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Annual Report Overviews


Partnerships for Elementary Science Education Annual Overview

submitter: Partnership for Elementary Science Education
published: 03/21/2000
posted to site: 03/24/2000


Partnerships for Elementary Science Education (PESE) is organized around five major areas of focus: professional development, curriculum, materials support, assessment, and administrative and community involvement. Our current project consists of approximately 840 teachers of grades K-6 in seven districts and 40 buildings.

PESE received NSF funding in 1997. Implementation is occurring in two phases. During Phase I (1997-2001), twenty-two buildings will complete a full implementation of science kits. Phase I includes six school districts (Battle Ground, Hockinson, LaCenter, Kalama, Ridgefield and Woodland) and approximately 390 teachers. In Phase II (1999-2002), Evergreen School District will implement science kits in eighteen buildings (approximately 450 teachers).

In addition to the seven school districts, PESE partners include Educational Service District 112, Washington State University- Vancouver, and Hewlett-Packard, Vancouver Division. Significant resources, both fiscal and personnel, have been committed to the project by all partners. To date, the project has met its cost-match obligation, and work is proceeding as anticipated. We have leveraged funds from the National Science Foundation, the Eisenhower Professional Development Program, district general funds, state professional development funds, and private business and industry funds. A cadre of volunteers and a few private businesses have provided additional support.

Achievement to Date (1997-1999)

PESE staff consists of one director, six science specialists, and two program assistants. The Science Materials Center Staff includes one coordinator, and two kit assemblers. Science specialists coordinate and teach classes and provide classroom assistance to teachers. Lead teachers conduct introductory courses and act as building contacts for the project. Consultants are hired as needed to teach a variety of specialty topics.

The PESE grant targeted four goal clusters: 1) curriculum reform, 2) instructional practice, 3) instructional resources, and 4) collaboration. Significant progress has been made toward achieving specific goals in each cluster. Prior to the project, most districts had no aligned science curriculum being consistently implemented, and instructional resources were limited to what teachers had on hand and/or textbooks. As a result of PESE teachers now have:

  • A scheduled rotation of kit materials (8-9 weeks in length for each unit) resulting in a significant increase in the amount of science being taught at the elementary grades
  • Access to kit training, targeted content courses, and other professional development
  • District commitment to materials support and long term professional development
  • Technical assistance from a specialist focusing on materials use, strategies for assessing student learning, and use of technology
  • Access to scientists and secondary teachers

The result to date is that teachers feel successful teaching science and students are actively engaged in science instead of reading about it.

The greatest challenge we face is moving teachers from a mechanical use of science materials to student-centered investigations. Last summer, we offered a new course entitled "From Kits to Inquiry". Our goal is to encourage teachers to use science kits to foster more of an investigative culture and investigative practices in their science classes. This course and development of another course on "Standards-Based Science Instruction" should provide teachers practical strategies for more intentional use of the kits to promote thinking skills and problem solving in science.

The following table provides an overview of accomplishments for the year. Funding, if other than NSF is indicated by an asterix.

Professional Development (Primary funding from NSF)
Phase I schools. 390 teachers. Professional development average is 25 hours per teacher per year. Three cohorts of teachers (75 total) have been involved with ongoing leadership activities.
Phase II schools. 450 teachers. Began professional development spring/summer 1999 for 250 teachers. Leadership cadre for physical science (36 teachers) established.
Teachers have benefited from over 2,600 hours of technical assistance in classrooms.
Professional development courses (3-36 hours) have been developed including kit training, content analysis of science kits, content courses in earth-life-physical sciences (by kit topic), science kits to inquiry, leadership development and other topics.
Some schools have established study groups and regular team meetings for science.
Over 250 sessions PD have been conducted for grade level teams, building wide in-service, and cross-district teacher workshops.

Curriculum (Primary funding from NSF and Eisenhower)
Select teachers and specialists have aligned science program with state standards (science, math, reading, writing, communication).
*Draft of Mount St. Helens curriculum developed for field trip extension (gr. 5-6), this updated out of date and incorrect materials currently in use by teachers.
*Field trips developed to support science kits. The Pearson Air Museum, the Water Resources Education Center, the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge, and the Center for Agriculture, Science and Environmental Education have coordinated resources and personnel with PESE.

Materials (*Primary funding from Hewlett-Packard and school districts)
*A cooperative agreement is signed by all districts, science materials are a line item expense on annual budgets.
*Science materials center (SMC) grew from 1.5 staff to 3 staff.
*Purchased $400,000 worth of kit materials for districts to get every building on a synchronized rotation of kit materials (3 kits per year, fall-winter-spring rotation).
*Hewlett-Packard donates 4000 totes (containers) for science kits.
*SMC staff visits science resource centers in Maryland to study operations.

Assessment (Primary funding from NSF)
Project wide evaluation included teacher surveys, interviews, classroom observation and prof. dev.observations.
Monthly meetings with PESE staff and districts provide formative project assessment and coordination.
Established baseline for long term study of student scores in science using (Evergreen SD).
Classroom based assessment strategies embedded in all professional development.

Community and Administrative Support (Primary funding and HP and school district funds*)
*Maintain a database of 60 scientists and engineers.
*Recruited scientists/engineers in Phase II community.
*Region wide event with Larry Lowery for superintendents, principals, legislators, and partners. Over 100 people in attendance (50% administrators).
*Eight superintendents visit NSF, Smithsonian, and Montgomery County Science Center.