BUFFALO, N.Y. -- A coalition of regional partners has received
$9.8 million from the National Science Foundation to expand a
promising, teacher-focused initiative that aims to change how
science is taught in Buffalo Public Schools.
The five-year program, led by the University at Buffalo, Buffalo
Public Schools, Buffalo State College and the Buffalo Museum of
Science, is called the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering
The big idea behind the initiative is to throw the community's
diverse resources behind reforming science education, primarily by
improving teachers' skills and knowledge.
A news conference was held to announce the initiative. Watch the
Through ISEP, science and math teachers at 12 middle and high
schools in the Buffalo Public Schools district will receive a
wealth of new professional development opportunities. Chief among
them: the chance to spend a summer conducting interdisciplinary
research with local scientists.
These experiences will encourage educators to add
interdisciplinary content to lessons, and to devote more class time
to activities like experiments that emphasize problem-solving. This
approach to teaching makes science more exciting for students,
challenging them to think broadly and arrive at answers on their
Throughout the school year, ISEP teachers will receive support
and mentoring from professional learning communities that include
fellow teachers, museum educators, Buffalo State College and UB
faculty members, UB students, and local scientists and
Meeting weekly, these networks will give teachers a place to
swap ideas and seek advice as they develop lesson plans emphasizing
scientific inquiry and big-picture, interdisciplinary ideas.
Ultimately, the goal is to improve teacher retention and student
success in a high-needs district where performance in science and
math falls well below the state average. If it works, ISEP will
raise the number of students finishing high school with an interest
in science, technology, engineering and math.
"We want to use UB's strength in interdisciplinary research to
influence the quality of education in public schools," said Joseph
Gardella, ISEP project lead and John and Frances Larkin Professor
of Chemistry at UB. "It's important to note that we're not only
implementing the program, but studying what works and what doesn't
as well. This is what a research university does. We're doing
world-class research, and it's helping Buffalo."
Amber M. Dixon, interim superintendent of Buffalo Public
Schools, said that because of the partnership among UB, Buffalo
State and the Buffalo Museum of Science, "the children of the
Buffalo Public Schools will be exposed to every opportunity in the
field of science."
"The support that this NSF grant will lend to our educators and
students is immeasurable in its long lasting effect on young
lives," she said. "In our programs underway through the support of
the Oishei Foundation, we can already see the difference these
collaborations in learning and teaching make in young lives.
"We can only imagine that we are honing the scientists of the
future right here in our schools."
In addition to the four core partners, organizations supporting
ISEP include Praxair Inc., Roswell Park Cancer Institute,
Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, the Western New York
Service-Learning Coalition and the Buffalo Public Schools District
Parent Coordinating Council. Pilot funding for the program came
from a $485,000 grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation.
Buffalo State College President Aaron Podolefsky, Buffalo Museum
of Science CEO Mark Mortenson and leaders from other ISEP partners
offered their support for the project: http://www.buffalo.edu/news/12950.
Each ISEP partner will play a critical role, providing staff and
facilities for projects ranging from research experiences for
teachers to after-school programs for students. Roswell Park and
Hauptman-Woodward will serve as state-of-the-art professional
development venues, for instance.
"What's amazing about this partnership is the collaboration, the
willingness of people to really step up and contribute to a
difficult project," Gardella added. "Instead of going it alone,
each participating institution is taking its particular strengths
and applying them toward a larger goal."
Every year for five years, ISEP will reach a total of 48
teachers, starting with educators at seven schools and branching
out later to include a dozen schools. The program takes a pipeline
approach, targeting K-8 "feeder" schools and the high schools those
feeder schools' graduates attend.
Gardella and colleagues launched the program in 2005 at the
Native American Magnet School in Buffalo. Since then, thanks to the
Oishei Foundation funding, the initiative has expanded to include
East High School and the Math, Science and Technology Preparatory
School at Seneca (Seneca MST).
Successes so far are anecdotal: Teachers at all three pilot
schools have worked with ISEP partners to develop
interdisciplinary, inquiry-based curricula. Since 2007, students in
ISEP classrooms at the Native American Magnet School have been
about 30 percent more likely than district peers to attain
proficiency on the eighth grade state science exam.
The new $9.8 million grant will enable researchers in UB's
Graduate School of Education to study ISEP in a more systematic
way, using interviews with teachers, classroom observations and
data from an independent evaluation team at the Miami University of
Ohio to determine how well the program is working, and why.
Teachers selected to participate in ISEP may stay in the program
for up to three years, receiving up to 780 hours of structured
In summer, the research institutes will engage teachers in
cutting-edge, interdisciplinary research in three areas that UB
identified as institutional strengths through the UB 2020 planning
process: Integrated Nanostructured Systems; Molecular Recognition
in Biological Systems and Bioinformatics; and Extreme Events:
Mitigation and Response. Some participants will receive stipends to
attend classes at Buffalo State College that complement research
During the school year, UB graduate students will serve as
support to teachers in middle and high school classrooms. UB
student volunteers will also staff after-school and weekend science
clubs. The Buffalo Museum of Science will open its doors for family
science nights and summer programs.