A New York City program that enlists middle and high school science teachers to spend two summers working in university research laboratories leads to better passing rates on state exams for students, a study published last week in Science says.
Researchers at New York City’s Columbia University collected data on teachers who took part in the university’s Summer Research Program between 1994 and 2005 to see if the experience had any effect on their students’ learning. Through the program, teachers spend 16 weeks over two summers working on research projects under the mentorship of university scientists—one day a week in professional-development sessions and the rest of the time in the lab.
The results were compared with those for a group of nonparticipating science teachers whose students initially passed state regents exams in science at similar rates. After a year or two in the program, the researchers found, the passing rates for participating teachers grew by 10 percent, while the rates for the control-group teachers remained flat. Teachers also said their summer study experience caused them to change their teaching by introducing new laboratory exercises, revamping content, or incorporating new technology. Teacher-turnover rates were also lower in subsequent years among the program teachers, the study found.
The study also finds that, for every $1 invested in the program, the city school system would save $1.14. The savings stem from the lower teacher-turnover rates and the reductions in the numbers of students who are required to repeat science coursework in order to pass the regents exam.
A version of this article appeared in the October 21, 2009 edition of Education Week as Teacher Learning