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New Grant Will fuel Research-Based Teacher Professional Development Program to Improve Science Learning in Oakland Schools


$999,000 Grant Awarded to Lawrence Hall of Science and Oakland Unified School District

(Berkeley, California) Elementary school teachers in the Oakland Unified School District will soon be working with researchers and graduate students at the University of California Berkeley to deepen their knowledge and understanding of science and improve their teaching skills, thanks to a new grant of almost $1 million awarded by the California Postsecondary Education Commission.

“This is a great example of the benefits of collaboration between the K-12 community and the University,” said Elizabeth Stage, Director of the Lawrence Hall of Science. “Working together, teachers will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of science, and graduate students will develop a greater awareness of the importance of science education and the needs of teachers.”

The new effort is made possible by a three -year Improving Teacher Quality (ITQ) grant of $999,677 awarded by the California Postsecondary Education Commission to the Berkeley Lawrence Hall of Science in partnership with Oakland Unified School District.

The project will address the needs of both teachers and students by providing research-based professional development that will build teachers’ science content knowledge, increase teachers’ ability to make science accessible to linguistically diverse students, and enhance students’ English language acquisition. Approximately forty 3rd to 5th grade teachers from Oakland schools will acquire field research experience in science by working directly with faculty and graduate students at UC Berkeley research facilities. Over the course of the project UC Berkeley Master’s- and PhD-level graduate students and OUSD teachers will both mentor and learn from one other.

“Involving K-12 teachers in field research with UC Berkeley scientists connects teachers not only to the content, but also to the nature and process of science” said Caleb Cheung, Science Manger for the Oakland Unified School District. “This partnership with Lawrence Hall of Science will enable teachers to apply newly gained science knowledge to better meet the needs of the students we serve.”

The project also focuses on closing the science achievement gap for English learners, for whom literacy is known to be a barrier to learning. In OUSD, over 40% of elementary students are English learners. The 2009 science proficiency level for English-fluent students is 41% versus 12% for English language learners. To address this gap, over the three years of the program, teachers will receive professional development in strategies designed to develop both academic language and content understanding.

“Teaching science using strategies that develop language abilities can help English learners build their skills in both English and science,” said Joanna Totino, Professional Developer and Project Director at Lawrence Hall of Science. “Doing hands-on science creates equity in the classroom because everyone is having the same tangible experience together.”

“Programs like these, where scientists and educators work together to improve science learning in high-need areas, are mission critical for the Hall,” added Stage. “Oakland students present tremendous talent for science learning. We need programs that help them realize their potential and contribute to the advancement of science.”




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