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Published: Saturday, 12/20/2008

Grant to help Toledo Public School science teachers

BY JAMES JOYCE III
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The U.S. Department of Education and the University of Toledo are teaming up to provide a nearly $1.9 million grant-funded program aimed at improving the content and methods of science instruction for Toledo Public School science teachers.

Starting this summer, the four-year grant - $940,000 from the U.S. Department of Education, which was matched by the University of Toledo - will pay for two groups of 10 TPS science teachers to pursue a master's degree in biology through UT's Inquiry Master's Program Advancing Content for Teachers, known as IMPACT. The master's degree is a two-year program.

"I think it's important to give opportunities for teachers to stay up to date in their content area," said John Foley, TPS superintendent.

"It's only going to benefit our kids to be able to produce highly qualified teachers and produce highly qualified instruction for our kids."

The grant money will go primarily toward scholarships and fee waivers for up to 20 science teachers in grades 4-12. The scholarships cover all costs for the program, which include tuition, fees, parking, course books, and materials. Each scholarship has an estimated value of $15,000. Scholars also will get a two-year membership to the Science Education Council of Ohio.

The remainder of the money will be used for program staff, evaluation, to pay for substitute teachers, and to supplement professors' salaries, as the times that many of the courses will be offered will need to be changed to accommodate the teachers' schedules.

"Too often science education ends up being a teacher lecturing to a class. The IMPACT program will help science teachers increase both their science content knowledge as well as their ability to teach that knowledge to students," said Charlene Czerniak, a professor of education at UT and a co-author of the grant.

Programs improving science and mathematics instruction are of particular focus in recent years as job projections show a need for strong skills in both disciplines. Those are also the areas where TPS students and their peers across the country struggle the most.

Last year, 64 percent of TPS 10th graders passed the mathematics section of the Ohio Graduation Test and 55.6 percent passed the science portion. The state averages for those sections are 79 percent and 72.8 percent respectively.

Daryl Moorhead, a professor of ecology at UT who also helped to write the grant, said that in order to understand science, one really needs to be able to practice it.

"We're dealing with successful teachers, and the idea is to give them that extra bit of training to look at the world as a scientist and simply not just a teacher," he said.

That will involve more inquiry-based learning, using laboratory methods and techniques, and philosophical methods of problem solving.

The program will start this summer, and interested science teachers can apply immediately. The final application deadline for the first group of 10 teachers is March 1.

Applicants must be U.S. citizens and Ohio residents and must meet UT graduate school and department of environmental sciences academic admissions requirements.



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