Research team releases education study

GW researchers found that students enrolled in a new science curriculum in the Montgomery County Public Schools are learning at the same rate, regardless of race, gender or ethnicity.

Investigators released their first year’s worth of study Friday morning. Members of GW’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development and the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, along with the Montgomery Country Public Schools in Maryland are conducting the five-year study.

While the report found that students of different ethnicities learned at essentially the same rate, Asian-American students started at a slightly lower point than their white counterparts when the curriculum is introduced. The Asian-American students eventually catch up with the white students.

“No matter where you start, you will learn at the same rate,” said Curtis Pyke, an assistant professor of secondary education involved with the study. “In our replication, we got very consistent results, which gives us a lot of confidence in our data.”

The investigation also found that students are experiencing positive effects from the science curriculum.

After a year of planning, researchers spent the 2002-2003 academic year determining if the education gaps between the 6,000 students of varying ethnicities and genders were widened, closed or maintained because of the new science curriculum.

The research team, which includes 12 representatives from GW, received a $5.2 million grant from the Interagency Education Research Initiative. The IERI commissioned the study, one of five of its kind in the country, in order to find out if increased spending is allowing students to meet educational goals.

“We wrote some grants that were not funded (by IERI). We wrote this one in 2001, but we did our homework for three years before that,” said Sharon Lynch, professor of secondary education, who is one of the study’s principal investigators.

In the next four years of the study, the investigators plan to introduce this science curriculum to more than 200,000 students and 250 teachers in all 37 middle schools in Montgomery County and see if the same results are achieved.

The researchers chose to focus on Montgomery County Public Schools because of its ethnically diverse population and its rating as one of the best large school districts in the country.

Investigators spent three years developing a relationship with the school district before applying for the grant.

“We could not do this study without a relationship with the school district. IERI wants to investigate what a good curriculum is and what really works, and development work is necessary to do this,” Pyke said.

The researchers systematically analyzed 1,800 pages of video transcript to rate eighth graders’ understanding of the scientific concept of conservation of matter on a scale from 1 to 100.

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