The New York State Education Department Smart Start Grant
Yonkers Public Schools was awarded $354,002 each year for five years to implement the Smart Start grant program. The expected total amount of the grant is $1,770,010.
The first year of the grant begins during the 2021-2022 academic year.
Smart Start Program Outline
Columbia University’s Teachers College Center for Technology and School Change (CTSC) is the facilitator of the large scale professional development on inquiry-based learning strategies. Each year of this five-year grant, 100 will take part in the professional development learning series on inquiry-based learning. The total number of teachers who will be trained over five years will be at least 500 teachers, making a transformational instructional shift in the district. The focus each year is on two grade bands of teachers who will receive intensive professional development on inquiry-based learning. They will develop unit interdisciplinary unit plans which will integrate technology. The state standards for computer science and digital learning will be integrated as well as content area standards. During implementation of their lessons, teachers will have the opportunity to bring their students to the new STEM Innovation Center that is being developed, in large part, through the Smart Start Grant program.
- Year 1 (2021-2022) focuses on 7th and 8th grade teachers.
- Year 2 (2022-2023) focuses on 5th and 6th grade teachers
- Year 3 (2023-2024) focuses on 3rd and 4th grade teachers
- Year 4 (2024-2025) focuses on 1st and 2nd grade teachers
- Year 5 (2025-2026) focuses on PK, K and new teachers
Professional Development and Technology
In addition to professional learning in which teachers engage in inquiry-based learning, they will have the opportunity to create projects using new technologies purchased through the grant. These new technologies will provide hands-on learning first for teachers to become expert and then to be used by their students in learning labs. The technologies are connected to careers in STEM fields identified through the Regional Occupational Centers. A cadre of teacher leaders will also be developed through the program to provide turnkey training and continue the learning outside of the professional development and coaching sessions.
While the focus is on STEM inquiry and the inquiry methodology is Project-Based Learning, we believe that STEM principles, practices and inquiry learning techniques can and should be implemented into all content areas. The 100 teachers each year at the middle and elementary school levels can include teachers specializing in English Language Arts, Math, Science, Social Studies as well as teaching English Language and Multilingual Learners, Special Educators, and Fine Arts teachers.
Through transdisciplinary work, teachers will become expert in inquiry learning and produce units that are interdisciplinary and project-based.
Structure of Professional Development
Each year, teachers will attend full day and part-day professional development sessions outside of the regular school day. Saturdays will be used for full day PD and two-hour after-school sessions will occur on an ongoing basis. In between professional development sessions, teachers will have access to coaching sessions and to reflect on their learning. Teacher leaders will be self-selected and will engage in additional professional development and leadership coaching by the professional developers from Teachers College.
Teachers will work in grade level teams to develop engaging, standards-based transdisciplinary units of study that they will implement into their curriculum. Each unit will be scaffolded and include a project around a real-world driving question or compelling problem. The curricula created will be shared within the district and placed on the Smart Start web pages.
The STEM Center
A district STEM Center will be developed through the grant, providing hands-on learning for teachers and their classes. Teachers who have completed the professional learning series will have the opportunity to bring their classes to the STEM Center. Transportation between schools is budgeted through the grant.