Improving Teacher Quality:
Current Projects

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Photo courtesy Salem State University


On August 16, 2013, the Department of Higher Education announced several grants for proposals submitted in the new cycle of the federal Title II Part A: Improving Teacher Quality Grant Program. The funds will be used for professional development activities in Early Learning to ensure that early educators increase content and pedagogical knowledge in the science of early learning, in ways that will serve to help prevent and close achievement gaps for children. ITQ Funds must be used to increase child learning outcomes, increase educator and principal content knowledge, increase educator and principal pedagogical knowledge, and improve effectiveness in educator and principal practice. The higher education grantees will apply lessons learned from the professional development experience to increase alignment across sectors in educator preparation and professional development and within the communities served by their educator preparation programs.

The Department of Higher Education currently funds six new partnerships through the Improving Teacher Quality State Grant Program. Each funded partnership includes at least one institution of higher education, a high-need school district, and at least one non-profit education partner serving children in the school district. Funds are used to conduct professional development activities in core academic subjects to ensure that teachers, paraprofessionals, and principals have content knowledge that will enhance children’s learning. Awards are made for up to three years, on conditions of yearly progress and continued federal appropriation.


The following partnerships were awarded funding for up to three years of support with one exception. These initiatives are focused on Early Learning Projects.

Institution(s) Project Name Year 1 Award 2014 Year 2 Award 2015 Year 3 Award 2016
  • Holyoke Community College
  • Holyoke Public Schools
Great Explorers and Readers Science Literacy Program $111,038 $111,038 -
  • Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
  • North Adams Public Schools
  • Northern Berkshire School Union
  • Adams Cheshire Public Schools
Berkshire Early Learning Lab $107,827 $107,827 $107,827
  • University of Massachusetts Boston
  • Chelsea Public Schools
Chelsea Achieves in Mathematics $116,480 $116,480 $116,480
  • Lowell Public Schools
Higher Order Teaching $147,374 $147,374 $147,374
  • Worcester State University
  • Worcester Public Schools
Using Science to Strengthen and Align Early Childhood Teaching $95,461 $110,062 $95,461
  • Lesley University
  • Boston Public Schools
Professional Development for Elementary School Leaders and First Grade Teachers for Early Literacy Impact $156,000 - -

Project Descriptions

Institution: Holyoke Community College
Partners: Holyoke Public Schools, Chicopee Springfield Head Start, Children's Museum at Holyoke, Holyoke Public Library Preschool Enrichment Team
Project: Great Explorers and Readers Science Literacy Program

Description: The Great Explorers and Readers (GEAR) Science Literacy Program strives to improve science literacy, content knowledge, pedagogy and confidence with science for teachers, administrators and early educators. The program works to provide opportunities for families and their children to learn, play and communicate about science. The overall goal is to improve student success in science literacy and close science and language achievement gaps for children up to eight years old. Major activities include GEAR Science Literacy Content & Pedagogy Workshops for administrators and teachers. Children’s author, Jerry Pallotta, will visit Holyoke schools to spark interest in science and reading, and science-related literature will be woven throughout the grant. Students will explore and create science resources based on MA curriculum standards and practice research-based teaching approaches. Holyoke and area educators, teachers and agencies will be invited to attend a culminating science literacy conference in spring.

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Institution: Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts
Partners: North Adams Public Schools, Northern Berkshire School Union, Adams Cheshire Public Schools, Berkshire County Head Start, Berkshire Museum, Childcare of the Berkshires, MASS MoCA
Project: Berkshire Early Learning Lab

Description: Berkshire Early Learning Lab is a professional development program grounded in the science of early learning. This program, offered together with MCLA’s Education Department, will reflect the needs of pre-K through second grade teachers, as well as teachers, assistants, providers and family advocates in Head Start and Child Care of the Berkshires center-based education and home child care sites. The project’s ultimate goal is to enhance children’s learning by increasing educators’ understanding of the science of early learning. Activities include college level early childhood education coursework, highlighting inquiry based learning; participation in a workshop series; participation in professional learning networks; utilization of Build Your Own Curriculum, a web based application to create curriculum units aligned to the MA Frameworks and easily accessible by participating educators, administrators and families.

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Institution: University of Massachusetts Boston
Partners: Chelsea Public Schools, CAPIC Head Start
Project: Chelsea Achieves in Mathematics

Description: Chelsea Achieves in Mathematics (CAM) will provide 15 hours of professional development on mathematics to early educators for Continuing Education Units (CEU) each year. CAM will increase early educators’ content knowledge in mathematics and application of pedagogy into practice. CAM will integrate the Building Blocks Mathematics into the Opening the World of Learning Curriculum framework. The merging of two scientifically based research curriculum will improve teachers’ effectiveness and student outcomes in mathematics, language and literacy. CAM educators will participate in 15 hours of on-going professional development to build content knowledge in mathematics and effectiveness in mathematics instruction. 45 hours of professional development will be provided over three years.

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Institution: University of Massachusetts Boston
Partners: Lowell Public Schools, Coordinated Family & Community Engagement Council Birth to Grade Three Alignment Project
Project: Higher Order Teaching

Description: The Higher Order Teaching partnership addresses a widespread need throughout the city to aggressively address the notably low skills in mathematics that children entering and attending the public schools exhibit. The program aims to do this by increasing early educator knowledge in mathematics and understanding of learning trajectories and research based teaching strategies in mathematics. The partnership will increase use of Teaching Strategies Gold to standardize child assessments and educate teachers in using child assessment data to design mathematical experiences and instruction. Activities include professional development, recruitment and classroom support.

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Institution: Worcester State University
Partners: Worcester Public Schools, Ecotarium, MA Audubon Society, Quinsigamond Community College
Project: Using Science to Strengthen and Align Early Childhood Teaching

Description: This project will improve child outcomes in public and private programs within Worcester, a district where 81% of the students are identified as high need. It will focus on integrating curriculum areas, especially science and social and emotional development. Project participants will design, pilot, and disseminate content-rich, developmentally appropriate science units. Educator content and skills will be increased through workshops, courses and coaching. All parts of the project will involve educators from a variety of Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE) settings and thus increase alignment across sectors. In year two, we will build capacity for Central Massachusetts Educators to use the CLASS tool to evaluate classrooms. Each year, we will construct developmentally appropriate learning units; execute a three-credit graduate course where 32 educators across sectors pilot the model units; sponsor a conference for college/public school administrators and faculty, and publish the learning units on the Internet. In year 2 we will train 14 local educators on the CLASS tool.

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Institution: Lesley University
Partners: Boston Public Schools, 826 Boston
Project: Professional Development for Elementary School Leaders and First Grade Teachers for Early Literacy Impact

Description: The principal objectives of this professional development initiative are to improve pedagogical and content knowledge of literacy teachers in kindergarten through grade 2 with a particular focus on 1st grade, and to improve approximately 900 first grade students' achievement. Activities include a Continuum of Literacy Learning K-2 Institute for principals, central administrators, and district coaches and an Introduction to Guided Reading K-2 course for district coaches and first grade teachers. Professional development for coaches and teachers on the power of social-emotional development with K-2 students and its relationship to cognitive learning will be included, including a focus on recent findings in the learning of self-regulation and peer interaction for student learning.

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