The National Science Foundation has allocated a $ 9.8 million fund to a teacher-focused initiative that will modify science instructions in Buffalo Public Schools.

The five-year program called the Interdisciplinary Science and Engineering Partnership  is spearheaded by Buffalo University, Buffalo Public Schools, State College and  Museum of Science.

The initiative will  allot resources to reform science education and enhance teachers’skills and knowledge.

Science and math teachers of 12 middle and high schools in the Buffalo Public Schools district will receive a wealth of new professional development opportunities.

These will encourage educators to add interdisciplinary content to lessons and devote more time to activities that emphasize problem-solving. This approach makes science more exciting for students and challenge them to think extensively.

The teachers will be mentored by professional learning communities composed of fellow teachers, museum educators, faculty members, students, local scientists and engineers.

The ultimate goal is to improve teacher retention and student success in a district where performance in science and math falls well below the state average. If it works, this will raise the number of students finishing high school with an interest in science, technology, engineering and math.

We want to use UB’s strength in interdisciplinary research to influence the quality of education in public schools.” –  Joseph Gardella ISEP project lead

Amber M. Dixon, interim superintendent of Buffalo Public Schools, said that because of the partnership, the children of the Buffalo Public Schools will be exposed to every opportunity in the field of science.

In addition to four core partners, organizations supporting the endeavor include Praxair Inc., Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Hauptman-Woodward Medical Research Institute, the Western New York Service-Learning Coalition and the Buffalo Public Schools District Parent Coordinating Council. Pilot funding for the program came from a $ 485,000 grant from the John R. Oishei Foundation.

Each partner will play a critical role, providing staff and facilities for projects ranging from research experiences for teachers to after-school programs for students. Roswell Park and Hauptman-Woodward will serve as state-of-the-art professional development venues, for instance.

Successes so far are anecdotal: Teachers at all three pilot schools have worked with ISEP partners to develop interdisciplinary, inquiry-based curricula. Since 2007, students in ISEP classrooms at the Native American Magnet School have been about 30 percent more likely than district peers to attain proficiency on the eighth grade state science exam.

The new $ 9.8 million grant will enable researchers in UB’s Graduate School of Education to study the partnership in a more systematic way, using interviews with teachers, classroom observations and data from an independent evaluation team at the Miami University of Ohio to determine how well the program is working, and why.