Source: Delaware State News
By Sen. Ted Kaufman
Before we enter another school year, I would like to commend the excellent science instruction taking place in Delaware. The science educators and leaders in the state have created a world-class science program.
In 1995, several school districts banded together to form the Delaware Science Coalition. The group received a National Science Foundation grant, which allowed the districts to have an out- of-classroom science specialist, provide science profession al development for all teachers, assemble science materials, develop assessments, and meet as a group. Within three years, all school districts except one had joined the Coalition.
Even though all of these actions have made a demonstrable difference in Delaware's science education, the most impressive example of the coalition's efforts can be witnessed any given day where it matters most: the classroom.
The most popular part of science classes is when students get to apply a lesson to an experiment or activity. When I have visited Delaware classrooms, students' faces light up when they learn about chromatography by creating ink patterns. And I have seen students who are so proud when their engineering designs protect a free-falling egg from breaking.
These are the golden opportunities when science can be both educational and fun. It is in these moments when education meets the "real world" and can really motivate students to pursue science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as careers.
However, the resources to create these experiments can be very costly.
The coalition has addressed this by perfecting a way to provide resources to class rooms while keeping costs and waste at a bare minimum.
The coalition's John W. Collette Education Resource Center is a warehouse in Dover dedicated to storing, building, refurbishing, and shipping science kits to Delaware classrooms. It looks much like a Home De pot, with rows of supplies and busy forklifts running around, but the shelves are filled with units to introduce life, physical, and Earth science to students.
All districts share materials, and kits rotate through several teachers per year. In order to obtain the materials, a teacher must attend professional-development training. Then the warehouse sends out the kit; teachers and students use it; it is picked up weeks later and refurbished; and then it is sent to another teacher. By sharing materials, costs are kept to a minimum.
The Collette Center is unique in that it is the only science program in the country that provides a curriculum aligned to standards, an intensive professional-development effort, and a materials-support service for public and charter schools throughout the entire state.
Delaware's science program is very impressive and the work is paying off for students. When the new science standards and assessments were first implemented in 2001, only 42 percent of eighth-grade students met or exceeded the standards. By 2009, 60 percent of eighth-graders met or exceeded the standards. Similar achievement gains have been illustrated at the fourth, sixth and 11th grades. This is an incredible achievement, and I am confident Delaware's science teachers and leaders will continue to build on this accomplishment, thanks in large part to the Delaware Science Coalition.
Editor's note: U.S. Senator Edward E. "Ted" Kaufman, D-Del., is the only former working engineer in the U.S. Senate.