Joan Gilbert

Sustainability Issues for TUSD and the D.E.S.E.R.T. Project

As we wind down our LSC D.E.S.E.R.T. Project, two important issues must be addressed, sustaining leadership at both the district and school level, and keeping science on the plate as we face high-stakes testing.

In Arizona, science has not yet been added to the state testing program, nor is it an element of our District's exit exam. Being proactive for the 2007 federal requirement is essential as we wind down our five-year LSC project - rather than revert to the level of science education at the beginning of the project we are actively pursuing continuation of many components that will continue to prepare our students. Now that most of our classroom teachers have participated in foundational courses for our science kit-based curriculum, they are read to consider science as the context for students' reading and writing. Schools that have committed to school-wide use of science notebooks are beginning to see positive results in their students' abilities to write expository text. And the nonfiction reading component of the curriculum provides many opportunities for applying reading skills in a content area. A new goal is to coordinate efforts with our district's language arts, math and bilingual departments to provide professional development that uses science as the driving force for student learning.

A commitment to effective science education has been developed and supported by our site Science Facilitators in grades K-8. These teacher leaders participate in at least 30 hours of professional development each year and then facilitate PD sessions at their site. In partnership with their principals they support the teaching of the science kits at their schools and many of them move into other leadership positions within our science department. They become course instructors and co-teach our Foundation Courses; they develop their practice so that new teachers may observe science lessons in action; they become proficient in the use of notebooks and share their practice at our yearly Notebook Conference. Currently they are not financially compensated for their work, although some receive a stipend from state monies that can be targeted for leadership positions at school sites. In order to sustain this robust element in our district, we hope to continue to support these site leaders: our district's restructuring plan just released in the last week has a site leadership team objective that may be the avenue we use to maintain and strengthen these teacher leaders.

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