LSC Project Info

SMART PROCESS - Science, Mathematics And Related Technology

Howard Berger (Co-Principal Investigator)
Urban, Suburban, Rural
The SMART Process is a collaborative effort among Community School Districts (CSD) 3 and 5, local industry and the community in New York City to systematically reform science education for grades K-6 by providing teacher enhancement and support. The private sector, represented by Colgate-Palmolive is providing important services associated with the management, replenishment and transportation of the science instructional kits. The curriculum kits to be implemented include NSF supported Science and Technology for Children (STC) and EDC-Insights materials as instructional modules. Over the five-year period, science teaching and learning in grades K-6 are expected to improve for teachers and students through systemic teacher enhancement activities. Mathematics and technology are also integrated into these activities from the onset of the project.

The SMART Process involves all 35 elementary schools in CSDs 3 and 5 with a population of 28,784 students, of which 21,535 are elementary students. Community District 3 and 5 are located in Harlem on the upper west side of Manhattan, New York. This area of New York City comprises a diverse ethnic population and of low-income families. Ninety-two percent of the elementary school population are ethnic minorities and 14 percent are limited English proficient students.

Teacher enhancement of this project affects all the elementary teachers. A teacher survey discovered that 71 percent have taken fewer than six credits of science and that 68 percent teach science fewer than 2 hours per week. Seventy-nine percent also indicated that they are uncomfortable teaching science. The vast majority of the elementary school teachers are teaching very little if any science, and they lack significant knowledge of science content or constructivist methods.

These findings prompted the onset of science education reform in these communities. The SMART Process is being implemented under a phase-in model. During the first year, nine schools are involved and in the additional years, the other schools are phased in until all schools in the district are involved. Over the five year period, teachers receive over 100 hours of professional development concentrating on four areas: 1) use of modular kits and content; 2) study groups and congresses; 3) inquiry-based methods and content; and 4) in-classroom demonstrations. Once the teachers have adapted to the use of inquiry-based methods in the teaching of science, professional development activities will be expanded to focus on the mathematics and technology content areas.

Parents, school-based administrators and professional scientists, mathematicians and engineers are also receiving professional training as part of the program. Parents devote 30 hours to enriching their knowledge of family science and mathematics through workshops, classroom participation and various other activities. School- and district-based administrators receive 60 hours of training to provide support to systemic reform, facilitating the SMART Process and an understanding of inquiry-based teaching and learning. Through 15 hours of workshops professionals are also taught more about inquiry-based learning and teaching.

The primary partners and alliances of this project are The Workshop Center at City College, Education Development Center, Inc., Science Institution Teacher Enhancement Collaborative, New York City Urban Systemic Initiative and New York State Systemic Initiative. These involved constituencies provide sustainable support to ensure the success of this project to change science education at the elementary school level.

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