Inquiry-Based Science in the Middle Grades:
Assessment of Learning in Urban Systemic Reform
Science education standards established by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and the National resource Council (NRC) urge less emphasis on memorizing scientific facts and more emphasis on students investigating the everyday world and developing a deep understanding from their inquiries. These approaches to instruction challenge teachers and students, particularly urban students who often have additional challenges related to poverty. This report reflects three years of data that stem from a science education reform collaboration with Detroit Public Schools. Data was collected from nearly 8,000 students who participated in inquiry-based and technology-infused curriculum units that were developed as part of a larger, district-wide systemic reform effort in science education. The results show statistically significant increases on curriculum-based test scores for each year of participation despite the growing numbers of participants. Moreover, the strength of the effects grew over the years, as evidenced by increasing effect size estimates across the years. The findings indicate that students who historically are low achievers in science can succeed in standards-based, inquiry science when carefully developed curriculum is taught by professionally developed teachers who include multiple inquiry projects.
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