Smith: New science curriculum could raise scores

Smith: New science curriculum could raise scores

NORTH PROVIDENCE - Below average test scores in science have plagued the two middle schools in North Providence but Supt. Melinda Smith is working alongside multiple organizations to initiate a revised curriculum in an attempt to improve these results.

For the first time last year, teachers and students at the middle and elementary schools had the opportunity to participate in the JASON Project.

Smith said the district received $138,000 in grant money for the program, which included trips to Mystic Aquarium, professional development workshops, guest speakers and computer access codes.

The JASON Project is a nonprofit organization that connects students to science by engaging them in live webcasts, inquiry-based labs, videos and online games.

"Last year we were recruiting teachers to participate but there is more interest moving forward with our faculty and staff," she said. "The major part of the project is improving instruction overall."

Along with the JASON Project initiative, the district invested funds to purchase resources, technology and an on-site consultant to assist teachers in revising their science curriculum.

Smith said Ron Defonzo of East Bay Collaborative was hired as the on-site consultant for the upcoming school year.

"He will push in the classroom and co-teach and guide them through the materials because teachers in kindergarten through 5th grade need some professional development with science because they are not science certified," she said.

Defonzo said this school year the teachers are adopting a whole new science program based on investigations and experiments.

He said the students would focus on life, earth and physical science using materials developed at the Lawrence Hall of Science in California.

"All the teachers are getting trained, some did in June and the rest will be in September," he said. "I'll be working in the schools to help teachers and mentor them. They will be using two kits and it's all based on inquiry and scientific practices."

The program offers materials so students can investigate, collect and analyze data, "which is what kids should be doing in schools under the new national science standards."

According to Defonzo, the last time the North Providence school district revised its science program was in 2000.

"This new curriculum is all about kids being actively involved and I know the kids will love it and the teachers will love it and they'll get the support they need and training and lessons," he said. "We'll see if we can get the science scores up."

Smith explained that scores at both Birchwood Middle School and Dr. Edward A Ricci Middle School were lower than average on the 2013 NECAP exam.

According to the NECAP report, only 9.5 percent of students at Birchwood were proficient in science, while 9.8 percent were proficient at Ricci.

"We're trying to pull everything together and these initiatives match the goals for the district strategic plan," Smith said. "The School Committee has been working behind the scenes with limited funding to support good STEM initiatives in the district."

Smith said she is optimistic that these programs will help the district's scores, but it might take another year of professional development before the results are obvious.

Comments

Until Federal, State and Local Education agencies stop the over use of testing in the elementary classroom and let Teachers do what they do best "Teach" your childrens' education will continue to be a comparison with the haves and have notes. Every child can learn but each child learns at different rates. Teachers know this but they are forced to over test and prepare students for the tests not to learn and retain the information they have been taught.

Right now Math and Reading are the big "test areas" so much of the class instructional time is spend on these areas in order to pass a test, not retain what they have learned, but to pass a test. LET TEACHERS TEACH and we all will be surprised how well the children learn and retain what they are taught.