A Closer Look at the 2011 Winners
Valley Christian Junior High School
San Jose, California
Students Served: 557
Valley Christian Junior High School (VCJHS)—a large, independent school that serves a diverse, urban population—employs "tried and true" methods of teaching math standards, including directed teaching, hands-on activities, collaborative work, and discovery exploration. Additionally, VCJHS employs differentiated instruction to address students' varied learning styles.
Valley Christian uses "inverted learning," where students watch prerecorded webcasts of lessons as homework, reserving class time for practice. The effects include increased student engagement, increased retention, and the utilization of multiple forms of personalized learning through individual work, pair share, group work, and one-on-one student-teacher interactions. Group projects include challenges such as planning a fictional company's headquarters and production facility, with teams working as various departments and calculating the costs of building and conducting business.
VCJHS also offers students the opportunity to participate in Project Lead the Way (PLTW), a pre-engineering, project-based learning program where students trace the history, development, and influence of automation and robotics, and learn about mechanical systems, energy transfer, machine automation, and computer control systems. Students utilize mathematics through every aspect of this program, and gain knowledge and skills in problem-solving, teamwork, collaboration, and innovation.
To provide a venue for teachers to propose ideas for innovative programs like PLTW, administrators established Ed Forum, a venue where anyone can present proposals and make a case for funding. This forum has resulted in a robotics program for junior high and elementary students, a state-ofthe- art television studio and a 3D animation lab. Teachers meet daily as a faculty and weekly with their departments or grade levels to foster teamwork and effectively plan to meet and exceed state standards. Release time is offered to teachers to meet together in curricular areas. Teachers attend a wide range of workshops on both content and pedagogy, and their learning community includes a range of community professionals who advise the school through the Applied Science, Mathematics, and Engineering (ASME) board.
Over the past four years, Valley Christian students have consistently scored in the nation's top 17 percent in mathematics on the Stanford Achievement Test.
Crellin Elementary School
Students Served: 89
Seven years ago, students at Crellin Elementary, a small town school in the mountains of western Maryland, struggled with mathematics performance. Only 44 percent of students in grades three through five reached proficiency levels.
In 2004, the school began working with a mathematics mentor from a nearby university and shifting instructional focus to a more conceptual, inquiry-based, interdisciplinary approach. The idea was to help students grasp mathematics concepts through relevant, real-world problems and projects. This included extending learning from the classroom into the community, where students now gather data and conduct experiments in the local environment, compromised by decades of coal mining. Community members have been enlisted to help students make connections as they engage in projects such as monitoring the health of the nearby river and wetlands through the collection of data and samples, designing and performing maintenance on the school's Stewardship Gardens, or studying population growth in the area.
Technology is integrated whenever possible through the use of SMART Boards*, laptops, and other portable devices. Students often use web applications to organize data and present project work. For example, fourth- and fifth-grade students are currently working with West Virginia University on an authentic research project on the history of the chestnut tree, including study of local trees. In the field, students catalog the trees, note exact locations via GPS, document them on Google maps, and collect other information. They also designed a project web site, where they document ongoing work on the project.
Crellin teachers work collaboratively with their university mentor and each other to improve math instruction strategies and use data effectively to inform practice. In addition, staff members are involved in a statewide, 14-month initiative focused on integrating science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) into instruction.
As a result of these shifts, 100 percent of students reached proficient or advanced levels in 2010 state testing. Further, in the three previous years, 70 percent of Crellin graduates have been placed in advanced math courses upon entering middle school.
Byron Senior High School Rochester, Minnesota
Students Served: 480
At Byron Senior High School, teachers say a "perfect mathematical storm" occurred when a need for new textbooks, the lack of funds for such textbooks, and a group of creative educators came together. Recognizing the value of a growing body of online instructional tools, as well as the fact that no single textbook could address all of the required mathematics standards anyway, teachers decided to build their own textbook-free curriculum.
Based on state standards, as well as student performance data, the new curriculum relies heavily on technology, particularly SMART Board* lessons and teacher-created video lessons. The effort was driven by teachers' unwavering commitment to raise student achievement, as well as strong support by school and district administrators.
Though the instruction videos were originally recorded for use in missed class or review situations, students began using the videos for preteaching, allowing class time to be used for practice with teacher and peer assistance. This "reverse classroom" experience has been helpful in meeting varied students' needs since advanced students can work faster through online materials, progressing further, and struggling students can take more time for review whenever necessary. Information is tracked and available to teachers, improving assessment at an individual level.
To inspire students to pursue careers in science, Byron participates in PLTW and offers classes in both engineering and electronics. Additionally, the school rents the Mayo Mobile Science Lab to offer students the opportunity to conduct sophisticated biology experiments, including study of DNA sequencing.
For professional development, teachers regularly seek out developmental opportunities by participating in conferences, workshops, and partnerships focused on math, science, and technology. Additionally, a professional learning community meets weekly to work collaboratively on curriculum issues, and to improve individually and collectively by building on each others' strengths, successes, and failures. Assigned data coaches help pull valuable information from tools that can further help teachers adjust teaching styles and improve practice. Leadership is encouraged and shared at all levels.
As a result, math scores have risen dramatically, from 29.9 percent of 11th graders meeting proficiency requirements in 2007 to 65.6 percent in 2010.
Farmington View Elementary
Students Served: 210
Located in rural Oregon, west of Portland, Farmington View serves a diverse group of children from both affluent homes and migrant labor camps. The school has extensive grounds and sits adjacent to Jackson Bottom Wetlands, a 760-acre wetland preserve and nature center which serves as an educational extension of the school.
Instructional strategies are focused on increasing students' knowledge and investigative skills through scientific inquiry. Teachers use an interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to fully engage students by giving them the opportunity to be actual scientists. Outreach classes taught in the field by experts address such topics as animal tracking, watershed science, ethnobotany, and inferential classification. Students engage in authentic research projects, including restoration of wetlands and riparian habitat and conducting migration inventories. Throughout the standardsbased curriculum, there is a strong emphasis on writing. Technology—including computers, interactive whiteboards, digital projectors, and software—is interwoven, and instruction is differentiated to meet the needs of all students. Since the school converted a classroom into an engineering lab and added engineering to the curriculum, students have the opportunity to participate in multiple engineering projects each year. These projects run the gamut, from taking apart appliances to see how they work to working on CAD design and robotics. Twenty extra-curricular clubs focus on math and science, including multiple robotics clubs for various ages and a model rocket club.
Teachers increase knowledge and skills by participating in a range of professional development opportunities to enhance science instruction. This has included forming partnerships with others in the community to improve lessons on the wetlands, animal species and habitats, engineering design, and forestry. Each month, an academic seminar is devoted to lesson plan development and science teaching methods.
The number of fifth graders who met or exceeded standards on the Oregon State Assessment has risen from 69 percent in 2004 to more than 94 percent in 2010. Last year, students scored in the top 10 percent of the state in all grades and subjects.
Preston Middle School
Fort Collins, Colorado
Students Served: 810
Teachers at Preston Middle School promote 21st-century skills such as critical thinking and problem solving as students engage in the authentic practice of science. Guiding students through an investigation is an important part of instructional strategy.
Sixth-grade students take a research and presentation class to provide real-world relevance to science and math concepts. Students pursue questions that lead to authentic inquiry. They engage in web-based inquiry activities to analyze existing data; they create graphs, tables, and diagrams, and look at the value of representing data in different ways. Finally, they write a scientific explanation supported by evidence.
Curricular offerings include basic science courses, but also a number of electives that expand scientific thinking. Content is aligned to meet state standards. Through partnerships, Preston is able to offer more hands-on experiences for students who learn best through tactile instruction. Students have opportunities to engage in authentic field work with professionals in different scientific fields. Technology is woven throughout.
Teachers not only engage in conferences and workshops on STEM content and pedagogy, but pursue ongoing partnerships with Colorado State University faculty and graduate students from the Natural Resource Ecology Lab. Additionally, teachers have engaged in training with Carnegie Mellon-Robotics Academy, biotechnology training with Cargill, and flight simulator training. The result is a plethora of new academic offerings for students, including courses like Biodiversity, Carbon in the Environment, GIS-GPS, Habitat and Telemetry of Bobcats, and Aviation Science, as well as guided research opportunities studying topics such as aquatic habitats and macroinvertebrate populations along the Poudre River.
Student achievement on the 2010 Colorado state assessment is strong. Of all non-charter schools in the district, Preston had the second greatest number of students scoring at or above proficiency—65 percent—compared to the district average of 59 percent and the state average of 48 percent. Further, as a result of the school's STEM focus, Preston has an increasing number of students who have moved onto the accelerated math path.
Lynbrook High School
San Jose, California
Students Served: 1,931
At Lynbrook High School, teachers encourage students to delve deeply into science through opportunities within and beyond the classroom. Teachers foster inquiry by demonstrating the "wow" of science through demonstrations and presentations of real-life medical and societal problems.
Students are encouraged to develop testable hypotheses related to the science and engineering issues that interest them personally and delve into independent research. Given ample research time and hands-on opportunities to grapple with questions, they explore solutions and provide explanations, honing critical thinking and problemsolving skills. Students are involved in assessing their educational progress, analyzing their work and rethinking processes for future growth.
Teachers provide multiple laboratory experiences for students each week, and extend learning outside the classroom for further study, data collection, and testing. Teaching techniques are based on current pedagogical research including backwards design, differentiated curriculum, and assessment and instructional strategies. Technology—including SMART Boards*, laptops, digital probes, projectors, and cameras—augment instruction.
Weekly, 90-minute staff development collaboration affords science teachers opportunities to discuss: effective teaching, learning, and assessment strategies; curriculum enrichment for high achievers; "Mindset" pedagogy; scientific literacy; and departmental goals. Teachers analyze disaggregated data to assess and modify curriculum to ensure all students are supported. Science teachers engage in collegial dialog across the disciplines, reflect on teaching strategies, share effective curriculum, and create solutions to fully support students' scientific inquiry and passion. Science teachers also attend seminars, lectures, and coursework at local universities; and they participate in summer internships with local Silicon Valley companies to gain knowledge and participate in cutting-edge research for integration into curriculum.
In California testing, Lynbrook student scores have progressively risen from 77 percent of students meeting or exceeding required proficiency in 2007 to 90 percent in 2010. Additionally, Lynbrook students scored exceptionally well on advanced placement tests in biology, chemistry, and physics, including a number of perfect scores. Thirty of these students were honored as National AP Scholars and 144 others as AP Scholars with Distinction.
Hollin Meadows Elementary
Students Served: 603
Hollin Meadows Elementary, located in Virginia, is a large, urban school serving a diverse and economically disadvantaged student body. Designated as a science and math focus school, Hollin Meadows has helped students overcome obstacles and succeed through the creation of a learning environment that is interdisciplinary and inquiry-based.
An innovative, standards-based curriculum takes learning outside the classroom into environments where students can learn and apply science and mathematics concepts in real life, and work collaboratively with peers to complete projectbased assignments. Often, work takes place in outdoor "teaching gardens" where students test mathematical concepts through meaningful inquiry. Students plot, measure, and calculate plant growth to determine how different soils and fertilizers affect the quantity and quality of lettuce plants grown for their annual Thanksgiving lunch. Students create fertilizers derived from water and worm compost—measuring quantities, testing, and graphing effectiveness, and calculating prices—for their annual Earth Day event. Students calculate weather data to create their own weather forecasts and video segments.
Technology—including SMART Boards*, digital microscopes, laptops, and a range of web-based tools and applications—is infused throughout. Additionally, laboratory instruction includes teaching engineering skills through hands-on study of robotics, building and construction, alternative energy technologies, and computer STEM professionals are often invited to take part in the labs, offering students guidance and serving as positive role models.
A math coach conducts periodic training sessions and works closely with teachers to study student data, model lessons, observe teaching, and join in discussions about improving practice. Professional learning communities, which include parents, teachers, staff, and business and educational partners, reflect on instructional practices and the integration of 21st-century skills.
Since 2007, student performance in mathematics has increased from approximately 88 percent of third- and fifth-graders meeting proficiency to more than 98 percent for both groups. Further, the achievement gap between socioeconomic groups has been reduced to a few percentage points in mathematics.
Students Served: 58
Wauwatosa STEM, a small, Wisconsin charter school, admits students from throughout the school district via lottery. The school's goal is to provide an innovative learning environment where students navigate their own course through an engaging, challenging curriculum rooted in STEM subjects.
Students learn from the outset that math is not an abstract subject in a vacuum. Mathematics is taught as an integral life skill, necessary for understanding and exploring any field of knowledge. In multi-age classrooms, skills are taught repeatedly and from multiple angles so that a strong fact and skill base supports problem-solving skills which, in turn, grow a deeper understanding of context for a still-expanding fact and skill base.
A combination of individual, small group and whole group instruction in mathematics in a variety of media allows math to be infused throughout the day. Hands-on manipulative materials are used, as well as a variety of games, to approach concepts and skills from multiple angles. Because the school has a 1:1 laptop ratio, Internet games are used extensively, allowing students to progress at their own rate.
Frequent science labs incorporate mathematics. Students learn to design, observe, and describe science experiments. They use a variety of instruments, from rulers to digital cameras and computers, and organize, interpret, and communicate results through prose, charts, graphs, and presentation software. The school has formed a relationship with a nearby university to enhance curricular offerings, particularly in engineering.
Teachers have collaborative time once a week to spend as a professional learning community. They meet with teachers from a co-facility school to discuss and compare strategies, results, concerns, and ideas. They also can request direct assistance or consultation from district teacher leaders, special education staff, and reading specialists.
Wauwatosa STEM students have achieved 100 percent proficiency on the Wisconsin Knowledge and Concepts Examination (WKCE), a measure of reading and mathematics skills, for three years in a row, surpassing all other elementary schools in the district.
Conyers Middle School
Students Served: 1,075
At Conyers, a large, urban school serving a diverse, highly transient, and economically-challenged student body, application of knowledge is more important than simple recall of information. Curriculum is standards-based and focused around problem solving, cross-curricular concepts, and applications of math in the outside world.
Instructional strategies are inquiry based and student centered. Math teachers seek to increase and deepen students' content knowledge through constant questioning, scaffolding student ideas, and integrating hands-on learning. This includes the use of manipulatives, framework performance tasks, graphing calculator activities, and 21st-century teaching tools, such as interactive software.
A safety net program provides opportunities for struggling students to take extra math classes before and after school, as well as on some weekends, to receive the additional help they need. These sessions are tailored using data from benchmark exams and common assessments. Additionally, all students participate in a college-preparedness program which helps students develop strong organizational skills and succeed in higher-level mathematics classes.
To offer students 21st-century learning environments, every classroom is equipped with a digital projector, desktop computer, SMART Board*, document camera, wireless laptop, and response devices. Math teachers utilize these tools, as well as graphing calculators and a variety of software programs, to create dynamic lessons where technology is heavily integrated. One recurring "Moon Math" project involves challenging students to design a roller coaster that could be operated in the reduced-gravity environment of space.
An academic coach meets with math teachers each week to support the teachers in planning and implementing lessons and analyzing student data gathered from common assessments. Additionally, the administration offers frequent leadership opportunities for teachers, encouraging them to share their thoughts and ideas about the development of the school. Weekly leadership committee meetings foster the development of leadership skills within the staff.
On the Criterion Reference Competency Tests, math scores have been steadily rising. Since 2007, the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards rose from 74.2 percent to 88.2 percent. On the most recent Carnegie Math End of Course Test, 100 percent of students met or exceeded standards.
Millikan Middle School
Sherman Oaks, California
Students Served: 1,995
At Millikan Middle School, a large, urban school in a diverse and economically-challenged area of Los Angeles, educators are working to prepare their students to meet the needs of the 21st century, global environment. In mathematics, that means teachers are working not only to teach students basic skills, but to enhance students' conceptual understandings of mathematics in the world and to inspire them to higher levels of thinking through collaborative, concept-based work.
Teachers work in grade-level, cross-curricular teams to develop lessons that will allow students to observe connections between subjects. Longterm, cross-curricular projects are assigned so that students can discover firsthand how math is applied in the world around them. The goal is to promote an interest in learning math beyond procedural knowledge. One major addition to the program has been to embed writing into the math classroom; students are required to compose paragraphs explaining math processes, enhancing understanding. In group work, at-risk students are paired with achieving students to provide one-on- one peer tutoring, enhancing both high- and low-performing students' skills.
Projects incorporating math run the gamut, from competing in the annual Pinewood Derby* to designing and building a turtle habitat in a nearby agricultural area. Basic engineering instruction is covered in classes ranging from computing to filmmaking and stage crafts.
Professional development includes attendance at math instruction conferences throughout the year. Additionally, twice a month, departmental meetings are devoted to introducing new concepts or a review of current concepts and sharing best teaching practices for those concepts.
Technology, such as document cameras and math manipulatives, allow for more concrete representation of math concepts. For example, online software and learning programs have the ability to show students how images change with different algebraic equations.
In recent years, math scores have risen from 59.5 students meeting California proficiency requirements in 2007 to 72 percent in 2010, with a gain of 357 students meeting advanced proficiency. In algebra and geometry, 95 and 96 percent of students—respectively—met proficiency requirements.
Andover High School
Students Served: 1,746
Andover High, a large, urban school, offers both "traditional" and "Core-Plus" programs to meet varied learning needs and help ensure that all students are successful. The traditional program is teacher-led with project-based activities embedded into the lessons. The second program takes an integrated approach to learning. This Core-Plus approach was designed to appeal to students who may not have an initial enthusiasm for math or who may learn best from seeing practical applications and real-world connections. Both programs utilize the block schedule to enable all students to take four years of math in three years, and both programs are inclusive, standards-based, and lead to the same senior electives in math.
Teachers for both programs use project- and inquiry-based activities, group learning, and technology—including online resources—to enrich instruction. Additionally, teachers for both programs collaborate, especially with special education teachers, to see that all student needs are met.
Projects often involve community connections to enhance learning. In one project, students study proofs by watching a crime drama, writing defense and prosecution statements, and presenting to a local lawyer who acts as judge. Statistics classes analyze surveys on topics such as sleep habits, dating, and part-time jobs to connect math to careers in health and social sciences.
Professional development includes improvement of instructional strategies, curriculum development, and incorporating technology as a teaching tool. Faculty take part in "Japanese Lesson Study," a collaborative and iterative process through which a mathematics lesson is designed by a team of teachers around defined content, learning, and skills goals, followed by several rounds of implementation, data analysis, and revision, at which point the documented lesson plan is ready to be shared with other teachers. Additionally, staff members engage in collaborative learning efforts with local institutions, including the development of GeoGebra, an online learning resource integrating algebra and geometry.
From 2007 to 2009, tenth-graders scoring in the advanced proficiency level on the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests rose from 74 to 80 percent, with an overall proficiency rate of 94 percent in 2009.
Leadership Public Schools
Students Served: 212
At Leadership Public Schools Hayward (LPSHayward), a charter school serving a diverse, economically-challenged population, the majority of ninth graders enter the school far below grade level in math, anywhere from two to seven years behind. Given the school's mission to prepare 100 percent of graduates for college success, staff members provide curriculum, resources, and support that can be individually tailored. Additionally, math is integrated throughout the curriculum to help students see real-world connections and enhance comprehension.
To help struggling students "catch up" from the start, LPS-Hayward offers a course that combines an adaptive web-based program on basic math skills with algebra instruction. Because students have individual computers for this work, they are able to self-pace and engage in level-appropriate tasks. Online content and a variety of technology are used to enhance other curricular offerings, from "catch up" to AP classes, to provide engaging student-centered approaches and meet the individual needs of students.
All math classes rigorously employ data to drive student achievement and instruction. Hands-on projects are embedded throughout the curriculum; one example includes a recent assignment in which all students created a scaled 3-D model and detailed budget for the school's planned middle school expansion. The relevance and realworld application of math were brought to life for students as they presented their models and budgets to school administrators involved in the actual construction design.
Math instructors participate in daily and weekly professional development. Video is used extensively in these meetings to document instructional practices and offer staff members the opportunity to reflect on and improve instruction. Currently underway is a comprehensive video archive sorted by teacher and practice. The goal: to establish an online video library of best practices to foster institutional memory and collaboration, help with teacher induction and retention, and create a more robust professional development platform for all math instructors.
Math scores at LPS-Hayward have improved dramatically with gains of 29 percent in proficiency levels in Algebra 1, 17 percent in Algebra 2, 28 percent in Geometry, and 33 percent in Summative High School Math between 2007 and 2010.
Walton Elementary School
Students Served: 113
At Walton Elementary, a small, charter school in rural Kansas, science is infused into every aspect of the curriculum. Learning is project based and inquiry driven. Integrated lessons focus on teaching science in the local environment, primarily through agriculture. Teachers take advantage of teachable moments. For example, when a farm family called to announce the birthing of a calf, the students traveled to the farm to watch the vet conduct a sonogram and assist the cow through the birthing experience. Another time, a student brought a dead snake to school, and the entire class became engaged in measuring the snake, identifying the species, dissecting the body, and learning about its habitat and food cycle.
Teachers work across grade levels and subjects to engage all students and ensure success. A number of students have had discipline issues at other schools, and multiple students have special needs. Teachers accommodate these variations through projects that address a range of learning styles and allow each individual to achieve valuable learning and skills.
Technology—including computers, software, and digital probes, microscopes, and cameras—engages students and enhances project presentations which are shared with the community at an Ag Fair every May. Students are challenged to find ways to improve local industry via technology. For instance, after studying the school's wind turbine, students came up with improved blade designs to increase efficiency.
Partnerships with colleges and universities offer a rich opportunity for students to learn from multiple educators and gain more individualized instruction. The school has leveraged these partnerships and raised funds that have resulted in additional learning environments for students, including a greenhouse and a barn, as well as additional technology equipment.
Walton has had remarkable success with students who are not supported by other schools, demonstrating that all students can grow and achieve their potential. Since 2008, Walton students have scored well above the adequate yearly progress target set by the state, as well as improved scores each year. In 2010, the students scored 11 percent above the standard set by the state of Kansas.
Zachary Elementary School
Students Served: 567
Science teaching and learning at Zachary—serving a diverse group of second- and third-graders in northern Baton Rouge—is inquiry driven, problem based and student centered. The staff utilizes best practices, state and national standards, and the 5E instructional model (engagement, exploration, explanation, elaboration, and evaluation) to meet the needs of all learners. Lessons are embedded with technology, related literature, and applied mathematics.
Students are given the opportunity to design investigations based on their own questions, analyze and interpret data, construct conclusions, and present and defend their findings. They act as scientists and learn science concepts in the most realistic environment possible. Teachers act as facilitators of knowledge, scaffolding and guiding students in a student-centered environment. They support students engaged in independent studies, experiments, field experiences, and simulations.
Students travel to barrier islands to plant grasses to help preserve the Louisiana coast, work with biologists to examine the variables affecting the growth of pitcher plants, and study earth and space science at a nearby planetarium.
Technology is integrated wherever possible. In addition to a weekly computer lab course, students use laptops and WiFi to access web-based instructional resources and communicate with scientists, create digital content through podcasting, participate in discussion boards, organize digital scopes and make electronic measurements and data recordings throughout their work on projects. For example, students take part in an Internet conference with scientists in Antarctica to answer questions about the environment, while those studying optics utilize light boxes, flashlights, UV beads, mirrors, and prisms.
Administration, lead teachers, and instructional specialists support teachers by collaborating with teachers to analyze test data, strengthen science curriculum, collaborating with university scientists and providing job-embedded professional development. Leadership is shared at all levels.
Students have shown consistent gains in science achievement scores over the past five years. Test score data over the last three years has shown a seven point increase in overall science achievement. Most dramatic is an improvement in the strand focus, Earth and space science, where a 15 point increase occurred.
New Bridge Middle School
Jacksonville, North Carolina
Students Served: 519
Located in downtown Jacksonville, New Bridge Middle School focuses on STEAM (STEM plus Art). Students come from all across Onslow County and are selected based on a computerized lottery system. Acceptance is not contingent on academic ability or economic status. The school's mission is to prepare students to be competitive in the 21st century, global marketplace by bringing the world to them through technology, problem-based learning, and scientific inquiry.
The staff is committed to providing quality science education to all students through implementation of a rigorous curriculum in all science classes, as well as the integration of science in all content areas. All students have the opportunity to participate weekly in hands-on investigations conducted in the school's science lab.
Inquiry activities allow time for students to explore ideas in an environment that encourages curiosity and diverse thinking. Students discover answers to questions on their own and take responsibility for their own learning, while teachers act as coaches, guides, and organizers. Notebooking provides a framework for students to organize, communicate, and retain scientific ideas. Technology, interwoven throughout the curriculum, offers educators effective ways to reach different types of learners and assess student understanding through multiple means, and offers students the opportunity to work as real scientists, using laptops, probes, and other devices to conduct authentic research. Students tackle such realworld problems as fighting epidemics, providing clean water in remote locales and considering whether buildings should be constructed near fault lines. Engineering is integrated throughout.
Professional development has been a key factor in improved instruction at New Bridge. The entire staff completed a year-long professional development series based on Marzano's "Classroom Instruction that Works." As a result, the entire faculty has embraced consistent approaches and instructional strategies. A full-time science facilitator manages the lab and provides curriculum assistance to science teachers.
Last year, 85.4 percent of New Bridge students received proficient scores on the NC Science End-of-Grade test, significantly outscoring the state average of 65.2 percent. Additionally, of those New Bridge students who were proficient, 58.6 percent received the highest possible level of achievement for the test.
Sandy Run Middle School
Students Served: 1,035
At Sandy Run Middle School, teachers share their love of science with students and work to make learning "fun" through a variety of instructional design strategies. Using direct, indirect, and experiential instruction, teachers engage students in cross-curricular, inquiry-based activities and projects intended to help them see real-world connections and engage in real-world science.
In addition to classroom and lab work, students go out into the field to gather data and conduct scientific investigations. The school has its own planetarium, which enriches learning both "earth and space" and "physical science" standards. Additionally, the school utilizes Robbins Park, the district's environmental center, to cover components of the curriculum that are based on life, environmental, and ecological standards.
Students engage in such activities as experiments, debates, role playing, collaborative exercises, journaling, independent reports, and computer simulations and games, as they learn about science. Differentiated instruction helps meet the needs of all students.
Computers and SMART Boards* are incorporated into everyday lessons in all classrooms. Additionally, students frequently access online applications and web sites that enhance the learning process.
In special computing classes, students learn how to create a web page and database, as well as how to write HTML code. Engineering projects, such as the construction of Rube Goldberg machines and basic robotics study, are integrated into eighthgrade physical science curriculum.
Teachers are provided with multiple and ongoing opportunities for professional development, including learning to use and integrate technology effectively in the classroom. Science teachers collaborate biweekly to discuss curriculum and instructional approaches, as well as work with teachers of other disciplines and outside partners and experts. The latter includes using funds from a NASA grant to improve astronomy education by working with local universities.
Sandy Run students consistently perform better than the Pennsylvania average scores on statewide assessments in science. In 2010, 71 percent of eighth graders performed proficient and above on the Science PSSA compared to 57 percent in the state.
Brooklyn Technical High School
Brooklyn, New York
Students Served: 4,296
Brooklyn Technical High School is a vocational school serving a large and highly diverse student population in New York. A two-year core curriculum and specialized study in a STEM major defines the Brooklyn Tech education. All students must complete a three-year sequence of study in biology, chemistry, and physics. Emphasis on applying knowledge through laboratory experiences and projects is an essential component. The goal of science instruction is to "touch, do, and feel" science. Students act as scientists as they fully engage in projects and labs, and instructors strive to individuate instruction for each student with differentiation of product, process, and content. A multitude of questions are used to challenge students at different levels. Teachers utilize various assessment instruments when determining student groupings. This is part of an initiative to support a student-centered learning environment. College-level curriculum is accessible to advanced learners. A network of co-curricular club and team activities support and extend classroom learning.
Brooklyn Tech is recognized as an incubator of applied instructional technology, including an advanced e-learning system tailored for science instruction. This allows students to do such things as conduct simulated experiments via computer before arriving in school labs, better preparing them to conduct actual experiments and enhancing learning. The system also allows teachers to post class materials and assignments, track student progress, individualize instruction, and communicate and provide feedback for students.
Ongoing professional development for science educators focuses on educational technology, designing and aligning lab experiments, differentiating lesson planning, curriculum mapping, and interdisciplinary skills. The schedule includes daily and monthly "common time" for faculty to collaborate and improve practice. Workshops, proposed by teachers, are implemented collaboratively by a committee comprised of instructional leaders and teachers from all departments with the common goal to maximize student achievement.
On 2010 testing, 100 percent of students attained or exceeded proficiency in biology, 92 percent in chemistry, and 90 percent in physics. According to the director of the Gateway to Medicine program, Brooklyn Tech is responsible for more minority MDs than any other high school in the nation.
California Academy of Mathematics & Science
Students Served: 618
The California Academy of Mathematics and Science (CAMS) is a public high school dedicated to increasing the number of diverse young people who enter STEM-related fields. Its strategy is to provide motivated students from a broad spectrum of academic and demographic backgrounds with an accelerated curriculum to engage and challenge them. Students are selected from the top 30 percent at 70 feeder schools, with two-thirds recruited from inner-city schools and 60 percent considered "at risk." Yet, defying the odds each year, approximately 96 percent of CAMS graduates progress to four-year institutions.
High expectations are part of the CAMS culture, and every effort is made to prevent students from falling through the cracks. The teacher team structure enables faculty to develop interdisciplinary group assignments, which mobilize peer pressure to help students learn from one another and hold each other accountable for their work. Students travel through core courses in cohorts, which facilitate interdisciplinary assignments. CAMS' cross-disciplinary emphasis enables students to recognize connections between science and other disciplines and culminates in annual capstone interdisciplinary projects which include formal presentations to the school and community stakeholders. Engineering and biotech curricula demonstrate the real-world relevance of scientific principles students are learning. Extensive hands-on laboratories engage students and reinforce learning. Beyond the classroom, students participate in STEM-related extracurricular activities, and a number are placed in summer internships with corporate partners.
Professional development for science teachers is intertwined with that for all core teachers. Training focuses on topics such as technology, peer collaboration, rigor and relevance, projectbased learning, and differentiated instruction. Additionally, staff partner with university personnel and other outside experts to engage in further improvements to instruction.
CAMS students' academic performance far exceeds district and state averages, based on multiple metrics. Since 2006, there has been an upward trajectory in the percentage of students scoring proficient and above in science on the California Content Standards Tests, with 96 percent scoring at or above proficiency in biology, 85 percent at or above proficiency in chemistry, and approximately 90 percent at or above proficiency in earth sciences.
Introducing the New Get Active Guidebook
The adoption of active learning techniques means discarding the traditional notion of what a “classroom” is and developing a new type of contemporary learning space: one that is more flexible, agile adaptive and equipped with technology to both personalize and expand conditions for learning.
The comprehensive research, real-world examples, insights and exercises contained within the pages of Get Active: Reimagining Learning Spaces for Student Success provide that crucial first step for any educator or administrator looking to support today’s learners with active learning concepts that will best prepare them for tomorrow’s world.