In 2010, the U.S. Department of Education funded the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA), a five-year, $34 million grant through its investing in Innovation (i3) program, which included a $5.7 million private sector matching requirement. VISTA was a statewide partnership among 80+ Virginia school districts, six Virginia universities (George Mason University, College of William & Mary, Virginia Commonwealth University, Virginia Tech, James Madison University and the University of Virginia), and the Virginia Department of Education. Oregon State University directed the independent evaluation of the VISTA program.
Prior to grant development, the Coalition developed two white papers which provided solid research for the development of grant components, e.g. scientific inquiry/ nature of science and science specialist task force. Members of the Coalition participated in grant implementation. In its strategic plan, the Coalition stated its commitment to continued support of VISTA-based initiatives.
VISTA ELIS at VCU, VISTA ELIS at UVA, and VISTA ELIS at VCU
Three grants, funded by the Virginia Department of Education Mathematics and Science Partnership (MSP) grants, continue the work of VISTA by providing elementary teachers in the central region of VA with professional development for up to three years. The goals of the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA) Elementary Literacy Integrated with Science (ELIS) and Middle Elementary Literacy Integrated with Science (MELIS) professional development project are to provide teachers with an integrated approach to teaching science and literacy designed to increase the instructional time allocated for K-8 science.
The professional development (PD) model (summer institute that includes content and pedagogy components, academic year follow-up, principal involvement, just-in-time coaching) will support teachers with needed science content knowledge and relevant pedagogical strategies through the use of a model of Learn-Try-Implement and focus on continuous improvement. Problem-based Learning (PBL) will provide a hook to engage students in solving real-world problems, and will allow teachers to integrate science and literacy in a meaningful context. We hypothesize that this school-based, sustained, integrated, iterative approach will increase elementary teachers’ science content and pedagogical knowledge, increase elementary students’ achievement in science, increase elementary principal awareness of and support for implementation of integrated science and literacy instruction, develop a robust STEM education at the K-5 level for participating schools, develop teacher-leaders in PBL instruction and science and literacy integration, increase elementary teachers’ reflective instructional practice, and increase time on science. The PI of the two VCU grants and Co-PI of the UVA grant was a staff member of the Coalition and she is now a Board member. A website is under development.
VISTA ELIS at VCU targets120 teachers and principals in Caroline County, Chesterfield County, Henrico County (HCPS), and Richmond City Public Schools (RPS). This partnership comprises Virginia Commonwealth University (School of Education, Life Sciences Department, and Chemistry Department), and the University of Virginia (Curry School of Education).
VISTA ELIS at UVA targets 120 teachers and principals in Albemarle County and Waynesboro City Schools. The partnership comprises the University of Virginia (Curry School of Education, Department of Chemistry, and Department of Physics), and Virginia Commonwealth University. The scientist from the Department of Physics serves as a Coalition board member.
VISTA ELIS at VCU targets 70 teachers and principals in Dinwiddie County and Petersburg City Public Schools. The partnership comprises Virginia Commonwealth University (School of Education), Virginia State University (College of Education, College of Natural and Health Sciences), and the two school districts. Dr. Grace Ndip, Coalition board member, is the Physical Sciences Scientist on the grant.