Combining Resources to Support Mathematics and Science Education Improvement
By: Emily Ryan and Sarah Woodruff
When The Discovery Center and Ohio’s Evaluation & Assessment Center for Mathematics and Science Education were first established, they existed as independent entities. That is, in 1991, The Discovery Center was created by Ohio’s Systemic Science Initiative with the purpose of providing face-to-face and virtual (iDiscovery) mathematics and science professional development (PD) experiences to teachers across Ohio. As teacher professional development efforts proliferated throughout the 1990s, Ohio’s Evaluation & Assessment Center for Mathematics and Science Education was established (2003) to serve the research, evaluation, and assessment needs of local (and later on, national) state- and federally-funded projects or programs focused on mathematics and science education initiatives.
Despite differences in initial establishment, for more than 24 years, the Discovery and E & A Centers, have shared organizational facilities, been collaboratively staffed, and most importantly, have shared a mutual dedication to improving mathematics and science teaching and learning. As an example, since its inception, The Discovery Center has provided professional learning opportunities to over 20,000 urban, suburban, and rural Ohio teachers as a means of enhancing their mathematics and science content knowledge, and use of problem-solving and inquiry-based instructional practices. As for Ohio’s E & A Center, since 2003, it has provided reliable and valid information concerning the outcomes of over 160 state- and federally-funded projects and programs within the fields of STEM education.
Rooted in their history of support for mathematics and science education initiatives, the Discovery and E & A Centers decided to formally merge their two organizations in Spring 2015. These two groups have now become one, unified Center—the Discovery Center for Evaluation, Research, and Professional Learning.
By combining facilities, staff and resources, the new Discovery Center for Evaluation, Research, and Professional Learning builds upon the synergistic relationship of the two groups and extends their existing infrastructure so they can collaborate more directly with other providers of high-quality STEM teaching, learning, evaluation, and research services locally, in Ohio, and across the nation. While combining man-power and resources makes logistical sense for the Centers, the driving force for this merger comes from a mutual desire to contribute to several critical areas of mathematics and science education improvement—these areas include the examination of effective mathematics and science teacher professional learning experiences that increase teachers’ knowledge and skill in the classroom and the growing need for formative evaluation and assessment methods that inform improvements in mathematics and science education initiatives and policy.
Based on a rich history of supporting mathematics and science education, the new, unified Discovery Center’s mission is to provide comprehensive, high-quality research, evaluation, assessment, and professional development services to improve teaching and learning and promote equity in opportunity, access, and outcomes for all learners. This mission will be accomplished by focusing on three overall work commitments:
Collaboration – Through the Discovery Center’s commitment to collaboration, they enable broad outreach and impact across education stakeholder groups as a result of their work. In this sense, the Center collaborates across sectors by maintaining a virtual infrastructure that facilitates meaningful and productive partnerships and relationships with individuals and their organizations within Ohio and across the nation.
Advocacy – Through the Discovery Center’s commitment to advocacy, they promote equitable opportunity and outcomes for all learners. This means advocating for schools, teachers, and students, as well as for critical state and federal education initiatives. Through the Center’s research, evaluation, and professional development efforts, and wide dissemination of their work, they aim to support improvement of local and state education programs.
Strategic Innovation – Through the Discovery Center’s commitment to strategic innovation, they strive to ensure the relevancy and impact of their work on practice and policy. Center staff members continuously improve their collective knowledge and skills in order to remain among industry-leaders in evaluation, research, and professional learning. Center staff members have personal and professional investments in lifelong learning which helps ensure efficiency and quality of outcomes for their work.
As 2015 comes to an end, the Discovery Center and its staff members look forward to a new chapter in their work as well as new opportunities in the coming year. For all those who share in the Center’s enthusiasm for, and commitment to mathematics and science education improvement, and for those who would like to learn more about the “new” Discovery Center, its work and services, please contact the Center’s main office at (513)529-1686 or send an email to discoverycenter@MiamiOH.edu.