When science teachers do research student scores rise

iStock_000016869784XSmallWhen science teachers do research in university labs, their experience has a direct, positive, impact on their students, says a study in Science magazine. In the first and second years after teachers participated in the Columbia University Summer Research Program (CUSRP), 4.2% more students of participating teachers passed the Regents exam in science than students of nonparticipating teachers. In the third and fourth years after entering CUSRP, the proportion jumped to 10.1%.

CUSRP brings middle and high school science teachers from the New York City metropolitan area to Columbia’s campuses to work on research projects, under the guidance of faculty mentors, for 2 successive summers. CUSRP teachers meet one day a week each summer for professional development activities. These include seminars, visits to science museums, demonstrations of science teaching and teaching materials, training in data-driven instruction, in transferring science concepts and technologies in the classroom, and teacher-led research presentations.

Another benefit of the program is teacher retention. The study found that teachers who participate in CUSRP are retained in education and in classroom teaching in New York City public schools at a 3-to-4-fold higher rate than nonparticipating teachers.

Funded in part by the National Science Foundation, the teachers work in all scientific disciplines represented at Columbia, from biology and medical sciences to chemistry, physics, astronomy, engineering and earth sciences.

The findings were published by Columbia University professor Samuel C. Silverstein and his co-authors, including Columbia economist Sherry Glied. Silverstein is founder and director of CUSRP.

“Teachers’ Participation in Research Programs Improves Their Students’ Achievement in Science,” by Samuel Silverstein et al., Science, Oct. 16, 2009, Vol. 326, Number 5951, Pages 440-442.

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