Impact of ASSET Inc. on Student Learning: Report on Results in the Systemic Reform of Education in Southwestern Pennsylvania from 1995 - 2000
Impact of ASSET Inc. on Student Learning:
Report on Results in the Systemic Reform of Education in Southwestern Pennsylvania from 1995 - 2000
The crisis in U.S. pre-college science education came to the national fore in 1983 with the publication of "A Nation At Risk." Since then, mounting evidence from various sources, including the U.S. Labor Department and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, has continued to underscore the problem. Perhaps most damning are the results of the Third International Math and Science Study (TIMSS). Over the past decade, TIMSS has tested fourth, eighth and twelfth grade students from more 41 countries in math and science proficiency. Unfortunately, U.S. students, with the exception of fourth graders, have under-performed compared with their international counterparts, consistently scoring at or near the bottom in both subjects.
Seeking to redress the problem and reverse this trend, education experts have called for major reform of science education at the elementary school level. They advocate inquiry-based, hands-on curricula that allow students to learn science the way scientists do through research, experimentation, analyzing data, hypothesizing, and testing conclusions. For teachers, this approach requires ongoing professional development in both science content and teaching methods, something the nations pre-college science teachers who are members of the National Science Teachers Association overwhelmingly support.
This report benchmarks the progress made by teachers and students participating in the ASSET Inc. program.
Begun in 1992, the ASSET (Allegheny Schools Science Education and Technology) Inc. initiative brought together partners, financial supporters, and 30 school districts in Allegheny County to improve student learning in science through systemic reform. Over 90,000 students are benefiting from the investment made by the National Science Foundation, and many local foundations and corporations.
ASSETs reform strategy incorporates the five components of exemplary science education programs identified by the National Science Resources Center and required by the National Science Foundation for Local Systemic Reform Initiatives: quality hands-on curriculum materials, ongoing professional development, centralized materials support, assessment, and community and administrative involvement.
Cross-district collaboration revolutionizes student learning.
ASSET is producing systemic change in southwestern Pennsylvania schools and is significantly advancing student learning. During its six years of operation, ASSET awakened thousands of students interests in science. Results show measurably better skills in comparing, graphing, and measuring among ASSET students compared to those who didnt participate in ASSET programs.
These enhancements in student learning result from ASSET s commitment to collaboration. By establishing partnerships among disparate districts, ASSET encourages teachers who would otherwise never interact to share ideas. This produces a synergy among districts that enhances teachers capabilities and invigorates students.
As a result, most Allegheny County school districts now use a common elementary science curriculum framework. Collaborative structures provide ASSET schools with the benefits of diversity while enabling each district to maintain its administrative independence. Through their involvement with ASSET, districts understand that teacher professional development engenders continuous improvement in student learning. Because of ASSET:
Community partnerships strengthen science understanding.
ASSET reaches out to the community to further enhance student learning. The Carnegie Science Center, the National Aviary, the Pittsburgh Zoo and Aquarium, and Pittsburgh Voyager provide field experiences relevant to the ASSET curriculum which enrich both students and teachers understanding of science.
Administrators throughout the region are requesting the Principals Academy of Southwestern Pennsylvania at the University of Pittsburgh to provide guidance in applying the principles of inquiry, which form the basis of ASSETs philosophy, to their school setting. Duquesne University, Carlow College, the University of Pittsburgh, and Indiana University of Pennsylvania are aligning their programs for teacher preparation to ensure that new teachers graduating from these institutions will have the skills to guide student learning using inquiry. To further enhance learning, university scientists co-teach with elementary teacher leaders in summer science institutes.
Teachers are better prepared to teach science.
Student performance is higher in districts with sustained involvement in ASSET.
In the spring of 2000, a test administered to approximately 1500 fifth-grade students in 29 ASSET districts showed dramatic improvement in ASSET students performance. The assessment consisted of 4th and 7th grade science items selected from the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS).
Results from this test indicate the following impressive accomplishments:
ASSET students scores rank competitively with Japanese students scores.
National study confirms the benefits of investing in teaching quality.
Asset began a tidal wave of school improvement in southwestern Pennsylvania. Its teachers and administrators and its many valuable partners are producing reform with measurable results. Significant student achievement in science validates the importance of inquiry-based instruction. This confirms the research conducted for the Center for the Study of Teaching and Policy, which concluded that student performance improves with "long-standing investments in the quality of teaching" (Darling-Hammond, L., Teaching Quality: Policy Briefs, December, 1999).
Because of their involvement with ASSET, 69 area school districts have engendered change:
These systemic improvements are significant advances for students and ultimately the community.
A continued emphasis on teaching quality will improve student learning further and allow an expanding number of students to reap the benefits.
Based upon research conducted byKalyani Raghavan, Learning Research and Development Center, University of Pittsburgh, and Reeny Davison, ASSET Inc.