Creating Cohesive Initiatives in Cleveland through LASER
As is often the case, a number of STEM-focused initiatives had developed independently across the district and administrators recognized the value of investing the time, energy, and resources into a strategic planning effort to bring coherence to their science department, STEM program, health curriculum, and career and technology education. After an intense and sometimes contentious week of implementing the LASER systemic reform model, the Cleveland team left with a strong first draft and I headed home with a greater appreciation for the work of the SSEC and the value of the LASER model.
The Cleveland team continued to meet through the fall and into the spring, and each time we met, we encountered another obstacle that challenged the implementation of district-wide reform. However, the group persevered, and thanks to the relevant and useful content delivered by the SPI faculty and the incredibly valuable resources provided by the SSEC, we were able to stay focused and produce a strong vision for the science program in the Cleveland Metropolitan School District. District administrators were so impressed by the power of the LASER model and the quality of the plan that resulted that they decided to have other departments in the district engage in similar strategic planning activities.
The Cleveland team creates a shared vision for science education
"I consider my work with the SSEC to be an integral component of my own professional development. As a science educator, it is important to develop relationships with institutions that are the leaders in their fields, and there is no more respected organization than the Smithsonian."
The Cleveland strategic plan for science has already yielded tangible results. Steps are being taken to align health and science curricula, the work of community partners is being reorganized to address specific goals articulated in the plan, standards have been established for professional development providers, and a district-wide materials support program has been successfully implemented in elementary schools. In fall 2015, the team will reconvene to review the plan; we will celebrate what has been accomplished to date and identify a work plan for the coming academic year.
Selfishly speaking, I continue to benefit from my association with the SSEC and the Strategic Planning institute. I learned volumes as a participant in 2013, and I learn something new every time I work with a group as a faculty facilitator. I have been fortunate to facilitate two SPIs in the last several years, and this has allowed me the opportunity to work with very different schools and districts, expanding my understanding of the challenges of science education at a national level. I consider my work with the SSEC to be an integral component of my own professional development. As a science educator, it is important to develop relationships with institutions that are the leaders in their fields, and there is no more respected organization than the Smithsonian. I am looking forward to taking advantage of more of the high-quality programs the SSEC offers in the future.
In an ever-changing educational landscape, I identify with the SSEC’s core set of principles and beliefs that guide their work. STEM, STEMM, STEAM, STREAM, or any other acronym you can construct—in the end, those are just letters. Science education in this country needs high-quality programs that engage the minds of teachers, students, and families, and that is exactly what the SSEC delivers.
James Bader is the Executive Director of the Leonard Gelfand STEM Center at the College of Arts and Sciences and Case School of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. Leonard Gelfand STEM Center website