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Teacher-Scientist Alliance Institute (TSAI)

Key Features

In regions where there appears to be a strong interest in implementing system-wide reform of science eduation, the Teacher-Scientist Alliance Institute (TSAI) of the American Physical Society (APS) mounts five-day leadership institutes (the 5-Day Regional Leadership Institute) for teams from school districts or consortia of school districts in the region. These teams usually consist of teachers, administrators, and scientists who learn together about the issues involved in systemic reform of elementary school science education and then develop a detailed plan for achieving it in their districts. Consortia of districts can also be involved. The plan covers all the sciences, not just physics.

For school districts or consortia where systemic reform is already underway, the TSAI provides five-day institutes in Washington, D.C. (the 5-Day Lead-Scientist Institute) for teams of scientists, engineers, and/or other technical personnel who might be leaders in the reform efforts in those districts. Also part of each team is usually an educator who is playing an important role in the reform effort. These institutes, held every year in January, expose scientists to many of the issues in science education and its systemic reform, and train them to be leaders among technical professionals in their area in support of reform.

In these districts, the TSAI also sponsors 1-Day Scientist Workshops (to recruit and educate other scientists) and 1/2-Day Community Workshops (to build community support).

The Montgomery County, Maryland, Public Schools (MCPS) system is an example of a large district (some 126 elementary schools) involved in the TSAI program.

Becoming Involved

  • There are now many TSAI-trained lead scientists in different regions of the country with whom other scientists can become involved if they are interested in systemic reform of elementary school science education..
  • Scientists can apply for a TSAI Lead-Scientist Institute. These institutes prepare scientists to become leaders in contributing to reform in a school district where systemic reform has only just begun or where scientists are not yet playing significant roles.
  • If a school district has not yet attempted reform, interested scientists might be able to help it get started by participating in the formation of a school district team to attend a TSAI Regional Leadership Institute.
  • In areas where systemic reform is underway with TSAI involvement, scientists can support the reform by first attending a 1-Day Scientist Workshop.
  • After reviewing the various features of the TSAI program of the American Physical Society, scientists in other professional societies may be interested in starting a similar program or in getting their societies to cooperate more closely with the APS.


Goal. The APS's TSAI is focused on promoting systemic reform of elementary science education and getting scientists (and engineers and other technical professionals) involved.

History and Scope. The TSAI was launched in October, 1994; Lead-Scientist Institutes have been held in 1995, 1996, and 1997, with 117 participants from 38 different geographic areas. Two Regional Leadership Institutes have been held in 1996 and 1997, with 169 participants from 25 individual school districts or consortia and one state represented by a National Science Foundation-supported Statewide Systemic Initiative.

Regional Leadership Institutes are held each spring at a site within a 2-3-state region for 12-14 teams. The purpose is to launch new systemic reform efforts or to strengthen fledgling efforts. Participating teams are expected to bolster each other's efforts after the Institute.


Five-Day Lead Scientist Institutes take place each year in January in Washington, D.C. The purpose is to train teams of 2-4 scientists, often augmented by a local educator, for the following leadership roles in school districts undergoing systemic reform of their science education programs: planning systemic reform, advocating the reform program to the community, and recruiting and training other scientists in the community to become involved, primarily with the professional development of teachers.


One-Day Scientist Workshops are organized by lead scientists and their school districts to train other scientists for a modest (2-3 days per year) level of involvement in local systemic reform.


Half-Day Community Workshops are organized primarily by school personnel for community leaders to build an understanding of and support for hands-on, inquiry-centered approaches to K-6 science education. Attendees usually include school board members, representatives of area businesses, representatives of institutions of higher learning affiliated with scientist advocates, and parent activists.


Sites with TSAI Involvement. The American Physical Society maintains a current list of school districts and consortia where the TSAI has been involved. The list provides names of school districts or consortia, institute attended, names of team members and contact information. Also provided is a short description of the current status of reform for each school district or consortium.


Montgomery County, MD, Public Schools as a Test Site. The TSAI has been heavily involved in the systemic reform efforts of the MCPS, a system with some 126 elementary schools, which is nearby and in an area with an abundance of scientists. This collaboration has allowed the TSAI to explore several differenct roles for scientists.


Organizational Information. The TSAI is an outreach activity of the APS, the one professional American society of physicists that embraces all areas of physics with about 40,000 members. It is funded by the "Campaign for Physics," a joint effort with the American Association of Physics Teachers to raise $5 million for several educational goals. The TSAI, which focuses on science education in grades K-6, is the largest of the programs funded by the campaign.

Contact. For general information about TSAI go to the TSAI homepage or contact

Kevin Aylesworth, phone: 301-209-3245, fax: 301-209-0835

To apply for admission to the Five-Day Institutes, contact

Tara McLoughlin, phone: 301-209-3231

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