Smithfield Herald

More science teacher training comes to Johnston County

Johnston County teachers will soon pilot a new set of science standards.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the Johnston County Board of Education learned that Four Oaks Elementary and Smithfield Middle schools will pilot the Next Generation Science Standards. The pilot program is a partnership between the Smithsonian Science Education Center and the N.C. Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center.

A group of states developed the new standards and have created a new curriculum based on those standards. So now the next step is to have teachers teach the new curriculum in a pilot program.

Johnston County is the only pilot in North Carolina, and its teachers will give feedback to help others implement the new curriculum for rest of the country, said Sam Houston, chief executive of the N.C. Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center.

The schools’ science teachers will receive new curriculum materials, including lab equipment, experiments and worksheets. And they will receive training during the summer and school year.

Houston said his organization chose Johnston County because of its leadership in another science teaching program, called the i3 LASER project.

“The culture of science instruction should be pretty deep here,” he told Johnston school leaders. “In fact, we want it so deep that you can’t stop.”

The i3 LASER project, now in its third year, aims to improve science education in grades K-8 through training for science teachers. The project, which received a $30 million grant from the federal government, is using school districts in three states to try out its methods: North Carolina, New Mexico and Texas.

By the end of the project’s multiple phases, 18 schools in Johnston County will participate, Houston said. Johnston County is the largest of the 17 districts in the project.

Between i3 LASER project and the Next Generation Science Standards, “you’ve got the best-trained science teachers in North Carolina,” Houston said.

The school board thanked Houston for the opportunity.

Other business

The school board approved the calendar for the 2014-15 school year. School will start Monday, Aug. 25, and end on Wednesday, June 10.

Students will have two full weeks off during Christmas and New Year’s and a week off for spring break, which will follow Good Friday on April 3. Students will also have a teacher workday on Friday, Oct. 24, the second Friday of the State Fair.

Caterpillar is launching an apprenticeship program for students. The company has chosen 13 high school students. Those students will be preferred hires for full-time jobs with Caterpillar once they graduate from high school and finish the apprenticeship program.

At no charge to them, students will take classes at Johnston Community College for three days a week during their junior year of high school. Also, they will work and train 28 hours a week during the summer and 16 hours a week during their senior year.

Edwin Jackson, operations group manager at Caterpillar’s Clayton plant, said Caterpillar is committed to keeping manufacturing in Johnston County. “It means a lot to us,” he said of the apprenticeship program. “We have a lot of pride in what we do.”

The school board also unanimously re-elected Larry Strickland chairman and Dorothy Johnson vice chairwoman.