Three new corporate partners joined Mason in December to support the Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement (VISTA). Northrop Grumman, the Boeing Company, and the Micron Foundation united with existing partners Dominion Foundation, ExploreLearning, Google, and IBM. Partner corporations engage directly with VISTA by designating their support to specific elements of the programs, interacting with the teacher participants, and providing subject experts to serve as guest teachers.
“Mason is grateful for the leadership that these corporations and foundations have shown by investing in VISTA,” says Marc Broderick, vice president for university development and alumni affairs. “The net effect of their support will be a stronger pipeline of well-prepared graduates employed in U.S. [science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)]-related industries.”
VISTA brings together 47 school districts, six universities, the Virginia Department of Education, and the U.S. Department of Education to provide intensive science teacher professional development. The initiative stems from two decades of College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) faculty research led by Mason professor Donna R. Sterling. Pilot program studies have shown a 10 percent increase in elementary school student achievement scores, a 35 percent reduction in the number of failed students for provisionally licensed teachers, and a 38 percent increase in the number of high-achieving students among provisionally licensed high school science teachers.
“While VISTA focuses on teachers and effective teaching methods, the end game is not about teachers and administrators—it is about students,” says CEHD dean Mark Ginsberg. “The way to prompt student learning is to help teachers teach differently and more effectively.”
VISTA is currently among the largest STEM projects funded by the U.S. Department of Education with a $28.5 million dollar matching grant awarded through the Investing in Innovation program.