K-12 Community Partnerships Influence Everything We Do

Jordan Gerton, Center for Science and Mathematics Education, University of Utah

The most critical collaboration for the CSME is probably our partnership with the local K-12 education community, which includes the entire spectrum of stakeholders from school districts, public/charter schools, administrators, and teachers, to UofU College of Education and other nearby higher education institutions that prepare teachers (e.g., Weber State University). These collaborations inform the development of CSME programs and set the stage for a successful pathway for students to the UofU from a broad range of backgrounds. These partnerships directly impact many of our programs and activities, like the Master of Science for Secondary School Teachers (MSSST), Teacher Research Fellows (TRF), Elementary STEM Endorsement (ESE), Navajo science teacher's workshop, the Salt Lake Valley Science and Engineering Fair (SLVSEF), and Refugees Exploring the Foundation for Undergraduate Education in Science (REFUGES). They also impact development and implementation of other programs through feedback, needs assessments, and identification of opportunities. Our K-12 partnerships also indirectly inform undergraduate education by providing insight into pre-service teacher education needs and gaps, by preparing students for undergraduate majors in STEM disciplines, and by providing insight into instructional best practices at the undergraduate level.

Our K-12 partnerships provide mutual benefits: the K-12 community benefits from better prepared teachers and the University benefits from better prepared incoming students. In addition, these partnerships allow us to identify and recruit certain populations within schools (e.g. refugees, first-generation college, etc.) into our programs, and to support them during their journey toward higher education. Initial collaborations were facilitated by CSME's connections to the College of Education. The CSME initially leveraged limited partnerships with schools and relationships with individual teachers and administrators to, for example, place graduate and undergraduate students into classrooms as professional development (e.g., to increase their science communication skills) and exposure to teaching as a potential career. These placements developed into robust partnerships over time, and built trust with the K-12 teacher and administrator communities, which then helped the CSME recruit teachers into its teacher development programs and students into its student support programs. As teachers completed their development programs with the CSME and adopted leadership roles within their schools and districts, interest in partnering with the CSME grew within the K-12 community. The depth of this interest was recently revealed when the CSME posted a job advertisement for a new staff position and received applications from a large number of very highly qualified candidates from the K-12 teacher and administrative communities.


Center Profile: Center for Science and Mathematics Education - University of Utah