A Brief History of the Massachusetts Science Education Leadership Association (formerly Massachusetts Association of Science Supervisors (MASS))
Joseph J. Balsama, Former Science Department Head - Swampscott High School
We begin our story with a quote from Mr. Harry F. Syrenne, who served as secretary for six years prior to becoming president-elect.
“Prior to 1967, there were a few local groups of science supervisors that were meeting on a regular basis. One day in the fall of 1966, Tom O’Connor from the State Department of Education (Science Supervisor at that time) received a call from an executive from Polaroid Corporation. Polaroid was going to provide a plane to take a group of science teachers to the NSTA convention being held in Detroit. Tom was to find a way to choose the group of teachers to go. He contacted many science department heads in the state and a meeting was held at Wellesley High School. The meeting was to make plans for the trip and the election of participants. Well, for some reason the plane never left the ground but M.A.S.S. did. The date of the Wellesley meeting was January 16, 1967, which you might say, is our birthday. Our first president was Harris Goldberg; however, he left the organization before his term of office expired. He took a job in Stony Brook. Ed Pratt took over as our first full term president.”
The following is the FORWARD written by Ed Pratt on the first Directory of Members:
“The Massachusetts Association of Science Supervisors is a young organization that promises to play a vital role in science education in the Commonwealth. Its formation came about in early 1967 by uniting of the organization of Science Department Heads and Supervisors throughout the state’s science educators, and it will have a strong voice in the growth and development of science programs throughout the state. Through the efforts of its standing committees, meaningful recommendations will be made toward improving curricula, facilities, and the over-all recognition of quality science education functioning effectively at this time. Those participating n the activities of this association can be proud of their membership in this dynamic force for professional growth and improvement.”
Ed Pratt also wrote an article, A New Voice in Science Education: A new organization unites the efforts of science supervisors to improve science education, and provide an unifying influence, for the March 1968 edition of the Massachusetts Teacher.
The standing committees of the Massachusetts Association of Science Supervisors include:
Constitution Committee Membership Committee
Facilities Committee Minimum Competencies Committee
Legislative Committee Women in Science Committee
Minimum Standards Committee Science and Industry Committee
Certification Committee Safety Committee
Mass. Educational Assessment Committee Awards Committee
Edward Pratt’s article from the Massachusetts Teacher now appears:
A New Voice in Science Education
by Edward Pratt
A group of educators has launched a quiet movement in science education in Massachusetts, seeking higher quality science programs, improved and safer facilities, and more recognition for teachers and administrators in public and private school science.
This movement, following on the heels of drastic nation-wide curriculum changes, is in form of a new organization, the Massachusetts Association of Science Supervisors (M.A.S.S.).
Many states have developed successful science teachers’ groups, but Massachusetts has never had a single unifying organization of science educators. Thomas O’Connor and Stewart Sargent, senior supervisors of science for the state Department of Education, were among those who tackled the problem. They, with other science educators, had recognized that one kind of science organization seemed to have strength, vitality and professional appeal: The science department head association that had begun to form spontaneously throughout the state.
ASDHEM was the name of the group, which had pioneered the way. About ten years ago a few science department heads from the Boston suburbs formed this group and called it the Association of Science Department Heads of Eastern Massachusetts.
The Movement Spreads
By 1966 the ASDHEM story was being repeated on the North Shore and other suburban towns around Boston. In early spring of that year science department heads in and around Spring field met in the town of Longmeadow, to draw up a constitution for an association to improve science education in their area, School Science Administrators Association (S.S.A.A.) of Greater Springfield. Already, the S.S.A.A. has instituted an annual Saturday Science Seminar for science teachers in Western Massachusetts.
Soon, there were organizations on the South Shore and the North Shore, the north central and south central parts of the state, the Springfield area, and Boston.
Each group had its main objective the improvement of instruction by the exchange of ideas, by the development of a cooperation that made it possible for one science supervisor to seek advice or help from another. The size of each group was limited, to insure informality in its conduct. Topics discussed at a meeting would involve such areas as facilities, curriculum projects, and courses for slow learners, advanced courses, class size, teacher load, and compensation for department heads and recruitment of teachers. The activities of these groups have prompted the establishment of department head positions in many school systems.
State Group Formed
In early winter of 1967, at a meeting of representative from the groups throughout the state, seeds were sown that led toward the growth of a statewide association. In the spring two meetings were held in Northboro to launch formally the new association, an affiliation of the science administrators’ groups. A constitution was forged, and the new Massachusetts Association of Science Supervisors was under way. In addition to members of the affiliating groups the MASS was opened to members of the state Department of education directly concerned with science, and to college and university personnel whose major interest is in the preparation of science teachers.
The officers were: President, Edward Pratt, Longmeadow; President-Elect, Wendell Bennett, Natick, Recording Secretary Frank Ruberto, Revere; and Corresponding Secretary, Mary Ellen Payne, East Bridgewater.
A New Structure
A standing committee was formed to make recommendations regarding minimum standards for science education in the state. This committee headed by Norman Fedette, who is on the staff of the State College at Fitchburg. The committee is concerned with teacher load, class sizes, periods and minutes of science per week and science requirements. Recommendations made by this committee and endorsed by the membership will receive support from the supervisors and teachers in the state.
Another sub-group of the association is undertaking a careful evaluation of provisions for safety in science classrooms and laboratories. Mr. O’Connor is heading a committee that will draw and collate, from all secondary school supervisors in the state, statistics concerned with aspects of science programs from curriculum to financial compensation. These data will serve as wedges for improvement where improvement is necessary.
March 21 will mark the first statewide convocation of science department heads in Massachusetts. This will be the first annual general meeting of M.A.S.S. and it will be held at Natick High School. The meeting is under the direction of Wendell Bennett, head of Natick’s science department. There will be a main speaker and a tour of Natick facilities, which include a planetarium. Representatives from the affiliating groups will discuss topics of interest to science administrators. A major value of this meeting is the offering an opportunity for these educators to get to know one another.