Don't Leave The Train Station Without Them - Getting Everyone On Board
The Toledo Area Partnership in Education: Support Teachers as Resources to Improve Elementary Science (TAPESTRIES) was designed to improve science teaching and learning through sustained professional development of all K-6 teachers (totaling 1400) in Toledo Public Schools (TPS) and Springfield Local Schools (SLS).
The TAPESTRIES project was designed to achieve a comprehensive, system-wide transformation of K-6 science education in Toledo Public Schools and Springfield Local Schools and had five goals and outcomes:
In addition to these outcomes, we monitor the science proficiency scores of 4th and 6th grade students. We believe effective science teaching will improve student's learning.
The following were the key organizational components of the TAPESTRIES program. Each component played a critical role in the implementation of systematic science reform.
Support Teachers - Sixteen Support Teachers, who are given full time release from teaching responsibilities, provided assistance to classroom teachers implementing science inquiry. Support Teachers receive more than 200 contact hours of leadership training in the form of a two-week Summer Institute, two three-semester-hour courses, a staff retreat, and a spring conference. During the academic year following a classroom teacher's participation in a Summer Institute, the Support Teachers visited their cohort of teachers on a biweekly basis. During these visits, Support Teachers provided assistance with science materials, suggested strategies for teaching science, provided science content background information (if necessary, with the help of the scientists), assisted with classroom and district science performance-based assessments, modeled science lessons, and provided peer coaching for the classroom teacher.
Project Staff Retreat - To establish a cohesive project staff with shared philosophies and expectations, the entire project staff (science educators, scientists, elementary Support Teachers, and graduate assistants) attended a two-day retreat held in the spring each year. A shared understanding is developed using models found in the Project 2061 Workshop Plan (AAAS, 1997) and the National Science Teacher Association book, Pathways to the Science Standards: Elementary School Edition (NSTA, 1997). The retreats prepared the entire staff for the summer institute and informed them on the latest research on science learning. The staff reflected on the comments made by teachers' evaluations from the previous year and develops content for the upcoming summer institute.
Summer Institutes - Six, two-week-long Summer Institutes for regular classroom teachers have been conducted each year for the last five years at The University of Toledo (UT) and Bowling Green State University (BGSU). In the Summer Institutes, classroom teachers participated in sessions lead by scientists and educators. These sessions focused on science content and process culled from the districts' K-6 scope and sequence and adopted curriculum (FOSS, STC, and Scholastic kits). Over 900 classroom teachers from the participating districts have received over 104 hours of staff development in science content, pedagogy, and student assessment as they implement their district adopted curriculum materials.
Annual Science Symposium - A science symposium was held each year for the classroom teachers who attended the preceding summer institute (included undergraduate students from BGSU and UT education programs and other teachers from TPS and SLS). The purpose of this conference was to provide professional development as well as support teachers in implementing science inquiry. These sessions were facilitated by the entire project staff (Support Teachers, science educators, and scientists) and invited speakers (such as community leaders, Center of Science and Industry - COSI, The Toledo Zoo, The Metro Parks, etc.).
Local Academic Year Activities - During the academic year, local sustained professional development activities focused on the implementation of the science materials and assessments by the classroom teachers. Topics included science inquiry, types of assessment, state proficiency outcomes, cooperative learning, and higher-level thinking. Teachers completed a "research lesson." A research lesson (modeled after the Japanese Lesson Study) involves the teacher writing a lesson in the 5-E learning cycle and communicating the teaching activities that will be covered. After the teacher teaches that lesson, they critique the effectiveness of their own science teaching by utilizing the NSF-Horizon "Classroom Observation Protocol." The teacher's Support Teacher views the lesson and provides feedback on one of the key categories (design, implementation, content). The teacher then writes a two-page reflective analysis of the lesson identifying specific strengths and weaknesses of the lesson. The research lesson assignment gives the teacher an opportunity to analyze their teaching and receive constructive feedback from a peer in a nurturing environment.
Retreat for Principals - Principals participated in a one-day retreat and follow-up sessions throughout the academic year. TAPESTRIES solicited their support for the project and their input on the challenges of implementing science reform in their buildings.
Community Involvement - Support Teachers scheduled two local community meetings to involve community representatives, parents, and local principals in this science reform effort.
Newsletter - In addition to planned meetings with district administrators and classroom teachers, TAPESTRIES had a presence in the form of a newsletter that was published in the fall and the spring. The newsletters contained updates, research articles, and anecdotal field accounts from the staff members.
TAPESTRIES continually strived to meet the needs of all its stakeholders. A major strength of the project is its evolutionary character. Our project did have a plan in place and the plan evolved as the project continued. At first, teachers were to develop action plans for their building. The teachers were not ready to do that. School year sessions were developed to meet the needs of the teachers.