CA teachers launch network to share info on science education

By Michelle Morgante The Associated Press
Thursday March 28, 2002

SAN DIEGO — A network of science teachers representing each of California’s 12,500 public and private schools is being built to share information on science education and, organizers hope, strengthen the field for the future. 

The National Science Teachers Association launched its “Building a Presence for Science” program in California on Wednesday during a convention in San Diego. 

The program, already in place in 19 states and the District of Columbia, establishes a pyramid network of teachers and education officials who act as liaisons for their respective schools. 

In California, 300 educators are being chosen to serve as “key leaders.” Each of these will be assigned about two dozens schools and asked to enlist a teacher at each campus to serve as a “point of contact.” 

Currently, 160 “key leaders” have been selected, with at least one person from each county, organizers said. The goal is to have every school in the state connected to the network within three years, said Maria Alicia Lopez-Freeman, a University of California researcher who helped organize the program. 

The “Building a Presence” system has been used in other states to distribute the latest information on teaching methods, resources, and training opportunities to science teachers throughout the K-12 school system. 

“This helps us cast a wide net to teachers in every school,” said Nancy Taylor, San Diego County’s science education coordinator who is helping build the network. 

Until now, educators have had a “very antiquated way of communicating to teachers,” with photocopied mailings often ending up in the back of a teacher’s lesson planner, she said. The new system, which will rely largely on the Internet, “will change the way we’re doing business in the Information Age.” 

Each point-of-contact person will be responsible for providing science teachers in their respective schools with the information sent through the network, including resources to support the goals of national and state science education standards. It will be up to teachers and schools to fit the program to their specific needs. 

A key goal of program is to have elementary school teachers learn how to better incorporate science into other fields, such as a reading lesson. This is especially important for schools that are under pressure to increase student performance on state-mandated tests for literacy or math. 

Many schools are so focused on reading or math that they find it hard to make time for science, said Scott Hill, chief deputy superintendent for the California Department of Education. 

The “Building a Presence” program will show teachers “how to build into a reading program quality science instruction and practice using scientific inquiry.” 

The launch of the program in California is being supported by a $520,000 grant from the ExxonMobil Foundation. 


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