To help address the need for science classrooms that support language learning for all students, this project will rigorously study the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) curriculum, a year-long fifth-grade curriculum aligned to current science curriculum standards with a focus on English learners.
The nation's diverse and rapidly changing student demographics includes the rise of English learners, the fastest growing student population. Such demographic shifts highlight the importance of promoting and fostering science classrooms that support language learning for all students, including English learners. To help address this need, this project will rigorously study the Science and Integrated Language (SAIL) curriculum, a year-long fifth-grade curriculum aligned to current science curriculum standards with a focus on English learners. SAIL is grounded in design principles that are based on current research on children's science learning and second language acquisition. The curriculum includes four units that focus on central, driving questions (e.g., What happens to our garbage? or Why do falling stars fall?) to anchor the key physical and life science concepts of interest. The SAIL curriculum was originally developed with a prior DRK-12 grant using iterative cycles of development, field testing, and refinement. The project has three main objectives. First, the team will develop a teacher professional development program to support classroom implementation of SAIL. Second, the project will develop and validate the instruments needed to study the intervention and its impacts on teachers and students. Third, a quasi-experimental field trial will be conducted to assess the SAIL intervention's impacts on teachers and students.
The team will spend first year refining and iteratively developing the SAIL professional development package along with the measures to be used in the field trial. This is followed by the quasi-experimental study, which includes a treatment group of 15 elementary schools. A matched comparison group of 15 elementary schools will be obtained using propensity score matching at the school, teacher, and student levels. Fifth-grade science teachers will participate for 2 years, while two cohorts of fifth-grade students will participate for 1 year each. Measures will focus on student science learning with particular attention to English learner students and observations of teachers' instructional practices. Data will be analyzed using multi-level models accounting for nesting of students within teachers which, in turn, are nested within schools. At the completion of the project the team will have produced: (1) a fully documented professional development program to support teacher implementation of the SAIL curriculum, (2) measures needed to rigorously study the intervention and its impacts on teachers and students, and (3) further evidence of the potential effects of the SAIL intervention on teachers and students through a rigorous quasi-experimental field study.