Families

Cluster Randomized Trial of the Efficacy of Early Childhood Science Education for Low-Income Children

The research goal of this project is to evaluate whether an early childhood science education program, implemented in low-income preschool settings produces measurable impacts for children, teachers, and parents. The study is determining the efficacy of the program on Science curriculum in two models, one in which teachers participate in professional development activities (the intervention), and another in which teachers receive the curriculum and teachers' guide but no professional development (the control).

Project Email: 
Award Number: 
1119327
Funding Period: 
Mon, 08/15/2011 to Mon, 07/31/2017
Project Evaluator: 
Brian Dates, Southwest Counseling Services
Full Description: 

The research goal of this project is to evaluate whether an early childhood science education program, Head Start on Science, implemented in low-income preschool settings (Head Start) produces measurable impacts for children, teachers, and parents. The study is being conducted in eight Head Start programs in Michigan, involving 72 classrooms, 144 teachers, and 576 students and their parents. Partners include Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University, and the 8 Head Start programs. Southwest Counseling Solutions is the external evaluator.

The study is determining the efficacy of the Head Start on Science curriculum in two models, one in which 72 teachers participate in professional development activities (the intervention), and another in which 72 teachers receive the curriculum and teachers' guide but no professional development (the control). The teacher study is a multi-site cluster randomized trial (MSCRT) with the classroom being the unit of randomization. Four time points over two years permit analysis through multilevel latent growth curve models. For teachers, measurement instruments include Attitudes Toward Science (ATS survey), the Head Start on Science Observation Protocol, the Preschool Classroom Science Materials/Equipment Checklist, the Preschool Science Classroom Activities Checklist, and the Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS). For students, measures include the "mouse house problem," Knowledge of Biological Properties, the physics of falling objects, the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test-Fourth Edition, the Expressive Vocabulary Test-2, the Test of Early Mathematics Ability-3, Social Skills Improvement System-Rating Scales, and the Emotion Regulation Checklist. Measures for parents include the Attitudes Toward Science survey, and the Community and Home Activities Related to Science and Technology for Preschool Children (CHARTS/PS). There are Spanish versions of many of these instruments which can be used as needed. The external evaluation is monitoring the project progress toward its objectives and the processes of the research study.

This project meets a critical need for early childhood science education. Research has shown that very young children can achieve significant learning in science. The curriculum Head Start on Science has been carefully designed for 3-5 year old children and is one of only a few science programs for this audience with a national reach. This study intends to provide a sound basis for early childhood science education by demonstrating the efficacy of this important curriculum in the context of a professional development model for teachers.

Multiple Instrumental Case Studies of Inclusive STEM-Focused High Schools: Opportunity Structures for Preparation and Inspiration (OSPrl)

The aim of this project is to examine opportunity structures provided to students by inclusive STEM-focused high schools, with an emphasis on studying schools that serve students from underrepresented groups. The project is studying inclusive STEM-focused high schools across the United States to determine what defines them. The research team initially identified ten candidate critical components that define STEM-focused high schools and is refining and further clarifying the critical components through the research study.

Lead Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1118851
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Mon, 08/31/2015
Full Description: 

The aim of this project is to examine opportunity structures provided to students by inclusive STEM-focused high schools, with an emphasis on studying schools that serve students from underrepresented groups. In contrast to highly selective STEM-focused schools that target students who are already identified as gifted and talented in STEM, inclusive STEM-focused high schools aim to develop new sources of STEM talent, particularly among underrepresented minority students, to improve workforce development and prepare STEM professionals. A new NRC report, Successful K-12 STEM Education (2011), identifies areas in which research on STEM-focused schools is most needed. The NRC report points out the importance of providing opportunities for groups that are underrepresented in the sciences, especially Blacks, Hispanics, and low-income students who disproportionately fall out of the high-achieving group in K-12 education. This project responds specifically to the call for research in the NRC report and provides systematic data to define and clarify the nature of such schools. 

The project is studying inclusive STEM-focused high schools across the United States to determine what defines them. The research team initially identified ten candidate critical components that define STEM-focused high schools and is refining and further clarifying the critical components through the research study. The first phase of the study is focusing on 12 well-established and carefully planned schools with good reputations and strong community and business support, in order to capture the critical components as intended and implemented. Case studies of these high-functioning schools and a cross-case analysis using a set of instruments for gauging STEM design and implementation are contributing toward building a theory of action for such schools that can be applied more generally to STEM education. The second phase of the study involves selecting four school models for further study, focusing on student-level experiences and comparing student outcomes against comprehensive schools in the same district. Research questions being studied include: 1) Is there a core set of likely critical components shared by well-established, promising inclusive STEM-focused high schools? Do other components emerge from the study? 2) How are the critical components implemented in each school? 3) What are the contextual affordances and constraints that influence schools' designs, their implementation, and student outcomes? 4) How do student STEM outcomes in these schools compare with school district and state averages? 5) How do four promising such schools compare with matched comprehensive high schools within their respective school districts, and how are the critical components displayed? 6) From the points of view of students underrepresented in STEM fields, how do education experiences at the schools and their matched counterparts compare? And 7) How do student outcomes compare?

The research uses a multiple instrumental case study design in order to describe and compare similar phenomena. Schools as critical cases are being selected through a nomination process by experts, followed by screening and categorization according to key design dimensions. Data sources include school documents and public database information; a survey, followed by telephone interviews that probe for elaborated information, to provide a systematic overview of the candidate components; on-site visitations to each school provide data on classroom observations at the schools; interviews with students, teachers and administrators in focus groups; and discussions with critical members of the school community that provide unique opportunities to learn such as mentors, business leaders, and members of higher education community that provide outside of school learning experiences. The project is also gathering data on a variety of school-level student outcome indicators, and is tracking the likely STEM course trajectories for students, graduation rates, and college admission rates for students in the inclusive STEM-focused schools, as compared to other schools in the same jurisdiction. Analysis of the first phase of the study aims to develop rich descriptions that showcase characteristics of the schools, using axial and open coding, to determine a theory of action that illustrates interconnections among context, design, implementation, and outcome elements. Analysis of the second phase of the study involves similar processes on four levels: school, student, databases, and a synthesis of the three. Evaluation of the project consists of an internal advisory board and an external advisory board, both of which provide primarily formative feedback on research procedures.

Research findings, as well as case studies, records of instrument and rubric development and use, annual reports, and conference proposals and papers are being provided on a website, in order to provide an immediate and ongoing resource for education leaders, researchers and policymakers to learn about research on these schools and particular models. An effort is also being made to give voice to the experiences of high school students from the four pairs of high schools studied in the second phase of the study. Findings are also being disseminated by more traditional means, such as papers in peer-reviewed journals and conference presentations.

Arcadia: The Next Generation—Transforming STEM Learning Through Transmedia Games

This project will study the design features of an experimental gaming environment called Arcadia: The Next Generation. Researchers working with a group of formal and informal educators to study the connections between scientific inquiry in Arcadia and STEM learning. The project provides a dynamic and evolving place where gamers, educators, parents, and citizen scientists can come together to share, rate, and build knowledge through a variety of fun science inquiry games.

Lead Organization(s): 
Partner Organization(s): 
Award Number: 
1134919
Funding Period: 
Thu, 09/01/2011 to Sat, 08/31/2013
Full Description: 

Designers and researchers from the Educational Gaming Environments group (EdGE) at TERC are studying the design features (e.g., tools, media platforms, facilitation) of an experimental gaming environment called Arcadia: The Next Generation. This gaming environment supports high-quality scientific knowledge building in a diverse, public audience. EdGE and its partner, GameGurus are integrating web-based social networking, augmented reality, and data sharing apps on smartphones into Arcadia and are working with a group of formal and informal educators to study the connections between scientific inquiry in Arcadia and STEM learning. EdGE is also examining various economic models that can support the long-term sustainability of STEM gaming environments that bridge home, community, and formal and informal learning. The project provides a dynamic and evolving place where gamers, educators, parents, and citizen scientists can come together to share, rate, and build knowledge through a variety of fun science inquiry games.

The research associated with Arcadia looks specifically at how game design (tools, environment, storyline, reward system) can support and sustain scientific inquiry. Researchers will relate these design features to the extent and nature of scientific inquiry in Arcadia, the impact the gaming experience has on players' sense of science identity and behaviors, and how this varies for different types of players. Researchers are using methods from netnography (Kozinets, 2002, Hine 2000) where digital records of avatar activity are incorporated along with participant observations, surveys, and interviews. A group of players recruited through colleagues' programs in informal and formal science education settings are the subjects for a smaller sub-study that looks at how to help transfer the science skills and knowledge gained in social games to classroom and other forms of science education. EdGE has two small advisory groups: a group of formal and informal educators to help with formative evaluation and a group of experts in the areas of research to help guide the interpretation of the research findings.

Arcadia: The Next Generation is an important step in working towards a vision of future learning environments that span schools, homes, community settings, and social entertainment sites where transmedia learning networks integrate real-life components such as indoor and outdoor classrooms with free-choice Internet experiences and citizen science programs. The primary deliverable of Arcadia: The Next Generation is a model game environment that attracts and retains a player audience and engages them in high quality scientific inquiry. The associated research informs the field on how to leverage the tremendous amount of time the public spends in social digital games, and how to direct that time towards productive science learning. EdGE is partnering with youth and adult programs at informal and citizen science centers to recruit and select the research sample that is representative of the US population, including minority youth and adults, so that researchers can learn how to sustain inquiry for a broad and diverse population of social game players.

School Organization and Science Achievement: Organization and Leadership Influences on Equitable Student Performance (Collaborative Research: Settlage)

This project will document factors explaining variations in science achievement across schools enrolling ethnically and linguistically diverse students. The research question is: what leadership and organizational features at the school level are associated with mitigating science achievement gaps? At the conclusion of the five-year project, the findings will take the form of recommendations about leadership practices and school organization that can be implemented in other school settings.

Award Number: 
1119349
Funding Period: 
Fri, 07/01/2011 to Sun, 06/30/2013
Project Evaluator: 
Katherine Paget, Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC)
Full Description: 

The School Organization and Science Achievement (SOSA) Project will document factors explaining variations in science achievement across schools enrolling ethnically and linguistically diverse students. The research question is: what leadership and organizational features at the school level are associated with mitigating science achievement gaps? Previous school effectiveness studies demonstrate school leadership and social capital influencing student achievement; the SOSA project is unique with its focus on science achievement. Researchers at the University of Connecticut and the University of South Florida St. Petersburg, in collaboration with school districts in their respective states, will identify school leadership practices that can be connected with reductions in achievement gaps related to student ethnicity, English fluency, and social status. At the conclusion of the five-year project, the findings will take the form of recommendations about leadership practices and school organization that can be implemented in other school settings.

The project uses a mixed methods design by combining statistical modeling and qualitative data. Multiple regression analyses highlight those schools populated by fifth graders that have greater or lesser achievement gaps in science. Using social capital theory (i.e., school norms, communication channels, and trustworthiness) comparisons of positive and negative outlier schools will be made via interviews of building principals, classroom teachers and community representatives. The expectation is that schools providing more equitable science experiences to all students will exhibit stronger social capital compared to buildings with disparities in science test scores across demographic categories. These insights will be supplemented by multilevel structural equation modeling to determine the strength of association between various school climate measures (e.g., teacher-to-principal trust, correspondence between teacher and principal perceptions of leadership, and school/community ties) and science achievement as measured by statewide fifth grade science tests. In addition, growth analyses will be used to detect shifts over time and provide insights about the links between policy changes or leadership adjustments, inasmuch as science achievement gaps are affected.

By working with 150 schools in two states, this collaborative research project is designed to generate findings applicable in other school systems. Particularly in settings where science achievement gaps are large, and especially when such gaps vary between schools even when the student populations are similar, the findings from this study will have practical leadership implications. Expertise in this project includes science education, educational leadership, and statistical modeling. This complementary combination increases the depth of the project's efforts along with expanding its potential impacts. Key questions addressed by this project include: to what extent is leadership in science similar to or different from leadership in other subject areas? how do variations in leadership design (e.g., top-down versus distributed leadership) contribute to reductions in science achievement gaps? to what degree can effective leadership mitigate other factors that exacerbate the challenges of providing high quality science learning experiences for every child? Findings will be disseminated via the SOSA Project website, along with leadership development strategies. Deliverables include templates to replicate the study, case studies for professional development, and strategies for supporting the development of science teacher-leaders.

Efficacy Study of Metropolitan Denver's Urban Advantage Program: A Project to Improve Scientific Literacy Among Urban Middle School Students

This is an efficacy study to determine if partnerships among formal and informal organizations demonstrate an appropriate infrastructure for improving science literacy among urban middle school science students. The study aims to answer the following questions: How does participation in the program affect students' science knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward science; teachers' science knowledge, skills, and abilities; and families engagement in and support for their children's science learning and aspirations?

Award Number: 
1020386
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/15/2010 to Wed, 08/31/2011
Project Evaluator: 
Maggie Miller
Full Description: 

This is an efficacy study through which the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the Denver Zoo, the Denver Botanic Gardens, and three of Denver's urban school districts join efforts to determine if partnerships among formal and informal organizations demonstrate an appropriate infrastructure for improving science literacy among urban middle school science students. The Metropolitan Denver Urban Advantage (UA Denver) program is used for this purpose. This program consists of three design elements: (a) student-driven investigations, (b) STEM-related content, and (c) alignment of schools and informal science education institutions; and six major components: (a) professional development for teachers, (b) classroom materials and resources, (c) access to science-rich organizations, (d) outreach to families, (e) capacity building and sustainability, and (e) program assessment and student learning. Three research questions guide the study: (1) How does the participation in the program affect students' science knowledge, skills, and attitudes toward science relative to comparison groups of students? (2) How does the participation in the program affect teachers' science knowledge, skills, and abilities relative to comparison groups of teachers? and (3) How do families' participation in the program affect their engagement in and support for their children's science learning and aspirations relative to comparison families?

The study's guiding hypothesis is that the UA Denver program should improve science literacy in urban middle school students measured by (a) students' increased understanding of science, as reflected in their science investigations or "exit projects"; (b) teachers' increased understanding of science and their ability to support students in their exit projects, as documented by classroom observations, observations of professional development activities, and surveys; and (c) school groups' and families' increased visits to participating science-based institutions, through surveys. The study employs an experimental research design. Schools are randomly assigned to either intervention or comparison groups and classrooms will be the units of analysis. Power analysis recommended a sample of 18 intervention and 18 comparison middle schools, with approximately 72 seventh grade science teachers, over 5,000 students, and 12,000 individual parents in order to detect differences among intervention and comparison groups. To answer the three research questions, data gathering strategies include: (a) students' standardized test scores from the Colorado Student Assessment Program, (b) students' pre-post science learning assessment using the Northwest Evaluation Association's Measures for Academic Progress (science), (c) students' pre-post science aspirations and goals using the Modified Attitude Toward Science Inventory, (d) teachers' fidelity of implementation using the Teaching Science as Inquiry instrument, and (e) classroom interactions using the Science Teacher Inquiry Rubric, and the Reformed Teaching Observation protocol. To interpret the main three levels of data (students, nested in teachers, nested within schools), hierarchical linear modeling (HLM), including HLM6 application, are utilized. An advisory board, including experts in research methodologies, science, informal science education, assessment, and measurement oversees the progress of the study and provides guidance to the research team. An external evaluator assesses both formative and summative aspects of the evaluation component of the scope of work.

The key outcome of the study is a research-informed and field-tested intervention implemented under specific conditions for enhancing middle school science learning and teaching, and supported by partnerships between formal and informal organizations.

Professional Development for Culturally Relevant Teaching and Learning in Pre-K Mathematics

This project is creating and studying a professional development model to support preK teachers in developing culturally and developmentally appropriate practices in counting and early number. The proposed model is targeted at teachers of children in four-year-old kindergarten, and focuses on culturally relevant teaching and learning. The model stresses counting and basic number operations with the intention of exploring the domain as it connects to children's experiences in their homes and communities.

Award Number: 
1019431
Funding Period: 
Wed, 09/01/2010 to Fri, 08/31/2018
Project Evaluator: 
Victoria Jacobs
Full Description: 

Developers and researchers at the University of Wisconsin are creating and studying a professional development model that connects research in counting and early number (CGI), early childhood, and funds of knowledge. The proposed model is targeted at teachers of children in four-year-old kindergarten, and focuses on culturally relevant teaching and learning. The model stresses a specific, circumscribed content domain - counting and basic number operations - with the intention of exploring the domain in depth particularly as it connects to children's experiences in their homes and communities and how it is learned and taught through play.

The project designs, develops, and tests innovative resources and models for teachers to support ongoing professional learning communities. These learning communities are designed to identify and build on the rich mathematical understandings of all pre-K children. The project's specific goals are to instantiate a reciprocal "funds of knowledge" framework for (a) accessing children's out-of-school experiences in order to provide instruction that is equitable and culturally relevant and (b) developing culturally effective ways to support families in understanding how to mathematize their children's out-of-school activities. Teachers are observed weekly during the development and evaluation process and student assessments are used to measure students' progress toward meeting project benchmarks and the program's effectiveness in reducing or eliminating the achievement gap.

The outcome is a complete professional development model that includes written and digital materials. The product includes case studies, classroom video, examples of student work, and strategies for responding to students' understandings.

CAREER: Examining the Role of Context in the Mathematical Learning of Young Children

This project involves a longitudinal, ethnographic study of children's mathematical performances from preschool to first grade in both formal classroom settings and informal settings at school and home. The study seeks to identify opportunities for mathematical learning, to map varied performances of mathematical competence, to chart changes in mathematical performance over time, and to design and assess the impact of case studies for teacher education.

Award Number: 
1461468
Funding Period: 
Mon, 06/15/2009 to Tue, 05/31/2011
Full Description: 

This project involves a longitudinal, ethnographic study of children's mathematical performances from preschool to first grade in both formal classroom settings and informal settings at school and home. The proposed site for the study is a small, predominately African-American pk-12 school. The study seeks to identify opportunities for mathematical learning by young children across multiple contexts, to map varied performances of mathematical competence by young children, to chart changes in young children's mathematical performance over time, and to design and assess the impact of case studies for teacher education that explore young children's mathematical competencies. Research questions focus on mathematical opportunities for learning in various contexts, children's development of knowledge, skills, and dispositions over time, the characteristics of competent mathematical performances, and the role of case studies in helping beginning teachers to understand young minority children's mathematical thinking. Data collected will include video tapes of classroom activities, written fieldnotes of formal and informal settings, student work, parent focus group transcripts, and children's interview performances. Analysis will involve both thematic coding and construction of case studies. The overarching goal of this project is to transform the ways that researchers think about and study the mathematical learning of young minority children as well as the quality of schooling these children experience.

Using Research to Target Title I Needs in Mathematics

This project is producing research syntheses that summarize and make available to practitioners results from research on effective mathematics curricular interventions, teaching practices, and teacher professional development that have been designed to improve achievement by students in Title 1 programs. The project’s goal is to bring together the best resources in both mathematics education and Title I so that programs are better able to serve the mathematical learning and instructional needs of Title I schools.

Award Number: 
0946875
Funding Period: 
Sat, 08/15/2009 to Sun, 07/31/2011

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