FOSSconnect


FOSS Next Generation Implementations throughout the United States

Erica Beck Spencer | September 28, 2017

Over the next few years, we will be reporting on FOSS Next Generation implementations of various shapes and sizes from around the country. The reports will feature a wide range of transitions, from single-school purchasers to major urban center adoptions. The reports will be about transitions from textbooks, or having no science program at all, or transitions from the Second or Third Editions of FOSS to the Next Generation Edition. Some will be about purchasing the whole scope and sequence in one large purchase order, while others will be about the acquisition of a few modules at a time to manage limited resources. The goal of these brief reports will be to provide models describing how things are done in various areas around the country. They may be used as a tool to compare implementations, to think outside of your district's box to find solutions, and may even serve as a critical competitor for various ways to get the job done. It is possible that these reports will provide a way to tap into others' excitement and ruminations about how to adopt the FOSS Next Generation Edition in a manner that best works for your school or district. Ultimately, the goal is to share ways to positively affect the lives of as many teachers and students as possible. If you have already begun using the FOSS Next Generation Edition, these reports may suggest other ways to support, maintain, and improve the effectiveness of your adoption.

To kick this project off let's focus on two adoptions: Linden, New Jersey, and RESA 6 in the panhandle of West Virginia. These two adoptions share some similarities. Both are long-time FOSS users, both have passionate leadership, and both are about strengthening their implementation by bringing together their communities. You can get a taste for these adoptions here in print, but can read a more comprehensive overview of these adoptions on our new site for articles.

Northeastern United States

Strong FOSS implmentations in Linden, New Jersey, and RESA 6 in West Virginia.

Linden, New Jersey

Linden is a working-class town in northern New Jersey. They serve 6,080 students in their eight elementary schools, two middle schools, and one high school. The demographics of the community:

  • 54% students receive free or reduced lunch
  • 1,329 students speak 34 various languages
  • Black 34%
  • Hispanic 35.72%
  • White 21.79%
  • Multi-racial 4.91%
  • Asian 2.53%
  • Other .42%

The Linden Public School District's FOSS Implementation is one of the country's longest running FOSS implementations; they have been proud FOSS users since 1993. Linden has a refurbishment center, a supervisor of science, and an elementary science specialist. Their strong district science leadership is further supported by their participation in an informal partnership with four other nearby towns: Elizabeth, Hillside, Rahway, and Newark. Science leadership from the five districts meet several times a year to discuss future programs and to bounce ideas off of each other, and four of them have made the decision to use the FOSS Next Generation Edition after an in-depth review of eight different programs. During the summer of 2017, the five-district collaborative hosted peer-led module and course trainings, primarily in life science, and implementation will occur K–8 in the 2017–18 school year. The five districts will decide if the next trainings will be in the Earth Science Strand or Physical Science Strand.

Rose Goldstein, the district supervisor of science shared,

We were looking for a program and a partnership with a vision, who shares our values, who is going to be there when we need support—we were not just buying a product with an NG sticker on it. If we have a problem and a question—we know we can reach out to all on the FOSS team, to those with a shared passion for educating children to the best of our ability. The five towns wanted to work with a program who is loyal, loyal to our districts, loyal to our teachers, and ultimately loyal to our students. FOSS, the sales rep, and the consultants are part of our team and each of them treats our district, our teachers, our students as if they are their own.

For more information about Linden, New Jersey's history with FOSS PD and refurbishment plans, and lessons learned from 20+ years of using active science visit www.deltaeducation.com/FOSSconnect.

RESA 6

To understand the magic happening in parts of West Virginia you first have to understand how the state is organized. In this largely rural state counties are the school districts and counties are grouped and supported by Regional Education Service Agencies (RESA), a resource sharing and money saving organization that works in conjunction with the superintendents of each county. Hancock, Brooke, Ohio, Marshall, and Wetzel counties are served by RESA 6, led until recently by now retired Executive Director, Nick Zervos. RESA 6 provides a wide range of professional services including everything from lining athletic fields to providing professional development to over 10,000 people in all subject areas each year (those served are mostly educators, but they also provide adult education, training for firefighters, and many other types of trainings). RESA 6 is unique in that its science program is largely supported by the WV-Handle on Science Project founded in 1997 and led to this day by Libby Strong. The WV-Handle on Science Project provides most of the science PD offered to the RESA 6 educators, but more importantly, it provides the inspiration and support for teachers throughout the five districts to teach with fidelity with very limited resources. They coordinated the adoption and managed the transition to the FOSS Next Generation Edition. The program saves thousands of dollars for the counties and reduces potential barriers by providing most of the teacher-supplied items for teachers through the refurbishment center which manages the circulation of all the kits sent out to over 400 teachers. They manage three rotations per year from their 3,780-foot warehouse with one full-time materials manager, Vincent Loreto, who has been with the project for over 15 years. A sixth-grade teacher from Ohio County said about the refurbishment center, "Having the resources readily available is wonderful. The refurbished kits save so much time and effort, which in turn enhances my science teaching."

Libby's 20-year commitment to improving science education in the five counties is inspiring. Half of her salary is currently funded by the five districts, although she works tirelessly (although only half time) to do all that the districts need her to do; her many other science-education related projects fill the rest of her time. She is exceptionally dedicated and performs tasks that aren't necessarily on her job description, but she does them to support teachers and impact many children. For example, she will hand deliver live goldfish to teachers, she connects new teachers with experienced teachers so that they can receive some local support, and she has cultivated an enthusiastic team of teacher leaders. A cornerstone of most successful adoptions is a leader or, better yet, a leadership team, in the district to attend to the small stuff and to push the initiative along.

Libby's dedication has transformed teachers' practice enormously. A Brooke County fourth-grade teacher said about her work,

This is a program that has changed my teaching. When I began teaching, my least favorite subject was science. After I was introduced to the pedagogy and materials of the WV-Handle on Science Project, I understood the joy of learning science. My enthusiasm was transferred to my students. I have continued to refine my teaching skills each year and have added science notebooks in my science teaching.

The rural districts Libby works with have a free and reduced lunch percentage rate ranging from 35.7% to 51%. The student body is made up largely of white students ranging from 87% to 97.9%. The majority of the minority students are African-American, with a much lower percentage of Hispanic and Asian students. The five counties include 30 elementary schools and 10 middle schools. About 400 teachers are involved in the WVHOS project and attended the WVHSP PD for FOSS. For some of the titles, schools were able to purchase conversion kits, but in other instances, new titles needed to be purchased. All schools have upgraded from a curriculum consisting of FOSS Second Edition and a mixture of other hands-on science programs to a curriculum consisting entirely of FOSS Next Generation Edition.

And this, dear reader, is the spot, the place where you will now have to travel online to read more about the endeavors of these two districts.

Please visit www.deltaeducation.com/FOSSconnect to read the enhanced version of this article.