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PUBLIC RELEASE DATE:
29-Oct-2012

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Contact: Ellen Whitlock Baker
ellenw4@uw.edu
206-221-3433
University of Washington
@UW

NSF study to examine effectiveness of new AP science curriculum

University of Washington lead among three partners studying inquiry-based science curriculum

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded Associate Professor Mark Long of the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington a $2.6 million, four-year study of redesigned Advanced Placement (AP) science courses. The study will be done in collaboration with Dylan Conger of the George Washington University's Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration and Raymond McGhee Jr. of SRI International.

The research teams will focus on both implementation and student outcomes resulting from the revised AP science curriculum developed by the College Board in collaboration with NSF and the National Research Council. The new curriculum is designed to emphasize the development of scientific inquiry skills rather than just the acquisition of limited knowledge across many content areas.

The study's findings will provide the first experimental evidence on the effects of taking an inquiry-based AP science course and whether it impacts students' educational progress and success in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) subjects. The findings will be useful for the College Board, educators, and policymakers seeking to strengthen the teaching of science in high school.

"This study comes at a time when districts and schools are rapidly expanding their AP offerings and encouraging all students, especially those coming from underrepresented minority groups, to take challenging courses," said Raymond McGhee, Ph.D., senior researcher in the Center for Education Policy at SRI International. "Since student success in science is so important to future success, we anticipate that our study results will inform educators and policymakers as they develop programs to support college readiness."

As part of the research project, SRI will collect interview, survey, observation, and administrative data from participating teachers and students. Researchers will analyze the data to provide feedback to educators.

Using a randomized control-trial design, UW and GW researchers will determine the effects of inquiry-based content on students and whether it has an impact on their ability to conduct scientific inquiry and overall educational performance and aspirations.

The project will take place in 40 high schools across the nation, and the study will include more than four thousand 11th and 12th grade students.

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