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All Elementary Schools to Have STEM Coaches

STEM seems to be the main topic of educational conversation, and this week the conversation centered around elementary school.

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.

Bill Hillman July 01, 2011 at 11:27 AM
Sorry, but these wooden phrases all sound like jargon... "empowering teachers through innovative teaching models" "teachers are training to become coaches" "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" Intertwined???? how about a real revision to the curriculum to focus specifically on effective STEM teaching? We are behind so many countries in this, and a direct approach is needed.
Nichole Jones July 01, 2011 at 07:42 PM
This is a great decision, students have the right to get good math coaches from the elementary level. Math is inevitable, but our students are more likely to avoid math and thus they are not able to compete with the international students. They are lagging behind. I have recently found and bought tutorteddy math curriculum for my daughter. They have used the techniques that have been around for last 100 years, they use the similar curriculum used by Thomas Edison and other American inventors. The curriculum is cheap and reusable.
g July 01, 2011 at 07:59 PM
Our schools and district fails 7 years in a row, and we hire STEM coaches. Something seems wrong about this focus. Our kids are failing the basics.
Richard Jannelli July 02, 2011 at 12:10 PM
This is a very valuable tool for the Danbury school district. It's a program that will reach every student. This is something that your school couldn't afford to pay for since we are under funded. Think of what good coaching does for sports? The long term effect of this will be great, also, the $1million cost is not Danbury taxpayer money. Richard Jannelli
Greg Reiva July 02, 2011 at 03:51 PM
As an experienced science teacher with over 16 years in the science classroom, I have regularly provided seminars on using Inquiry as an effective method of science instruction during our scheduled professional development days. On the flip side there is no long-term strategy employed to ensure and monitor that these new ideas are integrated into the elementary school curricula. I believe that the expertise needed to help bring forth progressive science instruction is there in the field and can be harvested to produce good results. It seems that he commitment to this instructional strategy is not solid at the district level. There are always competing interests with respect to the determination of curriculum and decisions are being made by individuals who are well removed from the daily challenges faced by teachers in the science classroom. I continue to forge forward with innovative ideas and projects that reflect a progressive reform-minded approach to science education, with the hope that by default great ideas take hold against all odds. Our children would greatly benefit from a more unified and urgent response by teachers and administrators to bring forth 21st century models of learning that lead to real success in life. The nobility of this effort can not be diminished by the politics or dysfunction of relationships among the stakeholders in education.
g July 02, 2011 at 09:18 PM
This program doesn't seem to have long term funding. Eventually it will become another tax burden. We have a failing school district in Danbury. The kids don't get the basics. Unless this program has been proved elsewhere, we should focus on the basics first imo.
Kevin Haddad July 06, 2011 at 12:36 AM
The title of this article is misleading. The teachers that are participating in this training are classroom teachers, no one has been hired. They will have complete the training but I'm not sure when they will find the time to train or coach other teachers in what they have learned to implement in all of Danbury's classrooms.

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