Friday, October 23, 2015

Viking Voices - Salem State Collaborative Project for Professional Development

In our ongoing series of conversations about how Salem State transcends our academic careers and continues to add value for our alumni lives we've talked about: Career Services Online, the Enterprise Center, the Massachusetts Small Business Development Center, the  School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and alumni participation in the Major / Minors Fair. This week I'd like to kick off discussions of particular interest to those alumni who are teachers. Regardless of where life has taken alumni as educators, other careers and in other life circumstances you will find that the Salem State Collaborative Project for Professional Development (CPPD) is an ongoing enterprise for which we can point back to Salem State with pride. 

The Collaborative Project was started by Salem State professor Frank Sullivan and several public school science department heads from the North Shore in 1983. The original focus was on professional development for teachers in math and sciences teaching kindergarten through grade 12. It was then called the Collaborative Project for Math, Science and Interdisciplinary Education (CPMSIE). 

Today the Collaborative Project is an alliance of member schools and school districts serving a student population of over 62,000. In the past ten years the project has grown in scope from a focus on math and sciences to encompass professional development for teachers in all curriculum areas.

Professor Sullivan was taught biology and education at Salem State College.  He had also spent teaching time in England and noticed that the UK elementary and secondary teachers were offered professional development throughout the year in science in math.  He sought to emulate the successful practice back home in Massachusetts. 

Today the Collaborative Project is led by Executive Director Jim Kearns (SSC Class of 73/74), who is a retired Math Department Head of Lynnfield High School. Kearns partners with Jim Terlizzi, who retired as the Science Department Head at Peabody High School and serves as Finance Coordinator for the project. 

As technology increasingly transforms education The Collaborative Project has kept pace. The Collaborative Project became the leading SmartBoard training organization on the North Shore. When iPads became a ubiquitous teaching tool, the Collaborative Project became a leading iPad training group for teachers on the North Shore. They now lead the way in the implementation of Google in the Classroom.

Although 95 percent of the Collaborative’s work is geared toward teacher professional development there are additional notable successes. One is organization of the annual Women in Science and Engineering (W.I.S.E.) Career Day. Coordinated for many years by Jim Terlizzi, Daryl Mazzaglia and Salem State professor Gwen Scottgale. According to The Connectory, "The W.I.S.E. Career day initiative specifically targets young women at an impressionable age and exposes them to today's technologically oriented careers in mathematics and science." 

The W.I.S.E. Program has expanded throughout the years to over 500 participants (girls in grade 6 through 8). The program has become so successful that a major challenge is now fitting all of the students into the limited spaces of the available venues. 

Over 20 professional women in the science and engineering fields present workshops to the girls. W.I.S.E. events have featured guest speakers including WBZ meteorologist Danielle Niles who has returned for several years of engaging presentations. This year's speakers included a computer analyst and field agent for the FBI who is a role model for the students combining Computer Sciences with Law Enforcement and showing how women can succeed in these traditionally male dominated fields.

Another highlight of the Collaborative Project is organization of Advanced Placement Practice Exams in Science (Biology and Chemistry) and Mathematics (Calculus and Statistics). These events take place over two successive Saturdays in March and April. Jim Kearns told me, "We average 500 students in math and 3-400 in science. By the time the teacher accompanying her students leaves for the day all their scores are tabulated and the teachers know what questions to concentrate on helping their student to prepare for the exams." Jim said that the results include that the grades go up on average of one point. 

On Mondays throughout 2015 the Collaborative Project will offer ten or more two-hour sharing workshops on technology in the classroom and Common Core. On Saturday mornings a new program of workshops is also taking place SEEM Collaborative Office in Stoneham, MA. Click here to see the current schedule of programs (some sessions have an online component).

Jim Kearns said, "We try to adapt to address the changing needs of the teachers. The program used to only run after school with an occasional school day during the school years. Now we teach on Saturdays and host 20 programs during the summer. We’ve become a full year program." Jim continued, "This year we will add a new initiative being coordinated with the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston to do training for the parochial students from about ten schools north of Boston and helping them out as best we can."

Jim perhaps is most proud of how lean the Collaborative Project runs. He said, "We’ve worked out the overhead very well. We pay our presenters well but keep all other costs down." Membership in the Collaborative Project is consistently over 50 public school systems, parochial and private schools. Operating at a budget of less than $50,000 and at a cost to the participants of about $5 per contact hour the Collaborative Project is a bargain for all involved. 

Jim said that a big part of the success of the project is the support provided by Salem State. The University provides office space and helps manage the organization's financial transactions with members and vendors.  

I hope you share the pride I feel about this program headed by one of our great alumni and facilitated by Salem State University. I hope that you will continue to participate in this conversation and watch for the next edition of Viking Voices.

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