The Center for Mathematics, Science, and Computer Education (CMSCE) at Rutgers University

Through collaborative research and customized instruction, the Center for Mathematics, Science and Computer Education (CMSCE) at Rutgers University provides professional development for K-12 educators to enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning.

Director: David J. Shernoff

Rutgers University

Established: 1984

Profile submitted by David Shernoff

Vision and Goals

Through teacher professional development, outreach, and related research, the university-wide Center contributes to the improvement of mathematics, science, and computer education programs in New Jersey schools and schools nationwide. It provides professional development for K-12 educators to enhance science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) teaching and learning. The CMSCE fosters collaboration among educators and business leaders, practitioners and researchers to enhance the learning and teaching of mathematics and science, and to demonstrate how technology can contribute to these goals. Content and pedagogy experts offer in-district embedded professional development, research-based workshops, mentoring, and coaching in STEM-related disciplines. The center fosters collaborations among university and K-12 educators and Rutgers researchers in STEM education to help ignite the passions of teachers and students alike.

The Center has particular expertise and experience in high quality, ongoing teacher education in science, engineering, and mathematics. It is on the forefront of training and implementation of the integrated approaches to STEM education, The Next Generation Science Standards, the Maker movement, adult numeracy, engagement and motivation, informal science learning, and 21st-century technology tools (e.g., dynamic representational systems such as digital games). With the support of federal and state grants, it has formed partnerships with school districts throughout New Jersey.

The CMSCE brokers and facilitates collaborations among Rutgers University, other colleges and universities, industry, and local school systems who join together as partners in a mutually beneficial relationship. Each partner makes an important contribution and each reaps significant benefits from the collaborative relationship. School systems support their teachers' professional development efforts throughout the academic year. Companies encourage their scientists to contribute technical expertise to Center-sponsored activities. The University contributes faculty expertise to the Center. In return, school districts gain well-trained highly motivated practitioners and become models to other districts. Corporations and their participating scientists gain visibility, recognition, and good will for their contributions to their communities. The University, in turn, fulfills its public outreach and research mission. Over the past twenty-five years, teachers and students from every legislative district in New Jersey and from two-thirds of all NJ school districts have benefited from participation in Center-sponsored projects. The leadership cadre spawned by these programs is improving the teaching and learning of mathematics, science, and technology statewide, nationally, and even internationally.

The Center culls ideas from the best research, thinking and practice to forge new directions in mathematics, science, and engineering education. It infuses these practices with technology and evaluates their impact in our partner schools' classrooms. Center institutes and programs use strong mathematical and scientific content and offer powerful learning strategies. Science programs stress hands-on activities and the importance of developing processes of scientific reasoning. Mathematics programs present strategies and problem solving approaches to improve student mathematics learning. Technology programs are held at the Center's Digital Teaching and Learning Lab. The lab, which houses state-of-the-art technology equipment, gives teachers the tools to bring their students into the 21st century. All Center programs incorporate an inquiry-based approach to learning, emphasizing problem solving and guiding students toward higher levels of thinking – the skills our business partners demand.

CMSCE acts as a broker-facilitator in the service of furthering its goal of improving mathematics and science education. The center is organized as an umbrella unit that encompasses a group of projects who each share this goal. Currently, the CMSCE umbrella includes within it such projects several teacher professional development programs in the Next Generation Science Standards. One is a Mathematics and Science Partnerships grant funded by the New Jersey Department of Education, and one is a Community-University Partnership grant focusing on New Brunswick Public Schools. Another active project provides teacher professional development in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics (STEAM) emphasizing a maker mindset and using makerspace tools, in partnership with Toms River Regional Schools and funded by the National Endowment of the Arts. In addition, the Center is also providing professional development of Fellows of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation during their induction year teaching STEM disciplines in high needs school districts in New Jersey.

The overall umbrella structure of the CMSCE is described below. The CMSCE Director identifies areas for future growth and expansion. The director also initiates a process of forming a team of interested individuals to seek funding and develop new programs meeting identified needs.

Center/Program Structure

Unlike most other Rutgers Centers that are based in a school or on one campus only, the CMSCE is a university-wide center which is not located in any of the Rutgers colleges and does not report to any Dean. The CMSCE is based in Rutgers Division of Continuing Studies, which includes other Rutgers Centers related to continuing education, teaching and learning, and technology such as the Center for Online and Hybrid Learning and Instructional Technologies (COHLIT), the Center for Teaching Advancement and Assessment Research, Game Research and Immersive Design (GRID), and the Rutgers Makerspace. The CMSCE is directed it by a member of the Rutgers faculty. Other faculty are associates of the center or have an affiliation with it, but are not appointed at the center and are not paid by the Center's budget.

Past programs

Our most successful recent initiative has been an NSF Math and Science Partnership program: The New Jersey Partnership for Excellence in Middle School Mathematics (NJ PEMSM) directed by Professor Amy Cohen of the New Brunswick School of Arts and Sciences (SAS) Mathematics Department. This program worked with administrators and teachers from 13 school districts throughout New Jersey. The school districts spanned the gamut in terms of income. An important emphasis in this program was the inclusion of teachers of special education who work alongside regular education teachers of mathematics. This five-year program ended in 2015-2016.

Another very successful, previous program was the MetroMath program involving collaboration between Rutgers, the City University of New York, and the University of Pennsylvania and associated school districts in New York City, Philadelphia, Newark, and Plainfield. The primary aim of the MetroMath Center was to obtain knowledge that, put into practice, enables students in urban schools in their learning of conceptually challenging mathematics.

Successes and Impacts

MetroMath recruited a cadre of doctoral students who have gone on to become leaders in mathematics education and research. Many of these leaders were recruited from the teaching ranks in the districts associated with the MetroMath program. NJ-PEMSM has created a cadre of teacher-leaders who now have a deeper knowledge of mathematics and are successfully engaging their students in learning mathematics. One other prior program, NJ-SSI (The New Jersey Statewide Systemic Initiative in Mathematics, Science, and Technology) had numerous accomplishments including:

- Adoption of Core Curriculum Content Standards, including standards in mathematics and science;

- Adoption of a strategic plan for systemic reform;

- Adoption of a long-range plan for educational technology;

- Adoption of policy mandating statewide, standards-based assessments in grades 4, 8, and 11;

- Adoption and dissemination of the Mathematics Framework;

- Establishment of 21 Educational Technology Training Centers, to train educators how to use technology to enhance standards implementation and student achievement;

- Release of assessment data disaggregated by gender, race and ethnicity;

- Adoption and dissemination of the Science Framework; and

- Adoption of policy requiring every teacher to complete 100 hours of continuing education every five years.

Elements Contributing to Success

The most important element contributing to programmatic success has been Rutgers University administrative support. By operating as a university-wide Center, the CMSCE has been able to concentrate on programming in all STEM disciplines on all three Rutgers campuses.

Supplemental Materials

CMSCE website