The School District of Palm Beach County, together with the University of Florida, has announced the launch of a three-year reform effort to build a “best-in-class” educational program in the vital STEM subject areas of science, technology, engineering and math.
Officials say the ambitious effort could become a national model for transforming teacher practice and student learning in the STEM subjects. The resulting professional development and educational advances will directly benefit thousands of teachers and students in the Palm Beach County district.
Palm Beach County science teachers construct an atom model at a UF Summer Institute on chemistry instruction recently at UF’s P.K. Yonge Developmental Research School.
Major funding support for the STEM initiative’s rollout comes from $1 million in combined grants from three charitable foundations—the Community Foundation for Palm Beach and Martin Counties, the Mary and Robert Pew Public Education Fund and Quantum Foundation. Additional funding is projected with amounts to be considered before the effort’s second and third years.
UF has worked with the school district and its community and philanthropic partners in planning the initiative, and will provide “in-kind” professional development and educational programs valued at more than $1 million—funded primarily by additional state and national foundation grants held by UF’s College of Education
UF and school district officials expect the Palm Beach County STEM Initiative to yield measurable improvement in four key areas: school culture, teacher quality, student learning, and higher performance and assessment evaluations in the STEM subjects for teachers and students. Certain programs are designed especially for schools in high-poverty communities where recruiting and retaining teachers is more challenging
“This bold initiative will position the Palm Beach County school system as a national leader in recruiting, retaining and developing highly effective teachers and boosting students’ achievement,” said Dean Glenn Good of UF’s College of Education.
Palm Beach County School Superintendent E. Wayne Gent said, “With the ever increasing importance of STEM-related jobs in Florida, the (school district) is dedicated to equipping our teachers with the resources they need to educate the future STEM leaders of tomorrow. We are grateful to our partners at the University of Florida, along with the generosity of our key foundation partners, who made this program a reality.”
UF’s College of Education brings several existing STEM education innovations to the partnership. The college’s Lastinger Center for Learning will provide job-embedded professional learning opportunities to district science and math teachers, and the center’s free, online Algebra Nation tutoring program (launched last year in numerous Florida school districts) supports students and their teachers preparing for a required algebra end-of-course exam.
Through an outreach program called U-FUTuRES — or UF Unites Teachers to Reform Education in Science — university professors will train middle-school Science Teacher Leaders to lead districtwide implementation of research-proven teaching practices and subject content. The education college also will provide tuition-free courses to 15 Palm Beach County teachers for a certification program in math or science education that they can take without leaving their classrooms. UF launched U-FUTuRES last year in 20 mostly rural Florida school districts under a $5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.
Another new UF program is Florida STEM-TIPS (Teacher Induction and Professional Support), which will have education faculty developing coaching, mentoring and networking programs for new science and math teachers in Palm Beach County.
Other components of the UF-Palm Beach Schools STEM initiative include:
Math and science clinics emphasizing special “inquiry-based” teaching and learning practices;
Weeklong summer institutes at UF for teachers led by UF science and math professors;
Regular meetings of principals and school leaders to support improved STEM teaching and learning in the district;
An annual learning showcase where teachers can share the results of their new learning experiences. CONTACT: Source: Tom Dana, associate dean, UF College of Education, 352-273-4134 Writer: Larry Lansford, News & Communications, UF College of Education, 352-273-4137, firstname.lastname@example.org