next spring, then work together to revise them in preparation for training a new group of teachers next summer. A Science Specialist has been hired by the University of Delaware to lead this effort. Future funding for this position will be incorporated into the LSCI grant.

6. Science Coalition Policies and Procedures Established

The first annual Retreat of the Science Coalition was held in May, 1998 to bring together the LSC Steering Committee, Project Staff , Superintendents, members of the State School Board and of Board of the Delaware Science, Math and Technology Education Foundation.

The retreat led to a thorough examination of the processes for governing the Coalition and for overseeing the LSCI program. As a result, The Coalition formalized its leadership, established a regular meeting schedule, defined the Roles and Responsibilities for the Steering Committee, the Coalition Science Specialists and the Lead Teachers and established an Advisory Committee for the Science Resource Center.

7. Lessons Learned

  1. Expanding too fast: The combination of expansion to fourteen districts plus the efforts of most districts to speed up kit implementation led to a rapid increase in demand for professional development courses. This made it difficult at times to provide qualified staff for the professional development, a fact reflected in elements of the Core Evaluation.

  2. External factors, including accountability legislation, choice legislation, legislation mandating a decrease in class size for grades K-3 and an increased number of teacher retirements has resulted in an unexpectedly high level of teacher movement in the LSCI with teachers moving to different grades, to different schools and to different districts. This is increasing the need for additional teacher training.

  3. We found that attempts to develop assessments and especially End of Unit Assessments involving all the Lead Teachers did not provide high quality results. This work is best done with small groups of teachers who become well trained in asseements.

  4. The Memorandum of Understanding has proved to be a very useful document that we recommend for use by any consortia or partnership. It has provided a concrete framework for adding new districts to the Science Coalition; for informing administrators who are not connected directly with the project about the commitments and expectations that have been made by their organizations; and it provides a set of common principles for resolving new issues as they arise.

  5. Standards based reform is a human endeavor and one must always consider fundamental people needs while vigorously pursuing reform. For example, we have found that providing child care not only has been very helpful in ensuring that more young teachers are able to participate in professional development sessions; it has also improved perceptions of the LSCI as a teacher friendly project both with teachers and with the teachers union.