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Science, Technology Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM)

Summaries of Massachusetts Mathematics and Science Partnerships: Grants Awarded February 2012

Berkshire Math and Science Partnership Program

Partners: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), Pittsfield Public Schools, Berkshire Arts and Technology Charter Public School, and Adams-Cheshire Public Schools.

The vision of the Berkshire Mathematics and Science Partnership Program (BMSP) is to provide an effective and systematic professional development program for middle school teachers in identified Berkshire County schools. The three goals of the program are to: 1) improve math and science content knowledge of middle school teacher participants in MSP courses, 2) improve the integration of math, science and literacy curriculum standards in math and science instruction, and 3) improve student performance in math and science. This program is informed by a planning group that includes administrative leadership from each partner institution, as well as program and curriculum development by science and math experts. Each member of the planning team has worked to build a program that reflects the identified professional development needs of their respective teachers, the school improvement plans of participating schools and districts, as well as links to plans and initiatives of the Berkshire County STEM Pipeline. The Berkshire MSP Program across three years will provide five three-credit graduate level courses with associated supplemental activities to develop deep standards-based content knowledge of mathematics content and its process standards, knowledge of science standards, as well as the integration of standards for literacy in science and technology for participating teachers. Supplemental activities will take the form of Professional Learning Communities (PLC) which provide teachers opportunities to share and comment on student work, explore collectively how students learn about specific concepts, and share course plans and instructional strategies to promote learning. Courses and PLC activities will be co-developed, taught and facilitated by MCLA math or science faculty along with a math or science specialist or STEM coordinator from the partner schools. In addition, MCLA will develop and maintain an online site to share information, documents, discussions, contacts and event information for Berkshire MSP participants.

Outcomes of this interdisciplinary approach will be a robust program that will help teachers make explicit connections across subjects as they teach middle school students. It is anticipated that this program will help students apply mathematics and science to every day life and increase student achievement in both subjects. Berkshire MSP Program performance and outcomes will be reviewed by a highly qualified, objective evaluator to track, compile, analyze and disseminate formative and summative evidence of program performance. Program information will also be shared pursuant to the statewide plan and process for evaluation. Berkshire MSP courses will also be integrated into MCLA's graduate education curriculum to further the systematic impact of this program.

For more project information, contact the program coordinator: Christopher Himes, STEM Pipeline Program Manager, c.himes@mcla.edu.

Greater Boston South-Shore Science Partnership (GBSSSP)

Partners: Northeastern University, Quincy Public Schools, Boston Public Schools, The Archdiocese of Boston and the University of Massachusetts Boston

The Greater Boston-South Shore Science Partnership (GBSSSP) seeks to increase student performance in science by providing rigorous professional development to science teachers in high needs school districts within Massachusetts. Over the next three years, the Partnership will offer 12 specially-designed graduate-level science courses focused on strengthening teachers' content knowledge as well as modeling key scientific and pedagogical practices established upon research about how students learn. Evaluation of these courses by the Education Development Center (EDC) have indicated that students of teachers who have taken one of these courses demonstrate a higher performance level on the biology, chemistry, and unified science MCAS than students of non-participating teachers.

The series of courses has been designed and honed in the following content areas: biology, chemistry, earth science, physics, engineering, and mathematics for middle school science teachers. Although the courses are focused on the content an pedagogy of teaching the middle school curriculum in Massachusetts classrooms, they have also proven to be relevant to high school and elementary level teachers as well. Each course consists of 60 hours of classroom instruction and 10 hours of follow-up activities that include portfolios. Participants portfolios demonstrate evidence of the use of key scientific practices, assessments of student understanding, and student work in writing evidence-based arguments. In order to maximize teachers' exposure to all levels of the curriculum and we have designed to courses to be co-taught by an instructional team consisting of a university STEM professor, a high school teacher leader and a middle school teacher leader experienced in teaching the content of the course in Massachusetts classrooms. Teachers from a variety of grade levels and district backgrounds meet weekly for four hours per session over thirteen weeks, or 6 hours per day for two weeks in the summer. Not only do teachers learn from their instructors, but they benefit strongly from the community of peers as they work intensively alongside other teachers and gain knowledge, experience, and best practices. This project also has a strong in-district component.

These courses are part of an existing Master's degree program; this is a powerful motivator for teachers and one which has driven interest in the courses to unprecedented levels. The depth and breadth of science content and pedagogy, the powerful environment created by the teacher learning community, and the noted impact upon student performance have made these courses into "must have's" for teachers, as evidenced by our ongoing waiting lists. This project will continue to provide a high degree of quality professional development to Massachusetts teachers now and in the future.

For more project information, contact the program coordinator: Dr. Christos Zahopoulos, Associate Professor, College of Engineering, Northeastern University, c.zahopoulos@neu.edu.

Intensive Immersion Mathematics for STEM Teachers

Partners: EduTron Corporation, Revere Public Schools, Everett Public Schools, Saugus Public Schools and Fitchburg State University

The effectiveness of the Intensive Immersion approach to improving math instruction in high-poverty and low performing schools, has been documented in various evaluation reports at the national level. This project aims to leverage the experience to serve STEM teachers in the context of phasing in the Common Core mathematics. The lead instructor and project coordinator (Dr. Andrew Chen) was on the Common Core Development Team and has been active at the national level in developing Common Core content-based professional development.

Based on the analyses of the students' and teachers' knowledge gaps in the Revere Public Schools (RPS), Everett Public Schools (EPS) and Saugus Public Schools (SPS), two to three Intensive Immersion Institute courses will be developed annually. These courses will be aligned with the 2011 Massachusetts Mathematics Framework based on the Common Core Standards (CCSS-M). Conceptual understanding, computational fluency, and problem solving are emphasized with a balanced approach. The Standards of Mathematical Practice will be modeled and made explicit. These highly customized courses routinely integrate science/technology content and practices. The intensive immersion will allow participants to build academic vocabulary and strong content knowledge at the same time, and to experience firsthand the Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects in the 2011 English Language Arts and Literacy Framework. The proposed MMSP courses will reach about 80 to 105 STEM teachers and impact more than 5600 students on a yearly basis.

An eclectic ensemble of supplemental site-based activities will be offered to induce positive changes in teachers' classroom practices. Assessment tools, including EDA of EduTron, allow the partnership to simultaneously monitor student and teacher progress annually. In addition to the measurable content gain, the chemistry, dynamics, and positive peer pressure fostered in the intensive immersion experience will trigger qualitative changes in individual teachers to such an extent that some of them may become catalysts to transform their local math communities into learning machines. These transformations are expected to play a pivotal role in sustaining peer-based learning beyond the project span. The courses provide an intensive yet non-threatening environment for teachers to acquire solid content knowledge, improve classroom practice, and improve student achievements in mathematics. A rigorous study based on quasi-experimental design will be conducted on the partnership by WestEd.

For more project information, contact the program coordinator: Andrew Chen, President, EduTron, schen@edutron.com.

Making Math Meaningful

Partners: Lesley University, Springfield Public Schools

Making Mathematics Meaningful, a partnership between Lesley University and the Springfield Public Schools, is designed to increase the mathematics content knowledge as well as the pedagogical content knowledge of teachers in Level 3 and Level 4 middle schools. This project builds upon seven successful years of standards-based mathematics professional development in Springfield in conjunction with a former MMSP and an USDOE Teacher for a Competitive Tomorrow grant. Students of those teachers who participated in previous partnerships are outperforming their counterparts whose teachers did not complete the same coursework. Unfortunately, the majority teachers in the middle schools targeted for this project chose not to participate. With the underperforming status of the schools, administrators can now require teacher participation and anticipate gains not only in teacher content knowledge but also in student achievement on the ELA, science, and mathematics MCAS. The inclusion of problems directly related to the MA Curriculum Frameworks will include contexts that are required knowledge in the science frameworks. Through collaboration Lesley and Springfield will be adapting the problems used in the math courses to include appropriate science to enable teacher participants to understand how and why the mathematics taught to middle school students is so important. Lesley has begun working with the Natural Sciences and Mathematics Department within Lesley University to work on incorporating science based problems and problem solving in the math content courses. The goal is to show a seamless connection between the two content areas and foster connections between the mathematics classroom and science classroom.

In response to Springfield's need to address the large percentage of English Acquisition Learners in their school district, Lesley has made a commitment to incorporate strategies for teaching students who are non-native English speakers in all its courses and programs. To effectively meet this goal, faculty from Lesley University's Literacy Division are part of the planning process and will elaborate on the most effective instructional strategies which will be modeled and overt attention brought to those strategies throughout each course. In addition, Lesley will commit to training all faculty who plan to teach these courses in Sheltered Content Instruction and have these techniques explicitly modeled in the mathematics courses. If the trend continues, participants who complete the first five of the mathematics content courses will be successful in passing the middle school math MTEL and becoming highly qualified to teach middle school mathematics.

For more project information, contact the program coordinator: Dr. Anne Collins, Director of Math Programs, Lesley University, collins2@lesley.edu.

Putting the M Back in STEM

Partners: Lesley University, Lawrence Public Schools

Too often STEM is divided into STE and M. This partnership will bring the two together in a systematic and synergistic way so that mathematics is a visible component of science, technology, and engineering. This program is designed to focus on the mathematics of science in a compelling program. Participating middle school teachers will engage in working through the necessary mathematics to investigate particular disciplines of inquiry-based science. Nine mathematics of science courses which are aligned with the Massachusetts frameworks for science, mathematics, English Language Proficiency Standards, and the MA English Language Proficiency Benchmarks and Outcomes; will be co-taught by core and adjunct faculty from Lesley University mathematicians, scientists, mathematics educators, and science educators. Careful attention will be made to incorporate research-based strategies for building understanding in mathematics and science for English as a Second Language learner in collaboration with professors recognized for their expertise in this field who have agreed to serve as advisors. Since all teachers are responsible for teaching language and literacy in their disciplines, this grant will explicitly address and include the importance of using the language of science and mathematics in ways of talking and representing the natural world through discourse interaction, multiple representations, and collaboration. The discourse of both science and mathematics have their own vocabulary and organization so each content course will explicitly include pedagogical strategies for making the content accessible to all students but the focus is on strengthening the content knowledge of inquiry based science and problem solving based mathematics for teachers.

For more project information, contact the program coordinator: Dr. Anne Collins, Director of Math Programs, Lesley University, collins2@lesley.edu.



Last Updated: February 10, 2012
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