MCLA Receives Grant for 'Berkshire Math and Science Partnership Program'


NORTH ADAMS, MA - Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) was approved for funding by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education for the "Berkshire Math and Science Partnership Program."

The multi-year grant, for nearly $67,000, will fund the program for its first year of services, which began on Feb. 6 and ends on Aug. 31. A continuation of the grant will be awarded for two additional years contingent on appropriation of federal fund and yearly progress.

The vision of the Berkshire Mathematics and Science Partnership Program (BMSP) is to provide an effective and systematic professional development program for middle school teachers in identified Berkshire County schools. 

According to Monica Joslin, dean of academic affairs at MCLA, Dr. Chris Himes, STEM program manager, MCLA math professor Dr. Chris Thomas and education professor Dr. Nick Stroud were instrumental in the planning and writing of this grant in collaboration with the Pittsfield public schools, Berkshire Arts and Technology (BART) charter school, and the Adams-Cheshire Regional School District.

"This collaborative grant will support middle school teachers with professional development offered as content courses and supplemental activities, in the form of professional learning communities," Joslin said. "It is important for teachers to have the opportunity to share their experiences and explore teaching strategies to promote student learning."

The three goals of the program are to improve math and science content knowledge of middle school teacher participants in MSP courses; improve the integration of math, science and literacy curriculum standards in math and science instruction; improve student performance in math and science.

Himes said the program is an example of how MCLA continues to work within the Berkshire community by forming collaborations with other educational leaders. "This is an incredibly exciting opportunity and will be a great experience for everyone involved," he added.

According to Joslin, the Berkshire MSP Program across three years will provide four, three-credit graduate level courses with associated supplemental activities to develop deep standards-based content knowledge of mathematics content and its process standards, knowledge of science standards, as well as the integration of standards for literacy in science and technology for participating teachers.

"We are excited to continue our collaborative work with MCLA and surrounding districts to achieve our shared vision of improved math and science achievement for Berkshire County students," said Benjamin Klompus, BART principal. "This kind of forward-thinking, outcome-oriented professional development is just what our schools, teachers, and most importantly students, need."

According to Barbara Malkas, deputy superintendent for Pittsfield Public Schools, "Pittsfield Public Schools is proud to partner with MCLA and our district colleagues on this important initiative. While this grant provides for teach professional development in mathematics and science, the real beneficiaries will be the students."

"This is collaboration at its best," said Kristen Gordon, principal of C.T. Plunkett School. "We are very fortunate to be a part of this opportunity. This professional development opportunity will be extremely beneficial to our teachers which will in turn be beneficial to our students. Bravo to the committee that put this together."

Supplemental activities will take the form of Professional Learning Communities (PLC), which provide teachers opportunities to share and comment on student work, explore collectively how students learn about specific concepts, and share course plans and instructional strategies to promote learning. 

Courses and PLC activities will be co-developed, taught and facilitated by MCLA math or science faculty, along with a math or science specialist or STEM coordinator from the partner schools. 

In addition, MCLA will develop and maintain an online Web site to share information, documents, discussions, contacts and event information for Berkshire MSP participants.

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