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Annual Report Overviews


Capital Region Science Education Partnership Annual Report Overview

published: 11/29/2000
posted to site: 11/29/2000
Capital Region Science Education Partnership

Capital Region Science Education Partnership

Assessment in the Service of Standards-Based Science Teaching


Activities and Findings

    1. Describe the major research and educational activities
    2. Describe the major findings resulting from these activities
    3. Describe the opportunities for training and development provided by your project

Activities, Findings, Training and Development

Our award was received on May 17, 2000. Therefore, this report covers the Project’s initial six months. Our responses to parts 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3 have been combined in the narrative that follows.

The primary goal of the Assessment in the Service of Standards-Based Teaching Project is to develop the ability of teachers in the Capital Region Science Education Partnership to use formative assessment to strengthen the quality of science teaching and to improve student achievement. Because successful application of formative assessment requires deep knowledge of the science content students are expected to learn, strengthening teachers’ science content knowledge is also a Project focus.

Our efforts to date have focused on a) preparing the Professional Development Specialists (PDSs) to begin their work as professional developers and b) informing teachers in the four Partnership districts about the professional development opportunities afforded by the Project. In addition to strengthening their science content understanding, their knowledge about formative and summative assessment and their skills as professional developers, the PDSs have also presented a few short workshops to teachers in the Partnership districts.

Under the guidance of University at Albany (UA) faculty and research assistants, the PDSs have been developing concept maps representing the science content contained in Science and Technology Curriculum (STC) Units. In the process of constructing concept maps, the PDSs have come to recognize gaps in their own knowledge of the science content contained in the units and have seen how certain key ideas in the units are conflated, leading to the possibility that students might develop misconceptions without skilled teachers who can help them make essential distinctions. Despite the fact that the development of concept maps has been difficult work and has challenged their science understanding, the PDSs have found that this activity has improved their content knowledge.




Correlating the principles contained in their maps with the New York State Science Standards has helped the PDSs identify science content required by the Standards that is not contained in STC Units. They will use this information to help teachers add the principles to STC Units at appropriate places. During the summer workshop presented by UA faculty, the PDSs took the recently developed NYS 8th Grade Science Test and practiced aligning the items with the NYS Science Standards.

The concept maps have been presented to a small number of Partnership district teachers, who have found them useful as representations of science content that they can use as references to the science content in the STC units. These teachers are excited at the prospect of receiving more concept maps from the Project. The teachers who have been introduced to the process of making concept maps to date see great potential in map development as a learning tool for their students. The science supervisors of the four Partnership districts also see potential in the concept maps. One supervisor asked to photocopy the first set of maps for immediate use by teachers in his district.

Of special interest to teachers is the use of concept mapping as a tool for student writing. Constructed response items on the new NYS 8th Grade Science Test have proved challenging to students, and teachers are most receptive to any and all strategies that will improve student writing. Concrete evidence of teachers’ interest was gained at the NYS Science Teachers Association meeting in November. The UA Graduate Research Assistants presented a paper on writing constructed responses and had more than 50 participants in a 7:30AM presentation.

Planning and delivering presentations to teachers and administrators in Partnership districts has taken considerable time and effort. Presentations have been positively received, but with the threat of state mandated examinations in fourth-grade English Language Arts and Mathematics, elementary teachers are exhibiting an understandable reluctance to engage in science professional development.

We are currently planning week-long visits to four schools, one in each district, where we will work with individual teachers who have asked for our help in the implementation of STC units; we will also provide workshops on concept mapping, writing in science, and formative assessment of the brainstorming activity in each of the STC units being taught in the schools we will visit. Our hope is that these visits will improve our understanding of how science is being taught in the Partnership districts and demonstrate to teachers that the professional development opportunities that we can provide are worth the time and effort it takes to participate in them.

Administrating a project in districts with strong union representation has afforded a learning opportunity for the Projects’ university-based personnel and added considerable time to the process of hiring Professional Development Specialists and identifying individuals to serve as Professional Development Associates.

    1. Describe outreach activities your project has undertaken

Our outreach activities have been minimal. The announcement of the grant received good coverage in local newspaper and television. Project staff attended a reception for science educators in the capital district coordinated by the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Inc. (STEM) Project in cooperation with The Early Childhood Department at Hudson Valley Community College, the United States Geological Survey Office, and the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center.