An Efficacy Study of a Comprehensive Middle School Science Curriculum that Integrates Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Crosscutting Concepts

The project team will conduct an efficacy study of a new comprehensive science curriculum for middle grades 6-8 called Amplify Science Middle School (ASMS). This school science curriculum integrates disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. The overarching aim of the study will be to understand the impact of the curriculum on student achievement, classroom implementation, and teacher practice in relation to the recommendations of "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" and the Next Generation of Science Standards.

Project Email: 
Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1720514
Funding Period: 
Tuesday, August 1, 2017 to Saturday, July 31, 2021
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Full Description: 

SRI International (SRI) in partnership with Lawrence Hall of Science will conduct an efficacy study of a new comprehensive science curriculum for middle grades 6-8 called Amplify Science Middle School (ASMS). This school science curriculum integrates disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. The overarching aim of the study will be to understand the impact of the curriculum on student achievement, classroom implementation, and teacher practice in relation to the recommendations of "A Framework for K-12 Science Education" and the Next Generation of Science Standards. While the number of states fully adopting NGSS hovers at around 20, nearly another 20 states have either incorporated the Framework or substantial portions of the NGSS into their state frameworks. Currently, the number of curriculum materials that have been designed for the Framework are relatively few, and thus the efficacy evidence basis for NGSS-designed curricula is limited. As more and more curriculum materials become available for supporting the Framework vision, the science education field needs rigorous research on the efficacy of curricula and the conditions required to implement them. ASMS is the Hall's first comprehensive 6-8 grade curriculum that has been designed specifically to meet the vision of the Framework and NGSS. Field trials of ASMS with more than 475 teachers and 34,000 students in a wide variety of settings, including urban, rural and suburban schools, have shown positive impact on student achievement, providing a compelling reason for a large-scale efficacy trial at this time.

The study will involve both quantitative and qualitative methods within an experimental design that will allow the examination of relations between contextual factors and student learning gains to help explain the results. Thus, this study will be important for moving education researchers toward increased understanding of how to meaningfully study and support teaching and learning in districts that will be trying to implement the next generation of science curriculum materials. Work will be conducted in districts with large numbers of students from groups that are underrepresented in STEM fields so that educators can better understand the promise of NGSS-aligned curricula in promoting access and equity in science education. The research team will conduct a random assignment efficacy study in 7th grade classrooms beginning in academic year 2018-19 and following up with these students as 8th graders in academic year 2019-20. Teachers in both conditions will receive professional development on the NGSS; teachers in the treatment condition will also receive professional development in the use of the ASMS materials. The recruiting target is a sample of 48 middle schools within up to 6 medium to large districts in California and/or Washington. The researchers will attempt to recruit all middle schools and all 7th grade science teachers in a district. It is anticipated that each school will have an average of two teachers teaching 3 sections of 7th grade science with 30 students per section for an approximate total of 96 teachers and 8,640 students. All students should have opportunities to learn science. This study will aim to draw valid inferences about the impact of curricula in districts with high concentrations of students who have been historically underrepresented in STEM. This work will also contribute to the larger, nationwide effort to support standards-based instructional reforms in science by helping to identify conditions needed for successful implementation of NGSS-designed curriculum materials. The findings will provide an important basis for investments in new curriculum materials and will be of strong interest to those in science education and the learning sciences, as well as to district leaders and policymakers concerned with scaling up of rigorous curriculum.

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