TOPS Science Partners
What is TOPS?
Teaching Opportunities for Partners in Science (TOPS) is a program in which active and retired scientists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Sandia National Laboratory, and local corporations participate as education partners in our schools. They assist in classroom presentations, family science nights, and the LVJUSD Science Odyssey, the district science fair. The TOPS partners act as science, math, and technology content resources and actively participate in ongoing professional development with science teachers.
TOPS is a comprehensive partnership program for helping schools tap the tremendous talent that exists in our society among active and retired scientists and engineers. The goal of TOPS is to develop effective partnerships that combine the knowledge and skills of classroom and science teachers with the content knowledge of scientists and engineers who volunteer to serve in the school to enhance and enrich the science learning of all students. TOPS is more than just placing scientists in classrooms; TOPS Partners are trained and supported as they commit to spend a year in an assigned school working closely with the Lead Teacher.
There is a critical need for improvement in science education.
Science and technology generate jobs and profits and are important for the future of our democratic society. Students in our schools today need to be scientifically and mathematically prepared so that they can fill the jobs and meet the challenges of tomorrow's society. Current school reform efforts have focused on firmly implanting science in schools where there is little time for science, inadequate materials and equipment, or teachers lacking science content knowledge. The National Center of Education Statistics (1991) found that only 5% of elementary teachers are math or science specialists.
TOPS Partners aim to help improve science education.
There is a need for job-embedded science content assistance for teachers. TOPS gives teachers science content assistance while they are teaching as part of their school day. TOPS Partners have taught lessons, provided content expertise during content discussions, and formed relationships with teachers to answer pressing questions that will ultimately enhance their science teaching. As one teacher in a TOPS school offered," Every time he [the TOPS Partner] comes to my class, I learn something new." TOPS' special way of impacting science instruction improvement with teachers in the classroom, during lunch, after school, or during breaks is an answer to the problem of finding the appropriate time in teachers' schedules to devote to science professional development.
TOPS provides content instruction for teachers.
Under-represented students need the assistance of TOPS. Women and minorities are under-represented in science and engineering occupations, take fewer high-level mathematics and science courses in high school, earn fewer bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees in science and engineering, and are less likely to be employed in science and engineering than are white males. Minority and female students need to be reached early to spark their enthusiasm for science and to give them a good foundation on which to build further scientific study.
Parent science education is sorely needed.
An editorial in American Scientist (1990) estimated that the nation's population is only 5% scientifically literate. Current research emphasizes that parent involvement in their children's education improves academic achievement, and that children from low-income and culturally and racially diverse families have the most to gain when schools involve parents. Parents spark early interest in science and support classroom instruction when they participate with their children in inquiry-based science in a fun, non-threatening way. TOPS provides family science events at member schools with amazing success.