A visitor to a Boston middle or high school these days might not notice, but a major transformation is taking place in the city’s science classrooms. Teachers from middle and high schools across the district have been spending nights, weekends, and vacations taking courses in earth science, biology, physics, and chemistry to enhance their knowledge of the subject matter and strengthen their teaching skills.
This intensive professional training is part of a five-year endeavor by a partnership of universities, the school district, and experts in science and education to improve science teaching and learning in Boston’s schools.
Since 2004, the Boston Science Partnership, funded with $12.5 million from the National Science Foundation, has provided advanced science courses to teachers that enhance leadership opportunities, disseminate best teaching practices, and help to create a vibrant learning community.
“Teachers who participate in the partnership feel involved and connected with their profession, and they tend to remain longer in their jobs,” says Abigail Jurist Levy, EDC senior research scientist. “The teachers who made this investment in their careers and in their schools are better serving their students. It is one more way to improve the quality of science learning so U.S. students are no longer outperformed by those in other nations.”
During the 2008–2009 school year, 628 Boston teachers participated in more than 16,000 hours of courses, workshops, seminars, professional development training, and other activities to bolster their science knowledge and skills. The courses were aligned with the Boston curriculum and co-taught by master teachers.
For participating teachers, the commitment is paying dividends as they bring what they have learned back to their classrooms.
“As a science educator, I need more knowledge in order to help my students more effectively,” wrote one teacher in an earth science course evaluation. “I now have a better idea of the big-picture focus of earth science and how to hone in on important details.”
“It is important for us to keep learning to avoid burnout and to keep our classrooms exciting,” commented another teacher. “I wanted to improve my knowledge of geology because I am going to teach it this fall for the first time.”
EDC is a supporting partner in the effort, which includes the University of Massachusetts Boston, Northeastern University, and the Boston Public Schools. Harvard Medical School and The College Board also participate.
The partnership has received funding for an additional three years to foster leadership skills and collaboration among science teachers across the district.
Originally published on April 14, 2010