STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math, however until now, most of the focus in elementary school has been on reading and math. According to speaker Harry Rosvally at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting, “We are using reading and math for CMTs to test annual yearly progress (AYP), and less time is spent on science.”
Some teachers report that science taught in K-5 is as little as 20 to 30 minutes a week, or at most, only in a single semester. Many K-5 teachers feel unprepared to teach science, and with looming budget cuts, the professional development needed to get teachers up to speed would not be available.
Enter Harry Rosvally, described in glowing terms by Deputy Superintendent Bill Glass, Ed.D., who said, “There is no finer example of professional development. Rossvaly is the premier coaching expert in the country.”
Rosvally has already raised $650,000 in grants which is expected to total almost $900,000 over three years. The money has been used to develop STEM curriculum and to train coaches for STEM.
Chairman of the Board of Education, Irving Fox, said, “To be able implement this and enhance math and science in our elementary schools, we don't have the money to hire specialists.”
“There is no other school system in the state that is doing this, and we are doing this without having to incur any money,” said Glass.
Education is changing and those changes will be reflected in the curriculum which will be interdisciplinary and inquiry based, meaning that math, literacy, engineering and science will be intertwined and the students will have to discover much of their learning through questions, reports and projects, many of which will be hands on.
The grant money has been used to develop coursework for teachers who wish to become certified as coaches. Western State University graduate courses have been developed through the DESICA grant.
Studies recommend empowering teachers through innovative teaching models, which is the goal of DESICA, which is the acronym for Danbury area Elementary Stem Instructional Academy. The importance of having trained coaches is that teachers will always be available for professional development and as experts in the classroom. At this time, thirteen teachers are training to become coaches for Danbury schools.
Evidence of the success of this teaching model is found in a DESICA handout printed from www.americanprogress.org. “Evidence shows that elementary school students have higher achievement when their teachers know more about how to teach math well.”
The same is true for science. While Danbury is the lead partner in this endeavor, teachers from Newtown and New Milford are also participating. Rosvally states that the coaching launch will be in place by September 2012.
The expected outcomes described by the presentation state:
Teachers: efficacy, content knowledge, teaching practices.
Students: CMT score increases in science, reading and math (Gr. 3-5); abilities to do scientific inquiry.
Schools: Increase in science instructional time; integration of math, science and literacy; use of technology.
The original presentation was designed by Liz Buttner, Science Consultant for the State Dept. of Education who worked with Rosvally.
“This is the jewel in Danbury schools crown. There are opportunities in hardship, and even if the economy doesn't improve, we are in a position to take advantage of this,” said Glass.