The Niagara Falls School District has been awarded a $2.4 million federal grant to improve the effectiveness of its science and technology programs from kindergarten through 12th grade. The money will be used for staff development.
The three-year, federal Title II B Mathematics-Science Partnership Grant is awarded through the state Education Department and is for $800,000 a year, said Nicholas E. Marchelos, district support services director.
"It's a very competitive grant," Marchelos said. "Of the 42 proposals submitted [by school districts] for it, only 18 received a grant, including our district."
He said the grant involves a partnership with Niagara University's College of Education, which will train about nine teacher-coaches in the best methods of teaching science to students. Once trained, those coaches will work with city teachers in the classroom, showing them those methods.
"This is a real coup for us. And it's allowing us to keep our science program intact and actually improve upon it when it comes to student performance," School Board President Robert Kazeangin Jr. said.
Sheila Smith, the district's Math-Science Partnership director, said the program involves the teacher-coaches training science and technology teachers on a daily basis in "researched and proven best practices" in the classroom while classes are in session.
This should help elementary school teachers "because they do not traditionally have certification in science or math. So this is a way to enhance their knowledge of science and learn more effective ways to teach it," Smith said.
She said one reason the district may have been awarded the grant is because it had received a similar grant to do the same thing with its mathematics curriculum three years ago and understands the process.
Smith also is assistant principal at the new Gaskill Preparatory School for seventh- and eighth-graders.
The district still has to determine who the science coaches will be, Smith said.
Marchelos and Smith said they believed the district will rehire some of the teachers who were laid off this summer to fill at least a portion of those jobs.
Smith hopes coaches will start their training in August, and will be working with teachers in the classroom sometime this fall.
Smith said she likes the program because "research shows the best way to increase students' scores and student achievement is through the training of teachers, developing and expanding their knowledge and showing them the best-known techniques there are to help kids learn."