Quincy School District, WIU seeking grant to train local science teachers

Quincy High School science teacher Pam Holliday, right, hands out an animal specimen to Hope Rossmiller for dissection during a human anatomy and physiology class. The Quincy School District and Western Illinois University are jointly applying for a state
Posted: Jan. 12, 2013 4:50 pm Updated: Jan. 26, 2013 7:15 pm

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

The Quincy School District is partnering with Western Illinois University in a quest to provide a professional development opportunity for up to 20 Quincy science teachers.

The district and WIU are jointly applying for a state grant of up to $160,000 through the Illinois Mathematics and Science Partnerships program offered by the Illinois State Board of Education.

If the grant is approved, approximately 20 local teachers from grades 6-12 would receive specialized training this summer from WIU science professors and industry representatives.

The teachers would be paid a stipend to receive the professional development training and acquire some needed equipment. The teachers would then be in position to make better use of modern technology to teach science concepts to Quincy students.

"What teachers would get out of it is primarily professional development -- increasing their knowledge and skills," explained Trish Sullivan-Viniard, the district's assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction.

But she feels the biggest beneficiaries would be students, who theoretically would have a better chance of academic achievement in science by having teachers who are better prepared to teach the concepts.

"We're very excited about it and really hopeful" the grant will be awarded, Sullivan-Viniard said.

"It would be quite disappointing if we don't have a successful proposal. But you never know for sure how many have applied or exactly what they're looking for. But our fingers are crossed that we'll get it."

Sullivan told the School Board's Curriculum Committee last month that the district was invited to participate in the grant application by a WIU science professor who has some experience with the state program.

Under the program's guidelines, grant applications must involve a partnership between an engineering, math or science department of an institution of higher education and a high-need school system serving grades K-12.

Sullivan-Viniard said the Quincy School District is the only school system involved in this particular application with WIU.

She said getting the grant would be helpful to Quincy teachers and students because all school districts in Illinois are making plans to adjust their curriculums to meet new "common core" state learning standards that are being developed. She said it would be helpful for Quincy science teachers to get a leg up on some of the new standards being discussed.

"As a nation, we are recognizing the importance of student achievement in science, technology, engineering and math," Sullivan-Viniard said. "And there is really quite a huge need that, as a nation, we become much more strategic and rigorous in our instruction in the area of science and math."

If the grant is approved, the training not only would cover the use of cutting-edge technology in science education, but it also would touch on the development of effective assessments "that will help identify what students really understand and don't understand in the area of science," Sullivan-Viniard said.

She said the district expects to learn sometime this month whether the grant application has been approved.