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CAPSI Leadership Roles

Pasadena Experience. The history of the Pasadena experience will soon be reported in a book to be published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, title to be announced. A chapter entitled "Doing Together What Neither Can Do Alone" will be devoted to the CAPSI/Pasadena project. It was written by CAPSI/Pasadena's four founders--Pasadena school teacher Jennifer Yure, Caltech biologist Jim Bower, Caltech physicist Jerry Pine, and the former Pasadena assistant superintendent, Mike Klentschy. Although all four have slightly different memories of the sequence of events, the first ideas seem to have come from Bower, who then recruited Pine because Pine had earlier been involved in developing an elementary-school science curriculum entitled Elementary Science Study (ESS). After a few false starts, Yure was found, teaching in the Pasadena system, and then Klentschy joined the team. It was Yure who defined the role of pilot school coordinator.

The informal growth of the program continued in the one pilot school until the four leaders became co-principal investigators on the first National Science Foundation grant, received in 1990. The objective of the grant was to spread the program to other schools in the Pasadena system. The four principles constituted the first leadership team (see Leadership Team below).

When the team was ready to introduce the modules into the next four pilot schools, Yure became pilot-school coordinator for them as well as the original pilot school and drew on leader teachers from the first pilot school to help with teacher training. A resource teacher from the first school also helped, spending increasing amounts of time in the new schools to support newly trained teachers in their classrooms.

CAPSI/Pasadena staff have come to believe that any reform effort should consider asking for guidance and support from another district with a model program, as it did from the Mesa, Arizona, Public Schools. Now CAPSI is playing that role for 12 other California school districts through The Center Project.

Pilot-School Coordinator. As a result of CAPSI/Pasadena's early experience, the role of pilot-school coordinator became more sharply defined: to lead the program in a pilot school by coordinating the professional development of the teachers, to acquire and maintain the instructional modules, and to develop and plan the program of the leadership team. In the CAPSI/Pasadena program, teacher training is no longer handled by the pilot-school coordinator but, rather, primarily by lead teachers. Ongoing teacher mentoring is then handled by resource teachers.

Lead Teachers. In the CAPSI/Pasadena program, lead teachers lead module-specific trainings (usually for a full day) for teachers who are preparing to teach a module for the first time. Lead teachers are elementary classroom teachers who have significant experience teaching inquiry science, including the module that is the object of the training. Often, lead teachers are selected by resource teachers who have seen them teach the module in the classroom. When a school district is ready to expand its science education improvement program, lead teachers will often be involved in the professional development activities of teachers in schools other than their own.

Resource Teachers. In the CAPSI/Pasadena program, resource teachers play a key role: they spend their time in elementary-school classrooms at one or two schools per day supporting classroom teachers as they teach science. Resource teacher responsibilities range from advising teachers using kit-based science education modules for the first time not to store plastic contains of crayfish on the to giving complex feedback on new approaches to classroom management and pedagogy. Naturally, resource teachers spend more time with teachers who are new to the program than with teachers who have had significant experience with it.

Leadership Team. The CAPSI/Pasadena model recommends the early creation of a leadership team composed of the following members:

  • The principal of the pilot school
  • The school district superintendent or the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction
  • The pilot-school coordinator
  • A lead scientist-collaborator recruited by the school district (or in some cases the scientist who has recruited the school district to the reform effort)
  • A master teacher, for the Center, from Pasadena, who is very experienced in hands-on, inquiry-centered science teaching and who can serve as a consultant to the pilot-school coordinator in training teachers and in acting as a resource teacher

The formation of the leadership team at the beginning of the entire project is designed not only to assure support for the reform efforts in the pilot school itself but also to lay the foundation, through involvement and commitment at the district level, for the difficult district-wide expansion to follow.

Training for Pilot-School Coordinator and Leadership Team. Because the pilot-school coordinator and the rest of the leadership team play such important roles, arrangements must be made to expose the members to the variety of issues and challenges they will face. In the new Center Project, this has taken the form of two weeks of training each year for the pilot-school coordinator, three days of which are also attended by the Leadership Team. It is at this time that the model project can be seen in motion in all of its many aspects.

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