for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education.1 Among the most prominent of these assertions are the following:
Effective practices need to be identified.
Those practices need to be scaled up and sustained.
Decisions need to be based on evidence.
Embedded in each of these three assertions are important assumptions that need to be investigated to learn how effective science education programs can be sustained, Century said. Her research group at the University of Chicago has been investigating these assumptions through a comprehensive review of the literature on both effective science education as well as on sustaining reforms in economics, business, marketing, and health. This noneducation research offers “a different angle on the question” of sustainability, she said. “We are pretty insular in science education, and that hasn’t served us well in research because we don’t benefit from the work that other people have done.”
We are pretty insular in science education, and that hasn’t served us well in research because we don’t benefit from the work that other people have done.
About a decade ago, Century was involved in a project that looked at nine school districts around the country that had sustained elementary science programs for between 10 and 30 years (Century and Levy, 2002). The study conducted surveys with teachers and principals, interviewed teachers and school district leaders, and analyzed documents and news clippings. One outcome of the project was case studies of the districts. But an even more interesting result was the identification of a number of factors extending across the districts that either contributed to or inhibited the sustainability of their programs.
A subset of the factors fell into a category that Century called the “usual suspects,” because they are both important and often discussed.
PowerPoint slides from this presentation are available at http://www.nasonline.org/site/DocServer/CenturyPresentation.pdf?docID=54982. Additional information about the University of Chicago’s Center for Elementary Mathematics and Science Education is available at http://cemse.uchicago.edu.