Maine Elementary School, an Interactive STEM Research + Practice Site, Receives $1.63-Million School Improvement Grant

Posted by Interactive STEM on July 29, 2015

Washburn Elementary School in Auburn, Maine, site of an Interactive STEM research–practice partnership, has been awarded just over $1.63-million in School Improvement Grant funding by the Maine Department of Education. The funds will be used to raise student proficiency in math by 30 percent and reading by 35 percent over the next five years, according to a Maine DOE media release.

The school is one of four—and soon to be six—schools that are a focus of the National Science Foundation–funded Research + Practice Collaboratory initiative at several sites across the country.

Washburn Elementary serves a community with a high percentage of students and families living in poverty. Eighty percent of families live below the federal poverty line, and 82 percent of students qualify for free and reduced lunch, making Washburn the most economically disadvantaged of Auburn’s eight schools. The school also suffers from high teacher turnover rates and low student achievement.

The principal and teachers at the school have told the Interactive STEM team that they have seen much higher rates of growth in classrooms with teachers participating in Research + Practice capacity building. Through the R+P approach, teams of teachers, administrators, Maine university researchers, teacher coaches, and EDC facilitators are engaging in a collaborative inquiry to improve student learning of mathematics in the early grades through the integration of interactive mobile technologies. In its grant proposal, the school used the R+P approach as part of the rationale supporting its commitment and capacity to continue its improvement efforts.

“The Research + Practice Collaboratory project gives us a piece of the puzzle that has been missing for a while,” said Washburn Principal Laura Gardner Shaw. “The project gives us a foundational understanding about how young kids learn mathematics based on known research, insights from practice, and our own collaborative investigation.”

“The R+P approach is making a difference in Auburn, and this award to Washburn Elementary will help support and continue this important work together,” said EDC Managing Project Director Pam Buffington, co–principal investigator of the Research + Practice Collaboratory, a five-year effort to strengthen and reframe the relationship between teacher practice and STEM education in both K–12 and informal settings. The Interactive STEM team at EDC is leading the Collaboratory’s focal area of interactive technologies.

Much of the grant funding will be used to enhance educator effectiveness and instruction at Washburn as well as to provide a new pre-K program for students, according to the DOE media release. Under the leadership of a new principal, the school will hire two instructional coaches, three educational technologies, a pre-K Instructor, a parent liaison and a part-time grant coordinator. In addition, Washburn plans to provide upward of two additional days of structured staff time to review student data to inform interventions and instruction.

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