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Early Childhood Education Professional Development Component Study


Begun in October 2002, the New Jersey Math Science Partnership (NJ MSP) was a five-year, $12.3 million mathematics and science education reform initiative federally funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The NJ MSP involved a multifaceted collaboration of two university partners (Rutgers University and Rowan University) and 11 partner districts that span several northern, central, and southern geographic counties in New Jersey. The partner districts collectively serve over 75,000 students and, in their combined 109 schools, employ approximately 4,000 teachers of math and science. The NJ MSP was one of only two MSP projects nationally that incorporated a special focus on math and science learning in early childhood education (ECE). A full-time Early Childhood (EC) Specialist was hired by Rutgers to oversee the ECE professional development component. In September 2005, the National Science Foundation (the funding source for the NJ MSP) determined that the NJ MSP would phase out during its fourth year of implementation (by May 30, 2006) and requested that a study be conducted on the ECE component.

Study Design. The study focused specifically on the "learning communities" professional development series that was implemented in the final year of the NJ MSP initiative, from July 2005 to May 2006. Purposes of the study were to (1) describe the design rationale, goals, and objectives of the ECE component; (2) describe the level of district participation in the ECE professional development series and the characteristics of participating districts; (3) describe the implementation structure of the professional development series; (4) provide evidence on the ways in which NJ MSP met its ECE professional development objectives for improving teachers' knowledge of the exploration of math and science content, improving teachers' dispositions towards math and science, and equipping teachers with strategies to assess and support the translation of science content into the learning environment; and (5) offer lessons learned from the NJ MSP ECE component that may serve to inform other initiatives that seek to build teachers' capacity to translate math and science concepts into preK learning environments.