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Improving Student Science Achievement in Michigan
Recently a number of schools in Michigan, one of the first states to support AAAS's Project 2061, have seen increases in student test scores in science, particularly on the TIMSS-R. The well-achieving schools have made significant efforts to reform science instruction. These schools exemplify some of the major components of the systemic reform efforts in science that were presented at the conference, namely, they have a curriculum aligned with the state's science benchmarks, instructional materials that match their curriculum, and a comprehensive professional development plan.
Michigan's content standards and benchmarks have received attention for providing detailed descriptions of what student should know and be able to do. This state document also calls for five broad goals in science teaching:
1. Emphasize understanding over content coverage.
2. Make learning useful and relevant.
3. Promote science literacy for all students.
4. Promote interdisciplinary learning.
5. Provide tools for teachers.
One of the crucial obstacles that Michigan recognized was the need for adequate instructional materials. It was clear that to be effective, teachers needed classroom tools to help transform the benchmarks into everyday instruction. However, the existing instructional materials were not very useful tools for teachers mostly because they were not well-aligned to the state benchmarks.
Several organizations in Michigan took on the challenge of developing instructional materials that were aligned to the state benchmarks and in-line with the goals of science literacy. One such organization is Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center (BCAMSC). While Connie Duncan, director of BCAMSC, admits that funding the center is always a challenge, it has managed to serve over 100 districts across the state.
The staff of BCAMSC includes full-time specialists to provide support and professional development opportunities to teachers and administrators. The center also maintains close contact with state and national initiatives and constantly seeks new information, research and resources to improve student learning in science and mathematics.
What has been clear from Michigan's efforts is that a foundation of high standards, effective instructional materials, and supportive professional development, while not sufficient in itself, is at least necessary to promote higher levels of science literacy. To learn more about the Battle Creek Area Mathematics and Science Center, visit their website at http://www.bcmsc.k12.mi.us/.
For information on a AAAS publication, Atlas of Science Literacy, a unique tool for teachers, see related article," Decisive Professional Development Tool for Teachers."
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