Southeast Awarded $111,111 for ‘Operation: Science!’

Southeast Missouri State University has been awarded $111,111 in federal funds to support “Operation:  Science!  An Enhancement Approach to Physical Science,” a project aimed at improving teacher quality in Missouri.

“Operations: Science!” is designed to increase student academic achievement through the improvement of teacher and principal quality, increase school and school district accountability for these improvements, and ensure quality teachers in core subject areas. The federal funds were awarded by the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and the Missouri Department of Higher Education.

Dr. Sharon Coleman, professor of chemistry at Southeast and director of the Godwin Center for Science and Mathematics Education, wrote the grant.

“I think we’ve presented a very comprehensive project,” Coleman said.  “I attended a statewide meeting, and all of the other projects seemed fairly narrow.  Ours was close to the top. I’m confident our program will exceed expectations for improving teacher quality in our targeted schools.”

Reaffirming their commitment to improving teacher quality in Missouri, the Coordinating Board for Higher Education and the Missouri Department of Higher Education in February awarded nearly $1 million in federal funds to seven projects aimed at improving teacher quality in Missouri . “Operation: Science!” is among those projects.

Southeast’s project will focus on schools that have been designated by the Department of Higher Education using the No Child Left Behind Act.  The federal government has asked states to use census data to determine appropriate information about school children in choosing eligible schools.

The program, which is available to 24 teachers who may apply, will consist of a two-week workshop this summer, as well as six one-day enhancement workshops in the fall. The two-week session will be designed using comments from participating teachers regarding the specific areas of physical science to address.  The enhancement one-day workshops will each target a particular subject.  An online forum will be established for the teachers, along with a Web site, where all lessons and units they teach will be available.

Those who choose to attend the program will receive a $720 stipend for participating, along with $100 for equipment purchases for their school, such as for computer-based lab enhancements.

We’re really trying to individualize this for each school,” Coleman said.  “In order to target these people, we have to incorporate new technology with existing approaches to teaching science.  In addition, there will be master teachers from public schools who will participate as instructors.”

Several groups are involved in the project.  According to Coleman, it is a cooperative effort involving faculty from the Southeast College of Science and Mathematics and the College of Education, as well as the NASA Educator Resource Center, the Regional Professional Development Center (RPDC) and all targeted public schools.

The Department of Higher Education (DHE) staff selected seven professional development projects to address middle and high school student achievement in three critical areas of science:  matter and energy; force, motion, and mechanical energy; and living systems. Commissioner of Higher Education Quentin Wilson explained the importance of quality in schools.

“Ensuring that Missouri’s middle and high school students have high quality teachers is critical,” said Wilson.  “In order to be successful in post-secondary education, students need to receive adequate preparation in elementary and secondary education.”

For more information about this grant or to be included in the project, contact Dr. Sharon Coleman at (573) 651-2372 or scoleman@semo.edu.  To find out more about the upcoming funding for the additional project, contact the Department of Higher Education website at http://www.dhe.mo.gov.  An electronic version of the request for proposals can be accessed at http://www.dhe.mo.gov/Acadafrs/titleIISAHE.htm.