Oxy Shares Learning Reform Grant
Occidental College, the Urban Education Partnership, and the Baldwin Park Unified School District have been awarded a $887,000 state grant to develop new methods of teaching math and science to elementary and middle school students in Baldwin Park.
The collaboration, which will be called the Baldwin Park Math Science Partnership, aims to improve learning by creating an environment in which teachers work together to consider long-term goals for students. Its approach, pioneered in Japan, calls on teachers to develop “research lessons” and engage in reflective observation and discussion, making instructional changes as needed. While the United States has numerous standards to improve classroom instruction, critics argue top-down mandates and high-stakes assessments aren’t completely effective. Lesson study proponents say that while tests and student work may offer information on what to improve, lesson study also suggests how to improve student performance.
“In lesson study, the focus shifts away from what the teacher does, to what the students learn,” said Occidental chemistry Professor Chris Craney, director of undergraduate and sponsored research at the college. “This is clearly cutting edge stuff. There’s a lot of reason to believe it’s going to be successful.”
The east San Gabriel Valley city of Baldwin Park was identified by the Urban Education Partnership as a “high need” area because of its school district’s lagging academic performance. The partnership will begin its activities in late August, when 60 math and science teachers from a dozen district campuses attend a two-week workshop. There also will be after-school sessions and 66 hours of classroom time, which includes one-on-one coaching.
The federal grant from the California Department of Education’s Mathematics and Science Partnership Grant Program is being funded for one year, after which it may be renewed. Occidental was approached by the Urban Education Partnership to help in the program. The college has a longstanding commitment to serving the local community. Since 1992 it has offered TOPS (Teachers + Occidental = Partnership in Science) to provide a number of science outreach programs planned and directed by a steering committee of high school teachers and Occidental faculty members. About 60 percent of the teachers who have attended a TOPS summer institute continue to participate in the program.
Established in 1887, Occidental College is consistently ranked in the top tier of national liberal arts colleges and is second in the nation in student diversity, according to US News & World Report. This year, more than 5,000 applicants vied for 445 freshman slots.
The Los Angeles-based Urban Education Partnership is an independent not-for-profit organization that seeks to provide innovative answers to complex issues. It operates in 14 school districts in four states.