Improved Science Education in Vermont Receives New Federal Funding
June 1, 2009
A program to improve science education in Vermont schools has received renewed federal funding for the next three years.
The Vermont Science Initiative (VSI) is administered by Johnson State College Professor Liz Dolci, who chairs the college’s Environmental and Health Sciences Department.
Dolci said the U.S. Department of Education Math-Science Partnership recently awarded additional funds to Vermont to improve math and science learning in schools. The State of Vermont then awarded the VSI program $250,000 a year for the next three years. The program was previously funded to the tune of $900,000 during the past few years.
“We currently have a Math-Science Partnership grant that runs out in June,” said Dolci. “This new grant begins in July, so in a way, this is a continuation of our program.
“The overall goal of the program is to improve the learning of science, kindergarten through eighth grade. We hope to achieve this by improving the science content knowledge of teachers and their delivery of instruction in standards-based science. With these changes in teaching practice, students will demonstrate an improved learning of science, accompanied with a deepening of critical thinking skills,” Dolci added.
The VSI now offers three programs:
VSI Master of Science Education Program (Tier 1): For K-8 teachers, a well-established three-year curriculum leading to a Master of Arts in Science Education
VSI One Year Professional Development Program (Tier 2): For K-8 teachers of science in Vermont, a one-year program of professional development that focuses on mastering science-related content, acquiring science-teaching skills, and improving general teaching practices
VSI Leadership Academy: A second pathway to school leadership in science through a program focusing on science teaching methods, science content and leadership skills This year, the VSI program is recruiting 20 teachers to study for a master’s degree in science, and between 80 and 100 teachers for the next three years for a the one year of professional development.
By partnering with colleges and universities in Vermont, teachers throughout the state are able to gain experience in best teaching practices, receive one-on-one mentoring at their school sites, and receive college credits for their studies.
VSI has teachers and schools in every county in Vermont participating in the VSI program, and higher education institutions involved include Johnson State College, Lyndon State College, Castleton State College, Middlebury College, Norwich University, Bennington College, and the University of Vermont.
Jeff Moreno, the athletic director at South Royalton School said the VSI program was the best professional development he had ever received. “It was very meaningful and practical,” said Moreno. “The strength of the program, in my opinion, was the mentor program. The classroom support was positive, helpful, usable. The professional relationships that were developed remain strong today. I consider this program to be critical for any elementary science teacher, and highly recommended for all self-contained elementary teachers because it allows teachers to develop the skills needed to teach inquiry-based lessons with confidence.
“The VSI staff was professional and flexible, always respecting the time constraints on full-time teachers while providing an appropriately rigorous course of study. The two-pronged approach of content area courses and pedagogical courses was perfect. Completion of this program will almost certainly open new doors for teachers in their schools,” he added.
The VSI program is currently recruiting teachers for programs that begin this summer. For more information, contact Professor Dolci at 802-635-1482, email: Elizabeth.Dolci@jsc.edu.