≡ Menu

C-STEMEC is now on YouTube!

We’re currently featuring highlights from our recent Dinner Symposium Event for Illinois School Leaders. Videos include What is C-STEMEC?, teachers discussing their experiences with STEM education in Illinois, and thorough overviews of three C-STEMEC policy papers presented by our team members:

More videos:

Check out these and other videos. Tell us what you think!

Previous Posts

Four times a year, the DePaul University STEM Center offers a free, day-long science professional development session for K-5 CPS teachers. For the first two academic quarters of 2013-14, these sessions drew on average just under 200 Chicago educators. The 3rd quarter session held on Saturday, January 25th, showed little attendance attenuation in anticipation of the looming polar vortex. 167 teachers participated in one of eight sessions led by Delta Education and Carolina certified instructors.  Such willingness to brave the elements and sacrifice a Saturday to pedagogical improvement demonstrates admirable commitment to Chicago students.

The effectiveness of these sessions is visible in the enthusiasm of the participants. Teachers assume the role of student for a day, refine their classroom strategies, and work closely with a community of peers. The latter is particularly important for the establishment of relationships between new and veteran teachers. The professional networks created during these sessions facilitate the improvement of educational techniques through peer exchange, as well as the development of new practices through high-level collaboration. By attending multiple quarters of training, returning participants further strengthen these relationships.

These sessions train teachers in instructional methods closely aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. The kits emphasize hands-on inquiry that involves students in the practice of science.  In effect, PD participants refine classroom techniques structured around scientific inquiry, rather than secondhand engagement with ideas disconnected from the outside world. For example, during the 3rd quarter 4th grade STC lessons, students use sand, humus, gravel, and clay to create stream tables. By doing so, they observe firsthand how water affects the shape of the land, and the shape of the land’s reciprocal effect on water flow.*

Registration for the March 22nd PD for 4th quarter kits will open on Monday, February 3rd.  We will offer instruction for the following kits: Grade 1: Organisms (STC); Grade 2: Insects (FOSS); Grade 3: Structures of Life (FOSS) or Grade 3: Sun, Moon, and Stars (FOSS); Grade 4: Human Body (FOSS); Grade 5: Solar Energy (FOSS). The DePaul University STEM Center continues to insist that there is such thing as a free lunch, unless you fail to respond to the registration confirmation email.

Registration instructions and additional information may be found at:


-Max Barry, K-5 Science PD Program Coordinator, DePaul University STEM Center.

Previous Posts

Check out our C-STEMEC December Newsletter. In this issue:

  • The Future of  High School Mathematics Education: Discussion of a recent essay written by some of the country’s leading mathematics educators and mathematics curriculum developers.
  • The New York Times on STEM Education: Our team breaks down the first in a series of New York Times editorials about mathematics and science education. The article highlights work done by core C-STEMEC partner organizations.
  • Event Audience Feedback: Surprising survey results from the STEM Education Dinner Symposium for Illinois School Leaders hosted by C-STEMEC and ISTA on Thursday, October 24th

Click here to read the newsletter!

Previous Posts

By Martin Gartzman

Valerie Strauss’s education blog at the Washington Post reported on December 6th about a recent essay written by an esteemed group comprised of some of the country’s leading mathematics educators and mathematics curriculum developers over the past 25 years (or more).  The essay, which can be accessed here offers a balanced and sensible perspective on the high school mathematics curriculum, especially as it relates to the Common Core Standards for Mathematics. It should provide good food for thought and discussion among Illinois mathematics teachers, mathematics educators, and policy makers.

It is worth noting that three of the signers of the essay have strong connections to C-STEMEC institutions.  Zalman Usiskin, is professor emeritus at the University of Chicago and director of the University of Chicago School Mathematics Project.  Andy Isaacs is director of the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education and director of revisions for Everyday Mathematics.  Diane Briars, who is president-elect of NCTM, has been a co-PI and author for the Intensified Algebra Project, which is housed at UIC’s Learning Sciences Research Institute.

-Martin Gartzman is the Executive Director for the Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education at the University of Chicago

Previous Posts

On Sunday, the New York Times released the first of a series of editorials about mathematics and science education. The article highlights work done at The University of Chicago through both our support of 100Kin10 and the UChicago Urban Teacher Education Program. CEMSE at the University of Chicago is one of the core C-STEMEC partner organizations.

Some further reactions to the New York Times recommendations follow.

First, some applause. Improving mathematics and science is a priority. This improvement must occur within a system of schools, districts, standards, accountability and teachers, but within that mix, it deserves special treatment. By calling out these subject areas as special and important, the New York Times highlights the need for STEM-specific strategies to make these changes. In our series of policy papers about mathematics and STEM in Illinois, we describe more of these strategies that are well aligned with the New York Times recommendations.

Now, some quibbles.

First, the piece seems to misdiagnose the patient. American students as a whole are OK at mathematics facts and algorithms, but they’re not as good at the conceptual understanding of mathematics. In Illinois terms, we know how to move students from the “below basic” to “basic” levels on the ISAT, but moving from “basic” to “proficient”, where real conceptual understanding is required, is much harder. And of course, “as a whole” falls prey to the law of averages—the gaps in mathematics performance between students of different ethnicities and economic levels is far too big. Until there are robust tools and supports for teachers and school to reliably and routinely help students learn both the basic skills and the conceptual understanding of mathematics, offering “a greater choice between applied skills and the more typical abstract courses” won’t amount to much.

Second, the push to take “math and science out of textbooks and into [students] lives” is welcome, but there are plenty of “real world” examples that are mathematically rich but exceedingly dull—tax tables, anyone? Conversely, as Dan Meyer points out, there are lots of “fake world” examples, such as tic tac toe and Tetris, that are very motivating for students. Few likely would argue about the need to make mathematics more relevant by including more good applications. The difficulty in doing this well is that applications that are interesting aren’t always good for learning or practicing a particular concept or skill—they’re messy, which means it’s challenging to position them within an intentional instructional sequence. Discerning the sources of motivation for students is complicated, but coherent and engaging instruction—where individual lessons build on one another like chapters of a novel, where students have ownership over ideas and the evidence behind them that drive the classroom discussions, and where strong and warm rapport with adults is a given—is certainly as important.

Previous Posts

Recognizing that there are often multiple perspectives, C-STEMEC encourages attendees at its events to provide feedback to help improve future C-STEMEC offerings.  Below is the link to a report capturing some of the feedback we received about our second Policy Forum dinner event.

Key findings include:
1. Overall, attendees were very pleased with the event with over 80% of survey respondents agreeing or strongly agreeing with positive statements about the event. Respondents would however like to have more audience interaction. Please see the Attendee Satisfaction section of the evaluation brief for more details.

2. 150 individuals completed the event survey—more than twice the total of the first event. The largest group (57.3%) of respondents were classroom teachers. This is a large shift from the first C-STEMEC event survey where 40.3% of the respondents were university staff and only 26.9% indicated being classroom teachers. There were approximately twice as many principals (12.7% compared to 6%) and slightly more (1-2%) policy and central office roles represented at this C-STEMEC event than at the previous breakfast event. If the organizers want to attract individuals in other roles, such as those in more active policy-making positions, they might want to consider their dissemination channels and marketing approaches. See the Respondents’ Role and Organizational Affiliation section of the brief for more details.

3. While attendees were very positive about the event, they did offer several suggestions for improving the event and these were classified into two broad categories, namely:

(a) Event Format—numerous respondents indicated their approval of the event format, noting they were treated as professionals and it allowed an opportunity to network with other individuals who are passionate about STEM teaching. However, many suggested that they wished there would have been more time for additional interaction both between the panelists as well as with the audience and would like to “dig deeper” into the topics addressed. One respondent thought that the organizers might want to consider the use of hand held technologies, such as clickers, to increase audience involvement and interactivity. Some noted it was difficult to read the slides from the very back of the room.

(b) Event Content—the vast majority of respondents had very positive feelings about the content of the presentations and several particularly noted the presentation by Dr. Wendy Jackson. Many others noted that they thought the policy recommendations were practical and should be implemented, though a few indicated that they didn’t think the recommendations were particularly novel or new. Other raised issues as to how to pay for the recommended changes. Several survey respondents requested more explicit, detailed, tangible suggestions of either sites that are putting some (or all) of the recommendations into practice well or examples of what the recommendations would look like in actual classrooms, schools, and districts. They felt that without concrete examples the recommendations were too vague.

event 2 brief_formatted for website

Previous Posts

Check out our C-STEMEC November Newsletter. In this issue:

  • Putting It All Together: Supporting K-12 STEM Education In Illinois–New policy brief featuring recommendations for supporting K-12 STEM education implementation and advancement in Illinois.
  • Implementing The Next Generation Science Standards: Hallmarks of a Fully Realized School System–DePaul University convened a working group to provide a set of recommendations to districts and schools around the upcoming transition to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). We’ve provided links to the policy brief developed by the working group for community discussion.
  • Recap of the successful STEM Education Dinner Symposium for Illinois School Leaders hosted by C-STEMEC and ISTA on Thursday, October 24th. Read about the event speakers. See images from the night.

Click here to read the newsletter!

Previous Posts

The STEM Education Dinner Symposium for Illinois School Leaders hosted by C-STEMEC and ISTA on Thursday, October 24th gathered school and district administrators, policy leaders, and education reformers to talk substantively and productively about STEM education. The symposium featured engaging sessions on implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics, the new Next Generation Science Standards, and ways to organize schools and districts to best take advantage of state and national resources designed to support these initiatives.
Helping to frame the evening, guest speakers opened the event by addressing a number of important topics and issues. Gudelia Lopez, Senior Program Officer of The Chicago Community Trust, welcomed everyone and provided an overview of the vital relationship between C-STEMEC and CCT as a foundation for supporting STEM educational policy and practice. Paul Ritter, President of the Illinois Science Teachers Association, commented on the need to advocate for mathematics and science teachers at all levels. Finally, Robin Grange, from the Office of Representative Bobby Rush in the 1st Congressional District of Illinois, provided some useful context on the state of STEM educational policy in Illinois.

In addition, our panel of mathematics and science education experts from C-STEMEC and ISTA presented three policy papers newly released to the public followed by a Q&A discussion session with audience members. Click below to read the papers:

At the end of the event, symposium attendees were granted access to the ISEC13 conference exhibit hall to engage with 80 visiting science education organizations and vendors available onsite to answer questions about their missions. Some guests were even lucky enough to walk away with raffle prizes collectively totaling over $10,000 in value provided by our friends at Lab Aids, Delta and Frey. Among the prizes were items and services tailored for educators, including complete SEPUP and FOSS modules, lab equipment, and more. C-STEMEC participated in the fun as well, raffling off professional development sessions around the NGSS and Math for STEM Learning for school and small district representatives.

Click here to see photos from the event!

C-STEMEC looks to continue showcasing similarly groundbreaking work and ideas going forward in the future.

Also: Stay tuned for additional updates in the coming weeks for videos from the dinner symposium!


Previous Posts

putting_it_all_together_coverImproving science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education is critically important for Illinois and our children. Our world is defined in many ways by these disciplines, and in the future they will only play a larger role in the lives of the people of the Land of Lincoln. While there have been national and local improvements in some aspects of STEM educational outcomes, we are still not obtaining the results our students deserve. We believe now is the time for a concentrated effort within Illinois to improve PK-12 STEM teaching, learning, and leading.

In Putting It All Together, the C-STEMEC team describes a series of no-cost or low-cost actions that Illinois could do to improve K-12 STEM education, with a focus on three overarching recommendations: defining STEM for Illinois, implementing the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics and the Next Generation Science Standards, and management and governance of statewide STEM efforts.

Download Putting It All Together: Supporting K-12 STEM Education In Illinois.

Previous Posts

hallmarks_coverWe’re happy to finally release Hallmarks, a paper that describes a vision for classroom and school implementation of science teaching, learning, and leading aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards. Originating as the “DePaul white paper” and written by a local team of academics, community partners, science teachers, and school leaders, this document describes key aspects of classrooms, schools, districts, and partnerships that are implied by new standards.

Download the Policy Brief: Implementing The Next Generation Science Standards: Hallmarks of a Fully Realized School System.

Previous Posts