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DESERT Annual Report Overview

published: 11/27/2000
posted to site: 11/27/2000
The D

The D.E.S.E.R.T Project

Annual Overview Year Two 1999-2000


Description of Project


The D.E.S.E.R.T. Project (District wide Emphasis on Science Education Reform in Tucson), located in Tucson, Arizona is now (9/2000) beginning its third year. The overall aim of the project remains to create systemic change in the way science is perceived and taught, so that all students, K-8, develop scientific literacy. The Project, in collaboration with the University of Arizona and the business community, has three primary goals:

• Promote clear standards for effective science education which follow the guidelines outlined by the National

Science Education Standards

• Provide both district wide and site-based professional development for educators to develop capacity to teach

science and to improve student achievement;

• Develop sites as learning communities to sustain system wide reform efforts

The district serves over 63,000 students, 53 percent are ethnic minorities and 56 percent receive free or reduced lunch. Bilingual education (Spanish) is a significant focus in 60 percent of schools in the district. TUSD operates 74 elementary schools, 20 middle schools, and 11 high schools. The district mission is to provide students with the knowledge, skills, and personal qualities they will need to meet the challenges of the 21st Century.

DESERT Project provides both district wide and site-based professional development for roughly 1600 teachers, 94 principals, and 28 assistant principals. Three strands of professional development: leadership, district wide, and site-based, target different systemic levels and concerns of staff throughout the district.

The leadership strand provides knowledge and skills to support the change guides for science education reform in the district. The strand currently includes all 94 K-8 principals, 25 assistant principals, eight Collaborative Teachers, 98 school-based Site Facilitators, and a teacher leadership cadre of approximately 15 teachers, who facilitate professional development and collaborative research.

Principals are critical supports for the site based professional development occurring in cohort schools. All Principals attend annual two hour, sessions, to identify the elements of teaching and learning at the heart of this reform effort. In addition, twenty Cohort 1 principals attended quarterly, two hour, sessions to support the science site action plans at their schools. Cohort 1 principals also participated in a 30 hour, Summer Assessment Institute with their site teams. Twenty Cohort 2 principals received fours hours of orientation to a site profiling process to help develop site action plans during a 30 hour Summer Leadership Institute. Principals (n48) also attended a Principals Understanding Leadership in Science Education (PULSE) session, in August 2000 "Windows on Inquiry", on the importance of questioning strategies,

The Collaborative Teacher (CT) professional development activities have focused on their development of 15 hour site based Learning Forums to address effective science teaching, classroom climate and site team building. A retreat in December 1999, allowed the CT's to refine professional development and project goals to share with the 2-4 Cohort 1 schools they each were assigned in year two. CT's continue to expand their knowledge and understanding of the district's science curriculum and build expertise related to reform, through weekly group sessions, visitation with teacher leaders in other LSC communities, and attending conferences, and institutes.

As a floow up to the fifteen hour Inquiry /Leadership Institute in August 1999, the 94 K-8 Site Facilitators participated in monthly two hour professional development sessions throughout the school year (9 total). They also attended a 30 hour session in August 2000 to further explore inquiry science teaching & learning and the role of questioning in the district CORE science curriculum. Consultants, Fred Stein, from the Exploratorium, Institute for Inquiry, and Dr. Larry Lowery, from LHS, assisted with the design and delivery of both the summer programs.

A group of classroom teacher leaders are learning professional development skills by assisting CT's with the 15 basic kit workshops offered during the school year and summer. This group will eventually take full responsibility for these courses. Ongoing support, such as teaming with CT's and scientist partners is being provided for these teacher leaders throughout the project to develop their capacity for consistent, high quality, professional development during scale up and beyond the scope of the grant period. In addition, their classrooms are becoming models for science teaching in the district ..

The district-wide professional development strand provides opportunities for all K-8 teachers to meet the science instructional needs of diverse learners. Basic or Foundation courses are designed for first time users of CORE programs. Extension courses for each grade level expand the participant experience with inquiry, content and assessment and on how to build student's conceptual understanding through the modules. These grade specific courses support a more consistent district wide curriculum and increase teacher confidence and expertise to provide effective science instruction. Since the project start, teachers enrolled in over XXX content and pedagogy offerings available through either district or community sources. . Professional development focused on assessment literacy began with the 30 hour Assessment Institute in May 2000 Basic, extension, content, and pedagogy courses and study groups are offered each year of the Project. The expectation is for all K-8 teachers in the district to participate in these four types of professional development during the five years of the D.E.S.E.R.T. Project.

Site-based Learning Forums were introduced to the twenty Cohort 1 schools this year. Small faculty groups of ten or fewer, met during in service for a total of fifteen hours to study Effective Teaching and/or Classroom Climate. The goal of the sessions are to develop the site learning community, encourage peer collaboration, and promote shared leadership among staff. As this strand develops over life of the project the D.E.S.E.R.T. staff will facilitate site planning sessions, introduce topics and strategies such as community building, peer coaching, scope and sequence, teacher research, journaling, mentoring, networking, formative assessment and formats for site based study groups. All cohort 1 site teams (n 5-12 each) attended a 30 hour, Assessment Institute, in May 2000 to develop strategies to focus on formative assessment and student understanding. This will be the focus of their second year action plan. Each Cohort 1 held a 4-8 hour pre-service day in August 2000 for all teachers at the site to develop this plan. Sites will receive funds to support 15 hours of site based professional development for each teacher on staff and

The second Cohort of 20 sites, selected in the fall of 1999, underwent a site profiling process including a self assessment tool and classroom observations, provided by team of external and district staff. Their leadership teams (5-12) attended a 30 hour Summer Institute in July 2000. They began intensive work with an assigned CT this fall that will extend over at least the next two years. Two additional cohorts (20-25 sites each) will be initiated ibn year three and four. Following application and selection, each site begins by conducting a site needs assessment profile to define the sites progress toward the goals of the D.E.S.E.R.T. project in five critical areas: vision/leadership, professional development, curriculum and materials, assessment and supporting & enabling structures. This process will help them develop a customized site plan of action.

The D.E.S.E.R.T. Project partnership with The University of Arizona supports science content learning for K-8 teachers. In May of 2000, the university funded a new position through Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UA/DESERT liaison to articulate the activities of scientist partners. DESERT also funded a CATTS fellowship which is providing the assistance of two university fellows for a total of 30 hours per week in selected classrooms at cohort sites. Partners from the U of A Science and Mathematics Education Center (SAMEC) participated in professional development workshops, institutes, and academies to join TUSD educators increase their understanding and developing scientific habits of mind, as well as to encourage increased science content knowledge related to curricular materials.

Two district coordinated support components enhance the process of systemic reform: Special Presenters, and D.E.S.E.R.T. Web technology infrastructure. In order to provide critical release time for teacher professional development, specially trained presenters visit classes using an in-depth, critical thinking and science exploration tool, The Private Eye, while teachers attend site based in service. The D.E.S.E.R.T. Web is intended to provide convenient access to information about the project and a vehicle for collaboration and networking among participants. The Web provides links to additional on-line tools supporting science education reform m.

The D.E.S.E.R.T. Project initiated all of the intended programs for year one, with the primary emphasis on leadership. Approximately XXX (66%) of professional development this first year was related to the leadership strand. The goal for year three will be to scale up the professional development offerings for classroom teachers and increase emphasis on pedagogical content and assessment.