Removing Barriers to Minority Achievement
Bruce Davidson is the Technology Resource Teacher for Newport News Public Schools in Newport News, Va. Newport News is the only district in Virginia to have received the prestigious Urban Systemic Program (USP) award from the National Science Foundation (NSF).
In 1994, Newport News Public Schools launched the Student and Teacher Excellence Project (STEP). STEP was designed to bring down barriers to minority achievement in mathematics and science. At that time, African-American students in the district were scoring well below other students on standardized tests and were less likely to take advanced math and science classes.
I saw how they encompassed this technology, loved to work with it, and it pushed them to do things that they would not have done otherwise.
The STEP project achieved impressive results. From 1994 to 2000, the number of students successfully completing Algebra I by eighth grade increased 90 percent; while the number of minority students successfully completing it increased 142 percent. Minority enrollment in mathematics classes rose by 58 percent; and the number of students successfully completing advanced math or science courses increased 217 percent.
Those results helped Newport News Public Schools win the $4.8 million, five-year USP award from the NSF to sustain the momentum of STEP. The award would also allow them to explore new ways to improve student success in math and science. Through staff development and technology, Newport News Public Schools is striving to embed sound educational practices that lead to student success.
That's where Davidson and PASCO come in. Davidson has been working with math and science teachers in Newport News' five high schools and eight middle schools to support the integration of technology into the math and science curriculum. This summer, Davidson also began supporting the district's 28 elementary schools.
Before becoming Technology Resource Teacher 15 months ago, Davidson was a physics and biology teacher who used PASCO products extensively with his students. "I saw how they encompassed this technology, loved to work with it, and it pushed them to do things that they would not have done otherwise," he said.
The main emphasis of Davidson's work as a Technology Resource Teacher now revolves around using PASCO probeware in all of the district's science classes. Last summer, Davidson and his colleagues rewrote the district's science curriculum to require teachers to use PASCO probeware and labs in all of their science classes. Davidson now trains the teachers to use the probeware effectively. "I present a wide range of workshops to teachers, team teach and use the probeware to model the integration of technology," said Davidson. "I go into the classroom and teach students while modeling probeware use for the teacher, and also do presentations for administrators, so they can see how students react to experimenting with this tool. I have also done community presentations so that our community is aware of the use of technology in our schools. Anything to support use of this terrific technology."
Davidson said they are also encouraging parents and students to make use of the PASCO products for the students' science projects, which are emphasized heavily in middle schools and high schools.
Davidson uses the ScienceWorkshop 500 Interface with DataStudio in Newport News high schools and PASPORT probeware in the middle schools. He will soon also have Xplorer dataloggers and MultiMeasure sensors to use in both high schools and middle schools.
"This kind of technology-based inquiry really opens their eyes," Davidson said. "When you put a handheld device in their hands, they want to know how it works, what they can do with it and they really get excited about using it. Then true technology integration of the curriculum takes place and inquiry learning is fostered."
For more information, visit Newport News STEP Project.