History

Long History of Science Partnerships and Professional Development Outreach

        East Tennessee State University has a long and successful history of building and nurturing partnerships with the region’s local education agencies, which has led to the development of high quality programs to study and develop ways to advance standards-based students’ learning in science education. In fact, we have had more than fifteen years of established partnerships with the region’s LEAs to enhance and enrich the middle and high school science programs, grades 5-12.  These partnerships have been grounded in the understanding that we exist to broaden our impact, accelerate the pace, and increase the effectiveness of improving science education (NSF, 1990, p. 1). Our design and strategy have been to scale up and build capacity and credibility with our partners through designing, evaluating, revising, and expanding activities.  With each step of the way, we have laid a foundation for the next, building the capacity for the partners along the way to ensure readiness and change.

        As a result of our previous work, a well-developed infrastructure network of cooperation and mutual respect has been established between the University and local school districts. Our existing and current relationship with our school partners is nurtured and sustained through our Project Management Team (MSP) (see description below). And our existing project is funding by the Tennessee Mathematics and Science Partnership grant, and is entitled “Reaching for Excellence in Middle and High School Science Partnership.” We are currently in the third year of funding for this project, which will end in April of 2007. We are beginning to see, through our evaluation design, many successes as a result of the project to date. The Reaching for Excellence project has provided opportunities for middle and high school science teachers to increase content knowledge, learn pedagogical/classroom management strategies,  become “highly qualified, “ build professional development networks, create a vision of effective science instruction, and how to use instructional resources/tools in the classroom.

        As indicated above, ETSU has been, for many years, engaged in building an infrastructure to support strong partnerships with school districts in Northeast Tennessee. The primary vehicle for “planning and involvement of all partners” has been through the Project Management Team.  Dr. Jack Rhoton, Executive Director, ETSU Center of Excellence in Mathematics and Science Education, works closely with each PMT member and serves as a vital link among the ETSU science faculty, LEAs, and members of the PMT. The PMT consist of central office curriculum directors with decision making authority, middle and high school principals, university science professors, and middle and high school science teachers, all of whom represent participating school districts. The PMT has met monthly in person or via e-mail for three years to identity needs, design summer and academic year programs, and to build leadership capacity. The changing nature of the “responsibilities and expectation of reward among partnering institutions,” especially in the areas of data-informed decision making and accountability, have provided opportunities to influence local practices. Our increasing need and requirement to collect, analyze, report, and use data in decisions and actions are valued by all partners.  ETSU and the members of the PMT have found themselves in strong positions to work with LEAs to develop systems and capacities for these new responsibilities, and consequently to introduce a systemic view of management and change.

Capacity

        Related to the goals and objectives of the project, the partner school districts have representation on the PMT. Their primary roles and duties consist of designing professional development; assisting in the needs assessment; assisting in proving student assessment data, assisting in establishing an agenda based on needs assessment, providing  resources, monitoring implementation, and providing time for participating teachers to work with their peer teachers. The primary role of ETSU consist of: serving as fiscal agent, hosting professional development, assisting the designing of professional development, delivering professional development (summer months) , providing facilities, providing tutoring for low achieving students, visiting classrooms to model effective teaching, providing inservice training for teachers during the academic year, and serving on the PMT.

        Per the partnership’s  governance structure specific to decision-making, communication, and fiscal responsibilities, one of the major assets of the PMT has been to create opportunities to cultivate the will and commitment of LEA administrators to support science education reform. For example, curriculum supervisors from each of the partner districts (serving on the PMT) have important decision-making authority in instructional matters that play a key role in defining content and pedagogy in the classroom. By virtue of having curriculum supervisors serve on the PMT, it has ensured the establishment of high-quality alignment with the goals and objectives of the project. Similarly, principals on the PMT evaluate teachers and make decisions about the nature and extent of professional development. By responding to local needs through the work of the PMT, our science programs have been able to heighten awareness of and commitment to science education and close the science achievement gap, thereby changing the culture of the system.

        The ETSU professional development staff is carried out by a highly trained and dedicated faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences. Dr. Foster Levy (Project Instructor Biology): Dr. Levy is an Associate Professor of Biology at ETSU. He earned his Ph.D. and B.S. in Biology from Duke University. He has been an effective instructor in several of our previously funded projects. He is a very active teacher and researcher and he has written many publications dealing with his field of study. He will be a member of the PMT. CHU-NGI HO (Project Instructor Chemistry): Dr. HO is an Associate Professor in Chemistry at ETSU. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. in analytical chemistry at the University of Washington and his B.S. in chemistry and physics from Denison University. He has been very active in science teacher training and he has received numerous honors and awards in his discipline. He will be a member of the PMT. Dr. Gary D. Henson (Project Instructor Physics): Dr. Henson is an Assistant Professor in Physics at ETSU. He received his Ph.D. in physics from the University of Oregon; M.S. in Physics from the University of New Mexico; and his B.S. in physics and mathematics Central Arkansas University. Dr. Henson has been actively involved in science teacher education for several years.  He has taught in previously funded science teacher enhancement projects. He will also server as a member of the Project Management Team. Dr. Jeff Wardeska  (Project Instructor Chemistry): Dr. Wardeska received his Ph.D. in Organic/Polymer Chemistry from the University of Florida and B.S. in Chemistry from Denison University. He has taught in previous teacher workshops and he is a member of the PMT. Dr.Timothy D. McDowell (Project Instructor Biology): Dr. McDowell received his Ph.D. in Botany at Duke University and his B.A. in Botany form the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  He has served as instructor on several of our previously funded projects and he continues to involve himself in activities to promote science teaching and learning in the local schools. He will continue to work closely with teachers. He will serve as a member of our Project Management Team. Dr. Cecilia A. McIntosh (Project Instructor Chemistry/Biology): Dr. McIntosh is Professor of Biochemistry at ETSU. She received her Ph.D. in biochemistry from the University of South Florida.  She has also served as instructor in many of our teacher workshops. Dr. Jack Rhoton is professor of Science Education.. He received his doctorate in science education from the University of Tennessee and a MS in Biology from Old Dominion University and his masters in science education from the University of Virginia. He has an array of experiences working with elementary, middle and high school science teachers.

        Project participants have received a wide array of resources while on the ETSU campus. Some of these are: computer labs, state-of-art laboratory facilities and equipment, full-service library and instructional materials center, parking privileges, and the availability of the university’s dining and recreational facilities.

Scope and Impact:

        Just as “actions speak louder than words,” our science program has put a face on science reform in Northeast Tennessee. Operationalizing our goals and objectives demonstrates a commitment to show how that commitment translates into real efforts and activities to change the culture, practices, and policies of the system.  The science programs justify interventions based on a thorough needs assessment. The project stresses the critical role of the middle and high school science teachers in reform through a large investment in professional development, attending to teachers’ content knowledge and skills as necessary for substantive changes in teaching and learning. The partnership also builds credibility among key constituents, including university science faculty and school administrators, and uses these interventions to demonstrate commitment to change. In particular, the science programs monitor and evaluate our interventions.  As we establish data systems and track quality and impact, the information is used by the school districts to show that the project is producing desired results and achieving the goals and objectives set forth at the beginning of the intervention.

        For example, studies have shown (Garet, M, et al., 2002), that changes in practice also depend on a sustained and targeted professional development program which focuses on particular content knowledge and instructional strategies if it is to have an effect on teacher instruction and achievement. The researchers found that, for classroom practice to change, professional development should be grounded in the curriculum that students study; professional development should be embedded within an aligned system and connected to elements of instruction, i.e., (assessment, curriculum); and extended time for practice and follow-up activities. As all members of the partnerships learn to make such instructional changes, the impact is long-lasting and permeates the culture of practice within the school and school districts (Supovitz, Mayer, & Kahle, 2000).