Smithsonian science study promises long-lasting benefits for HISD students

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HISD just completed a five-year study with the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), and the lessons learned from it will be benefitting HISD students for years to come.

The study evaluated the effectiveness of the SSEC’s Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform (LASER) model of science instruction in three states, using an Investing in Innovation (i3) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. In HISD, the study followed approximately 9,500 students at 26 schools whose academic performance was monitored from 2011 through 2016.

Results show the inquiry-based science-instruction program has had a measureable, positive impact on student achievement in HISD — and not just in science.

“Even the reluctant readers are actively wanting to get to the reading to see what more they can learn about the activity they just completed,” said Richard Walters, a teacher at Garden Oaks Montessori.

Improved reading skills were particularly noticeable among English-language learners. HISD Manager of Elementary Science Curriculum Teresa Phillips visited a group of participating second-graders who had just completed a unit on the butterfly life cycle and was impressed by the quality of their discussions.

“Here are students who are second-language learners,” she said, “and they had the concept, they had the vocabulary. They could speak as experts about what they had learned. It may not show up on a standardized test, but that’s the sort of thing that’s going to last.”

HISD administrators plan to continue supporting the inquiry-based program by making a number of LASER professional development videos available to teachers on the district’s PowerUp HUB.

To learn more about the LASERi3 study’s effects in HISD, watch this video about how students are learning from one another, or view this powerful testament from Bush ES first-grade teacher Robin Brown as to how students are growing as a result (also above).