Improving Science Achievement at High-Poverty Urban Middle Schools
A large percentage of U.S. students attending high-poverty urban middle schools achieve low levels of science proficiency, posing significant challenges to their success in high school science and to national and local efforts to reform science education.
Through its work in Philadelphia schools, the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University developed a teacher-support model to address variation in science curricula, lack of materials, and underprepared teachers that combined with initial low levels of proficiency block improvements in science achievement.
The model includes a common science curriculum based on NSF-supported materials commercially available, ongoing teacher professional development built around day-to-day lessons, and regular in-class support of teachers by expert peer coaches. One cohort of students at three Philadelphia middle schools using the model was followed from the end of the fourth grade through the seventh grade. Their gains in science achievement and achievement levels were substantially greater than students at three matched control schools and the twenty-three district middle schools serving a similar student population. Under school-by-school comparisons, these results held for the two schools that had adequate implementation.
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