Butler to Lead School Organization and Science Achievement Project

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a grant to the University of South Florida St. Petersburg (USFSP) to study school structure and science success. Malcolm B. Butler, PhD, associate professor of science education at USF St. Petersburg, is principal investigator of the five-year study. Butler brings extensive expertise in elementary science education and in professional development of teachers’ science content knowledge.

The School Organization and Science Achievement (SOSA) Project at USF St. Petersburg will document factors explaining variations in science achievement across schools enrolling ethnically and linguistically diverse students. A concurrent NSF-sponsored grant at the University of Connecticut will allow researchers at both institutions, in collaboration with school districts in their respective states, to identify school leadership practices that can be connected with reductions in achievement gaps relative to student ethnicity, English fluency, and social status.

According to Butler, “Science achievement in elementary schools is not always successfully measured by typical assessment instruments. There are schools doing exceptionally well that don’t fit into the standard measures. We want to determine what those factors are that allow students to be successful, especially in the sciences.”

Vivian Fueyo, PhD, Dean of the USFSP College of Education adds, “This project is immeasurably important for both teachers and their students. Success in science, particularly in the elementary grades, can serve as the cornerstone for science learning throughout a child’s schooling.”

By working with 150 schools in two states, this collaborative research project aims to generate findings that can be utilized by various school systems. USFSP and UConn researchers will also share program resources, strategies, and a website.

The NSF grant process is very competitive and over 500 proposals were received and reviewed for similar studies this year. Over the anticipated five-year research period, the value of the grant for The SOSA Project awarded to USFSP will be near one million dollars.

“Now the real work begins,” says Butler, “and we expect that some exciting and useful information will come out of our ongoing research.”

To learn more about Professor Butler and his NSF Grant, please contact Malcolm Butler at (727) 873-4058 or mbbutler@mail.usf.edu.

Alumni Donation Helps Next Generation of Florida Studies Students

With 10 years of working for local government recycling programs behind him, Andy Fairbanks found a graduate program at USF St. Petersburg where he could meld his professional experience, academic ambition and desire to research the policies that shape his field.

Fairbanks describes his research in the Florida Studies program as an “ethnography of the policy-making process” for the state’s recycling goals and regulations.

“I want to give a voice to the stakeholders,” said Fairbanks, a Jensen Beach native. “The Florida Studies program has added valuable political and cultural context to my research.”

But balancing work and completing his research proved too demanding and Fairbanks wanted to commit to his graduate program full-time.

Like many working adults, he couldn’t afford becoming a full-time student.

Then came Hope.

Fairbanks met Hope Black in January of 2011. She impressed him with what Fairbanks describes as “a humble, bright and charismatic personality.”

Black lives in Sarasota with her husband, Bob, and graduated from the Florida Studies program in December 2007, a program she completed after earning a bachelor’s degree in history at age 71. She started studying in the 1950s, but then “life happened,” she said, “marriage, my husband drafted into the army, children and a career in market research.”

The New York native’s lifelong commitment to finishing a history degree and a genuine interest in learning more about her adopted state of Florida led her to Florida Studies and the Snell House at USF St. Petersburg.

“I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I walked in that house,” Black said. “I enjoyed every single minute of the Florida Studies program. Even though I finished my degree, I’m auditing courses this summer. I’m still driving over the bridge to learn.”

Black’s thesis was on Bertha Honore Palmer’s contributions to Florida. Since completing her degree, she has given speeches on Florida History, worked as an archivist with the Sarasota County History Center, and participated in recording the oral histories of people that moved to Florida in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.

Besides continuing to study and work in the area of historical research, Black has also chosen to give back to the Florida Studies program, a generous gesture that is now helping Fairbanks commit to the program full-time.

“My husband and I felt that the Florida Studies program had enriched my life so much and changed it so much that we wanted to make a contribution,” Black said. “It’s an honor to help support someone like Andy – I think he can make inroads into the way government handles waste and recycling. He can change the environment of Florida. I believe he can do it.”

Black and Fairbanks, the former a septuagenarian and the latter in his 30s, are now friends. She learns from his research. He learns from her life experience.

The most recent $5,000 contribution, a grant made possible by The Community Foundation of Sarasota County, Inc. from the Bob and Hope Black Good Neighbor Fund, is Black and her husband’s second gift to the program.

“Supporting a program like this becomes a legacy,” Black said. “You can see that you’ve left something important for the future.”

College of Education Receives Grant for SunBay Digital Mathematics

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (June 16, 2011) – A $500,000 award from the Next Generation Learning Challenges collaboration will support the technologically-enhanced curriculum and professional development for Pinellas County middle-school mathematics teachers in the SunBay Digital Mathematics program. The SunBay program, the result of two-year collaboration between the College of Education at USF St. Petersburg and SRI International, is designed to increase student success in mathematics at the middle-school level.

“We’re thrilled to expand our work and continue to partner with SRI International and Pinellas County Schools to reach more teachers and students in the middle grades,” said Vivian Fueyo, dean of the College of Education at USFSP and the Principal Investigator on the project. “Success in mathematics, particularly algebra in the middle grades, is directly correlated with future success in the learning of advanced mathematics and science.”

By using innovative classroom technology and integrating curriculum modules tied to high standards, the methods emphasized in SunBay Digital Mathematics use dynamic representations and problem-solving to deepen mathematics learning and provide high-quality teacher professional development.

“When middle school teachers integrate dynamic technology into their classroom, they deepen their understanding of mathematics and teaching strategies, and as a result can positively impact student learning,” said George Roy, assistant professor of mathematics education and the project’s Co-Principal Investigator.

Eighteen Pinellas County middle school teachers in ten schools have participated in the program over the last two years. The new funding will help the program involve more middle school teachers, particularly those with at least half of their students coming from low-income families or underrepresented groups, and show them the difference SunBay Digital Mathematics can make in their middle-school classrooms.

Next Generation Learning Challenges is funded by philanthropic foundations, educators and technologists focused on addressing barriers to educational innovation. The College of Education at USFSP is one of nineteen organizations to receive the award out of an applicant pool of 230.

Teachers in the SunBay program approach mathematics problem solving with computer applications, web resources and group collaboration. They use an interactive SMART Board, a teaching and presentation touch screen that allows the teachers to write on projections in digital ink and interact with applications. Teachers learn the knowledge and strategies they need to use technology as a tool to enhance the teaching of mathematics and increase their students’ learning.

Lead Learn Serve Grant

Student Philanthropy Boards Award Community Grants

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (May 6, 2011) – First-year students at USF St. Petersburg awarded nine $5,000 grants Thursday, May 5 to community agencies serving Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

After researching community needs and determining funding categories, nine faculty-facilitated, student-led boards evaluated the applications for the Lead Learn Serve grants. Funding categories included topics such as homelessness, domestic violence, infant development, and parenting education.

In total, the students awarded $45,000 in the current round of funding. Selected organizations include:

Vincent House
Adoption Related Services of Pinellas
YWCA Tampa Bay
Front Porch
St. Petersburg Pregnancy Center
Suncoast Center
Great Explorations
Boys & Girls Club of the Suncoast

Money for the grants comes from a $395,000 federal Learn and Service America grant awarded to USF St. Petersburg in 2009. The grant was one of 36 grants awarded nationally to engage students in service-learning projects and promote community service while enhancing student academic and civic skills.

-USF St. Petersburg-

K-16 Initiatives Expands with Federal Grant

While the part mentors play in the overall K-16 Educational Initiatives may seem small amid a myriad of programs, their contributions to services for students with intellectual disabilities represent what a newly funded collaboration at USF St. Petersburg is striving for statewide.

“The stigma that surrounds students that are developmentally or intellectually disabled is really gone,” said Adam DePrimo, an anthropology major and social mentor for Project STING RAY, one of the programs at USFSP helping students with intellectual disabilities transition out of high school.

With a five-year, $2.1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education, the team at the K-16 Educational Initiatives in the College of Education have set out to change the standards of transition student education. Their statewide collaborative effort, called the Florida Consortium on Postsecondary Education and Intellectual Disabilities, will build resources for existing and future programs, including Project STING RAY at USF St. Petersburg.

The consortium’s programs address the social, professional and academic needs of students with intellectual disabilities transitioning out of high school with a special diploma.

With inclusivity at the foundation of the initiatives, mentors such as DePrimo help include the program’s students in university life; they’ve gone swimming, played ping-pong in the student lounge and eaten lunch together at the Tavern. Academic mentor and psychology major Rachel Baumsteiger helps her mentee and classmate with studying and setting academic goals.

“I think there are also the benefits of knowing someone, and we’re becoming friends,” Baumsteiger said. “I think that’s definitely a benefit to both of us, and it should be a lasting friendship. It’s a win-win for me because when I go over the class materials with her, it definitely forces me to learn it better.”

Both DePrimo and Baumsteiger say they have established lasting friendships with the students they mentor.

“The key to this whole program is that the students’ classroom is the whole university campus,” said Federico Valadez, a regional transition representative for Project 10, the Florida Department of Education’s statewide discretionary project for the transition of students with disabilities that is headquartered at USF St. Petersburg.
Led by USFSP, the consortium is working with nine Florida colleges and universities to create model programs that will lead to a credential for students with intellectual disabilities and provide access to a postsecondary institution.

“What K-16 Initiatives is trying to do,” said Vivian Fueyo, dean of the College of Education, “is expand the impact of what great colleges of education have already been doing; to provide support to individuals in the community with children and young people with disabilities.”

The consortium pools resources with partnering institutions to align programs with the criteria in the national Department of Education’s initiative on Transition and Postsecondary Programs for Students with Intellectual Disabilities into Higher Education (TPSID). The consortium is also working to establish a curriculum that meets the approval of statewide employers.

“These are students that otherwise would not have access to any type of options at a postsecondary level,” said Michael Shaffer, K-16 Initiatives project coordinator. “This is giving options and access to postsecondary education that they wouldn’t otherwise have.”

Participating students receive individualized education plans that are continually adapted to suit their personal goals. Initiatives’ staff members are also working to provide students the opportunity to apply for financial aid in the future.

The K-16 Initiatives staff of 14 professionals and 12 student mentors is led by principal investigator Jordan Knab and co-principal investigator Harold “Bill” Heller. Both manage and administer the transition programs within the College of Education.

Special diploma programs in public schools allow students with intellectual disabilities to stay in high school until age 22 even if they have met the graduation requirements by age 18. The transition programs provide another option.

“A lot of times they’re sitting in classes with people who are much younger than them instead of being allowed to continue with their friends who they have been naturally included with,” Shaffer said. “Because we’re coming up now with a generation that has not had a distinct division of students with disabilities and students without disabilities, we’re creating a natural inclusivity that we never had before.”