UA Researcher to Examine if Local Efforts to Improve Science Instruction are Compatible with State's New Standards

Contact: Vincent Reda (518) 765-3721, or Janet Angelis (518) 442-5023

The University at Albany's School of Education has received a new $600,000 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to examine the way schools and teachers incorporate a local effort to improve science teaching and learning with state assessments and standards.

The award is a supplement to the $2.5 million NSF-funded Local Systemic Change Project that is supporting professional development for grade K-8 science teachers in the Capital Region Science Education Partnership (CRSEP). CRSEP is a collaboration between four local school districts -- Schenectady, Bethlehem, Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, and Watervliet -- and UAlbany.

Sandra Mathison, associate dean and associate professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, will head this new study, which will try to understand the tensions involved in launching a local effort to improve science teaching during a time when state tests are becoming increasingly important.

Last May, CRSEP received funding from the NSF to provide opportunities for the districts' 430 teachers of science, grades K-8, to improve their science content knowledge and to strengthen curriculum and instruction in science. As part of this effort, three teachers from the districts are acting as Professional Development Specialists whose job is to develop and deliver professional development to their colleagues.

During the summer and fall this group has been working with district officials and UAlbany faculty to examine science curricular materials and New York State Standards and Assessments, and to identify gaps in the current curricula in the four districts - i.e. content areas called for in the NYS standards but absent from packaged curricular materials. The group's members are now preparing to work with their teaching colleagues through a series of workshops, classroom visitations, and summer institutes beginning in the spring.

Mathison's role will be to analyze the current state climate regarding standards and assessment, study changes in teacher knowledge and classroom instruction as a result of ongoing professional development, and document the experience of a representative school in the partnership.

John Falco, superintendent of the Schenectady City School District, and Audrey Champagne, UAlbany professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, are the principal investigators of the Local Systemic Change Project. Vicky Kouba, associate professor in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, is responsible for developing materials from the local project that science educators across the nation will be able to use. Ann Crotty of the Schenectady City School District is project coordinator.

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November 28, 2000


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