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Rethink, Redesign, Revitalize: A pilot program to radically change the educational experience for New Brunswick ninth-graders

New Brunswick Public Schools (NBPS) and the Center of Mathematics, Science, and Computer Education (CMSCE) at Rutgers University are working on a collaborative venture that enables high school teachers to radically rethink, redesign, revitalize their teaching methods and how they organize the school day.

In August 2017, we co-facilitated a 4-day summer workshop and have been supporting teachers with monthly Professional Learning Community meetings (PLCs). Teachers are rethinking their curriculum, redesigning their instructional practices, and revitalizing student motivation. Incoming NBPS freshmen encounter a powerful learning experience through this iSTEAM Academy. Rutgers researchers are evaluating the program’s effectiveness to:

  • Engage students
  • Promote design-based thinking
  • Empower teachers
  • The results of the findings will be widely disseminated.

Math Science Partnership Grant (MSP)

The Rutgers – New Brunswick (Rutgers-NB) and a consortium of partnering schools  developed a partnership that  a) enabled and empowered the best science teachers in respective districts to fully implement NGSS by revising their existing curricular materials and classroom practices; and b) provided empirical evidence of the effectiveness of such collaboration. To accomplish these goals, CMSCE a) hosted a two-week summer institute in August 2016 at the Rutgers-NB campus (with one day at partnering Liberty Science Center) for the professional development (PD) of teacher-leader ambassadors focused specifically on curriculum and instruction aligned to NGSS and the educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products Rubric for Science and Mathematics (EQuIP) rubric; and b) continued the program with four PD days in partnering schools during academic year of 2016/17. The partnership led to revisions of the pre-service science teacher preparation programs in the Rutgers. The consortium of schools included 9 high schools and 9 middle schools in 10 Local Education Agencies (LEAs),  and middle charter schools. An assessment of the partnering schools’ needs indicated that the design of curricula and modification of instruction aligned to NGSS was a top partner need. The PD focused on teacher practices, core ideas, and related pedagogical content knowledge related to NGSS/EQuIP. The four follow up days focused on school/classroom implementation, and the ambassadors’ capacity and support to conduct teacher professional development with their teacher colleagues.

We started Year 2 of the MSP grant in summer of 2017.  The goal for the year was to prepare teacher ambassadors to engage in turnkey of NGSS PD to other teachers in their district.  To serve this intent, we met with ambassadors in July 2017 to understand the NGSS PD needs of their districts and get them acquainted with NGSS PD best practices. Having gathered this information, the ambassadors were given a month’s time to work (in groups) on preparing a sample NGSS PD session. In a follow up PD in August, each ambassador shared their sample with other ambassadors and received feedback and suggestions for the same. Ambassadors have now started the process of NGSS turnkey in their districts. We aim to attend as many such sessions as possible.

Quotes from MSP teachers:
  • "I have a much better understanding of NGSS and how to implement it in my classroom "
  • "Exploring NGSS in informal environments: Exceeded expectations!"
  • "Engaging in example activities helped to demonstrate how NGSS looks like in the classroom"
  • "The activities were a great way for me to visualize what I need to do. Also there were instances when we were able to go through an activity, then choose an topic & design an activity that followed the guidelines."

New Brunswick Community-University Research Partnership (Math)

With support from a grant from Rutgers University, the New Brunswick Public Schools and CMSCE collaborated on a project to enhance the capacity of teachers in grades 6-8 to engage students more deeply and more successfully in learning and using mathematics. Using facilitated Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), participating teachers from NBPS will reconsider mathematical content and mathematical pedagogy in light of current progress in cognitive science and learning theory. Research and evaluation components will measure increased teacher knowledge and examine how teachers modify classroom practice throughout the project.

New Jersey Partnership for Excellence in Middle School Mathematics (NJ PEMSM)

The New Jersey Partnership for Excellence in Middle School Mathematics (NJ PEMSM), a National Science Foundation-funded project, has partnered with 13 school districts to work with mid-career middle grades math teachers to enhance their knowledge of the mathematics they teach daily. Partner districts include: Berkeley Heights, Carteret, Edison, Elizabeth, Franklin, Linden, Long Branch, Matawan-Aberdeen, North Brunswick, Old Bridge, Orange, Plainfield, Sayreville, Toms River, and Union Township. Among its goals, NJPEMSM focuses on preparing a cadre of mid-career middle school mathematics teachers who:

  • understand the mathematics of middle school more deeply.
  • engage their students more effectively in studying and learning mathematics.
  • take on leadership activities such as facilitator of in-house content-based professional development for their colleagues.

NJ Statewide Systemic Initiative (NJ SSI)

The NJ SSI project catalyzed teacher professional development and research towards state-wide, systemic, and curricular changes to improve mathematics and science achievement. Aided by an investment of over $30 million dollars in National Science Foundation (NSF) and state matching funds, the Rutgers CMSCE led a broad state partnership among many NJ schools, districts, colleges/universities, science centers, museums, business and industries to affect systemic change. The NJ SSI project accomplished its primary goals of improving participation, performance, and achievement in mathematics and science for all students in New Jersey. It did so by helping districts examine what they teach (standards and frameworks), how they teach (instructional methods), and how they assess learning in standards-based professional development. One outcome of the project was the development of a Statewide Strategic Plan for systemic reform in standards-based curriculum, instruction, and assessment in mathematics and science K-12+. The initiative Impacted over 40,000 teachers and administrators in over 2,000 schools, or 85% of all schools in NJ.

MetroMath Center for Learning and Teaching

The MetroMath project was collaborative effort among three universities: Rutgers CMSCE (lead), CUNY, and University of Pennsylvania. Funded by NSF for $10M over 5 years, schools and districts in NYC, Philadelphia, Newark, and Plainfield, NJ participated. The primary goals were the attainment of knowledge that, put into practice, allowed students in urban schools to learn conceptually challenging mathematics. In partnerships with numerous New Jersey school districts, the CMSCE led workshops for new mathematics and science teachers; STEM curriculum development in collaboration with industry; and research of key factors affecting student and teacher interaction in urban contexts.

Professional Development Series in Engagement and Achievement in STEM Learning

The CMSCE was contracted by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation to provide professional development to teachers of all STEM subjects in their induction year serving high-needs districts.

Designing Optimal Learning Environments for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS): Curriculum, Pedagogy and Assessment

The CMSCE provided teacher professional development (PD) on the alignment of middle and high school curricula and instruction to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for New Brunswick Public Schools, and evaluated the impact of the PD on teacher participants’ development. The PD model included a 4-day summer academy emphasizing project-based learning (PBL) in the designing of NGSS-aligned curricula and instruction, as well as monthly follow-up Professional Learning Community meetings (PLCs) throughout the year providing numerous opportunities for teachers to develop and implement lesson plans, share results of lesson writing and implementation (successes and challenges), provide mutual feedback, and refine curricula and assessments. Teachers were interviewed and the units they were developed were analyzed for NGSS alignment. Even though their understanding of NGSS-alignment as demonstrated in their curriculum writing varied, most teachers obtained a basic understanding and conceptualization of NGSS and PBL. Interviewed teachers believed that the PD model was helpful to their development as science teachers, and all reported that there were no aspects of the PD that were not helpful. (study published in Frontiers in Psychology; Shernoff, Sinha, Bressler, & Schultz, 2017).

From STEM to STEAM: Re-Making 21st Century Learning

Funded by the National Endowment of the Arts and working closely with the Rutgers Makerspace and Mason Gross School of Arts, we provided professional development to the teachers of Toms River Regional Schools (TRRS) on a “maker mindset” approach to development STEAM instruction and curriculum. The project supported the creation of STEAM Academies in three TRRS high schools. PD focused on project-based learning with artists, drawing from the integrated, multi-disciplinary approach of STEAM and the experiential learning tools of makerspaces. Up to 60 core teachers were trained within the district, at Rutgers, and in virtual and live field experiences - to engage and inspire students and peers in a lifelong learning pathway in the arts or STEAM, create lessons that promote problem-solving and expression through creative and arts-based strategies, align activities with state and national STEAM standards, develop replicable modular maker kits for wide replication, and become empowered master teachers. STEAM academy courses were to be offered to over six-thousand students moving forward.

 

 

Central New Jersey Partnership to Enhance Mathematics Achievement

CMSCE partnered with the school districts of Franklin Township, North Brunswick Township, and New Brunswick to improve the academic achievement of the students of participating teachers in grades 3-5.