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 Grant Boosts San Diego County Math and Science

A $3 million grant awarded to the San Diego County Office of Education (SDCOE) will give a step up to San Diego County teachers and students through hands-on projects aligned with new academic standards.

The competitive California Mathematics and Science Partnership (CaMSP) grant will be used to implement an intensive, three-year professional learning opportunity for 100 math and science teachers in nine small school districts, San Diego Unified School District and SDCOE’s Juvenile Court and Community Schools

“We really wanted to do something that also supports our small districts in the region,” said grant co-author and SDCOE Lead Science​ Coordinator John Spiegel. He submitted the grant application with Mindy Shacklett, SDCOE lead mathematics coordinator.

With the grant, SDCOE will pioneer math and science integration as teachers develop expertise in project-based learning by working side-by-side with researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE), both of UC San Diego.

“The grant provides an authentic opportunity for teachers to engage in their content outside the classroom, and engage in the application of mathematics and science in a real-world situation,” Shacklett said.

Spiegel added that SDCOE is bridging the gap for teachers and students, especially in small districts, by bringing together a “phenomenal knowledge base” in the grant partners.

The three-year program will equip middle and high school math and science teachers with the content knowledge and instructional strategies that support California Mathematics and Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

The professional development experience is a big investment for teachers and districts with a total of 252 hours over three years. Sixty hours each year will be completed during the summer break with follow-up professional development throughout the school year. Stipends will be provided through the grant.

Teachers will learn how to develop quality tasks that incorporate active learning, with a focus on closing the achievement gap for underserved students in math and science. The professional learning will lead to engaged students using hands-on techniques to investigate real-world problems with math and science.

Throughout the three-year program, SDCOE and its grant partners will support and grow the teachers so that they can share their knowledge and skills with other teachers in their district.

“There are no [NGSS] experts yet,” Spiegel said of the standards, which were adopted in 2013 in California. “We want to create the right layers of support for our teachers and students.”

The goal is to refine and replicate these integrated math and science projects and quality STEM content throughout the county, Spiegel said.

The CaMSP grant program is federally funded and aims to improve teacher knowledge and increase the body of research on impactful professional development models.