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Impact of Science Instruction on Washington State


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Title: Impact of Science Instruction on Washington State

Impact of Science Instruction on Washington
States Elementary Students
  • George Nelson, PI and Carolyn C. Landel, PD
  • Washington State Assessment Conference
  • Thursday, December 6, 2007
  • SeaTac Hilton

  • Introduction
  • Summary of project and findings
  • An editorial diversion into reality and
  • About the partnership and its work
  • Some details
  • Elementary school findings so far
  • WASL scores in partnership and two example
  • Next steps

NCOSP History
  • Funded by NSF in September 2003
  • Initial work with teachers in August 2004
  • Student data
  • 2004 Baseline (prior to NCOSP activities)
  • 2005, 2006 Mid-treatment, only two years
  • Teacher, Faculty, Administrator, building level
    data available for 2003-07

Summary of Findings
  • Significant professional development, focused on
    increasing content and pedagogical content
    knowledge results in improved instruction K-16
    and improved student achievement in science as
    measured by the grade 5 WASL
  • Increases in student achievement in science are
  • Teaching science well every day had a positive or
    neutral impact on reading and math achievement
  • Improving science student achievement involved a
    partnership between higher education and K-12
    focused on improving instruction at all levels

What is the Reality in Schools?
  • In fifth grade, 62 of instructional time was in
    literacy or math only 24 was devoted to social
    studies or science.
  • Fifth-graders spent 91.2 of class time in their
    seats listening to a teacher or working alone,
    and only 7 working in small groups, which foster
    social skills and critical thinking. Findings
    were similar in first and third grades.
  • Fifth grade, students received five times more
    instruction in basic skills than problem solving
    and reasoning. In first third grades the ratio
    was 101.
  • About one in seven (14) kids had a consistently
    high-quality "instructional climate" all three
    years studied. Most classrooms had a fairly
    healthy "emotional climate," but only 7 of
    students consistently had classrooms high in
  • There was no difference between public and
    private schools.
  • Robert C. Pianta, Jay Belsky, Renate Houts, Fred
    Morrison, Opportunities to Learn in Americas
    Elementary Classrooms, Science, 315, p1795, 2007

Robert C. Pianta, Jay Belsky, Renate Houts, Fred
Morrison, Opportunities to Learn in Americas
Elementary Classrooms, Science, 315, p1795, 2007
Robert C. Pianta, Jay Belsky, Renate Houts, Fred
Morrison, Opportunities to Learn in Americas
Elementary Classrooms, Science, 315, p1795, 2007
Tacit Beliefs (As evidenced by actions--and tests)
  • Knowledge of reading and math is sufficient for
    students to lead fulfilling lives
  • Teacher-Centered classes are more effective
  • Students learn best by themselves
  • Basic Skills are more important than problem
    solving or reasoning
  • Test scores are more important than other
    evidence of learning

The North Cascades and Olympic Science Partnership
NCOSP Hypothesis
  • A partnership can change teachers, facultys,
    and administrators fundamental ideas about
    subject matter, teaching, and learning and
    promote learning through thinking. This change
    will result in improved student learning,
    increased test scores K-16, and new teachers
    better prepared to teach science effectively.

Focus on teaching
  • ...teacher effectiveness is the single biggest
    factor influencing gains in achievement, an
    influence bigger than race, poverty, parents
    education, or any of the other factors that are
    often thought to doom children to failure.
  • -Thinking K-16
  • Education Trust, Winter 2004

  1. All students succeed in challenging science
    curriculum aligned with standards.
  2. Administrators understand and support science
    education reform goals and programs.
  3. Knowledgeable and confident teachers use
    curriculum with integrity and fidelity.
  4. The quantity, quality and diversity of teachers
    entering the workforce increases through
    effective recruitment, preparation, and
  5. Science education research provides
    evidence-based contributions to the learning and
    teaching knowledge base.

Partnership Principles
  • Organizing Principle The project is organized
    and managed to achieve its goals on time and
    within the budget
  • Research Principle Actions will be planned and
    modified based on the best research. Where no
    prior research is available, careful experiments
    will be designed and carried out
  • Learning Principle Everyone in the project is a
  • Equity Principle There are clear, high, and
    realistic expectations and strong support for all
  • Collaboration Principle NCOSP is a true
    partnership. Each partner contributes to and
    benefits from achieving the goals

  • K-12 Institutions
  • 28 School Districts Whatcom County (8), Skagit
    County (7), and the Olympic and Kitsap Peninsula

Student DemographicsState vs. NCOSP
Demographic State (All grades- 2005/6) NCOSP students (5th Grade- 2005/6)
Free/Reduced Lunch ( served) 37 43
Ethnicity ( non-white) 31 24
Gender ( males) 52 51
Bilingual ( served) 7 5
Special Education ( served) 12 12
  • Institutions of Higher Education
  • Western Washington University
  • Everett Community College
  • Northwest Indian College
  • Skagit Valley College
  • Whatcom Community College

  • Supporting Agencies
  • Washington State LASER
  • NWESD189 (Whatcom and Skagit Districts)
  • OESD114 (Peninsula Districts)

NCOSP Systemic Approach to Reform
How People Learn Teacher Leader
  • Teacher Leader-reported most powerful
  • Understanding of research on how students learn

Learning about the research on 'How People Learn'
and then 'experiencing' being in the student's
place has had the most dramatic impact on my
teaching. Everyday and with confidence, I can
let the students know that I 'really understand
what theyre going through'. This has built an
element of trust in the classroom to 'stretch'
minds. -elementary teacher, Skagit
How People Learn Higher Education
  • Faculty-reported understanding

Before NCOSP, I was not aware of the role that
preconceptions can have as barriers to student
learning. I have incorporated more pre-learning
activities (such as 'Initial Ideas' in the NCOSP
classes, 'warm-ups' or 'introductory activities'
in my other classes) into all of my classesI
have become more learner centered. -Higher
Education Faculty
In this curriculum on a regular basis every
class, I am able to hear what students think and
what they are learning because they must discuss
their answers with each other and with the
class...I am constantly hearing and
learning is unfolding. -Higher Education Faculty
K12-Higher Education Partnership
The Summer Academy was definitely a
collaborative effort. I learned as much - if not
more - than the teachers who were technically the
students. -Higher Ed Faculty
NCOSP didnt say heres whats wrong with
education and heres how were going to fix it.
Rather NCOSP said, heres what we know about How
People Learn, lets work on this together and see
what we find out. We werent just being told
something - we were a part of something. -Teache
r Leader
Principals Support and Understanding
  • 100 of respondents wanted to discuss/find out
    how to better support their Teacher Leader in
    sharing his/her expertise in their school.
  • 92 wanted to gain a better understanding of what
    high quality science instruction looks like.
  • Administrators responses to survey items and a
    focus group interview suggest that even in
    buildings where science is considered a
    priority, there may not be mechanism in place to
    support the work of science teachers.

Teacher Leaders Content Knowledge
Teacher Leaders Pedagogy
Teacher Leaders Classroom Observations
Quantitative Rating Tchr Ldr 3 Low National
Comparison 1-2 59 3 Low 17 3 Med 10 3
High 5 4-5 10
  • Qualitative Observations
  • Content covered in lessons was developmentally
    appropriate and accurate
  • Content of lessons were linked to real-world
  • Students were recording data and observations in
    science notebooks to reflect on and access
    evidence for conclusions
  • Lessons contained investigations and experiments
    that required active participation by students

Teacher Leaders Classroom Practice
  • Teacher-reported changes in classroom practice
  • Identifying students preconceptions
  • Paying attention to student preconceptions
  • Questioning strategies

Asking questions instead of providing answers is
prompting my students to take a more active role
in their own learning. I know this because they
complain! 'Please just tell me!' Is a reply I
hear now more than ever. -elementary teacher,
I feel more confident now, because I'm better at
probing, and I have more content background to
extend student questions to validate their
thinking and make it more engaging for
them. -middle school teacher, Peninsula
Higher Education Classroom Observations
Quantitative Rating Faculty 3 High National
Comparison 1-2 59 3 Low 17 3 Med 10 3
High 5 4-5 10
  • Qualitative Observations
  • Faculty did a good job with content by ensuring
    the lesson was developmentally appropriate,
    connected to other disciplines or real world
    contexts, and accurate.
  • High ratings in the dimension of culture
    reflected the active participation of students in
    the courses that were focused on content.
  • Students were encouraged to use evidence to
    support their statements.

Higher Education Classroom Practice
  • Faculty-reported changes to classroom practice
  • Increased knowledge of questioning strategies,
    assessment techniques, and how to elicit student
  • Increased knowledge of how to teach concepts in
    an effective and lasting way.

Learning and practicing questioning skills has
been invaluable. How to guide student thinking
with questioning is very powerful. Having a
curriculum to teach science in a
student-centered, hands-on way is empowering for
students. -Higher Ed Faculty
Higher Education Student Outcomes
Teacher Leaders Leadership
  • 84 of Teacher Leaders stated that the 2006
    Summer PD prepared them to take on more of a
    leadership role in their school
  • Over the 2006-2007 school year, Teacher Leaders
    reported increased comfort with all four aspects
    of leadership measured
  • Facilitating
  • Presenting
  • Coaching
  • Consulting

Teacher Leader Leadership
  • Leadership Roles
  • Although only 25 of the elementary school
    Teacher Leaders (N16) reported science
    leadership activities prior to NCOSP, all
    reported them now.
  • Leadership Practices
  • 50 applied leadership practices from all four
    categories of presenting, coaching, consulting,
    and facilitating
  • 44 applied three categories
  • 6 applied two categories

Data Source Carty, 2007 Masters Research
Elementary School WASL Results
4th Grade WASL non-NCOSP vs. NCOSP students
student N non-NCOSP 4,600
5th Grade WASL Scores-2006 By Subject
5th Grade Science WASL Cumulative Impact of
NCOSP TL (2006)
State Prof. 36
4th Grade
5th Grade
No TLs
4th 5th Grade
student N 3,443
190 813
113 teacher N 200
33 36
Two Examples
  • Nooksack Elementary
  • All K-5 teachers teach science
  • Collaborative model led by the principal
  • Professional development coordinated into
    integrated building plan
  • Larabee Elementary
  • Collaborative Specialist model grades 3-5
    initiated 2005-2006
  • 7.5 hours/week with science teacher
  • Strong principal support to create collaborative
  • Professional development targeted at individuals
  • Both
  • Shared commitment to effective teaching for
    every student, every subject, every day, every
  • Shared high expectations and support for all

Nooksack Elementary
  • Student Demographics (State Values)
  • Enrollment (October 2006 Student Count) 271
  • Gender (October 2006) Male 53.5 (51.5) Female
    46.5 (48.5)
  • Ethnicity (October 2006)
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native 3.3 (2.7)
  • Asian 1.1 (7.8)
  • Black 1.5 (5.6)
  • Hispanic 24.4 (14.0)
  • White 69.4 (67.5)
  • Special Programs
  • Free or Reduced-Price Meals (May 2007)
  • Special Education (May 2007) 17.0 (12.7)
  • Transitional Bilingual (May 2007) 19.1 (7.5)
  • Migrant (May 2007) 8.1 (2.0)

Nooksack Elementary
Nooksack Elementary
Nooksack Elementary
Larrabee Elementary
  • Student Demographics (State Values)
  • Enrollment (October 2006 Student Count) 202
  • Gender (October 2006) Male 55.9 (51.5) Female
    44.1 (48.5)
  • Ethnicity (October 2006)
  • American Indian/Alaskan Native 3.0 (2.7)
  • Asian 2.0 (7.8)
  • Black 1.5 (5.6)
  • Hispanic 4.0 (14.0)
  • White 86.1 (67.5)
  • Special Programs
  • Free or Reduced-Price Meals (May 2007) 40.1
  • Special Education (May 2007) 13.4 (12.7)
  • Transitional Bilingual (May 2007) 2.5 (7.5)
  • Migrant (May 2007) 0.0 (2.0)

Larrabee Elementary
Larrabee Elementary
Larrabee Elementary
Todays Status--Next Steps
Higher Education
  • Regional institutionalization of a common science
    content course sequence
  • Courses and degree requirements for elementary
    education majors restructured
  • Collaborative network of scientists and science
    educators established

K-12 Education
  • Implementation of school-based professional
    learning communities (98)
  • Shift from supporting 1 Teacher Leader to a
    five-member school-based team with same monetary
  • Collaborative network of K-12 teachers throughout
    northwest Washington

Tools to Support Reform
  • Instructional materials for preservice and
    inservice science content courses
  • Professional development tools
  • Instruction
  • Professional Learning Community (Collaboration)
  • Assessment
  • Administrator observation instruments and rubrics

Ongoing Studies
  • Student WASL scores, Preservice content and
    teaching data
  • Classroom videos and observations, K-12 and
    Higher Education
  • Professional Learning Community videos and
  • Case studies of 10 selected schools
  • Self-written case studies of PLCs by Teacher
    Leaders and Principals
  • Partnership surveys