10/4/2004

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Contact: Steve Case, Center for Research on Learning, (785) 864-4471

KU teams with Topeka Public Schools to create middle-school science academy

LAWRENCE -- The University of Kansas has joined with Topeka Public Schools USD 501 to create a Middle School Science Academy at Topeka West High School.

The $90,000 for funding the academy was provided by a Kansas Board of Regents' "No Child Left Behind Improving Teacher Quality Grant." It was awarded to the KU Center for Science Education, the School of Education and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

A primary objective of the academy is to increase the science proficiency of middle-school pupils by improving the content knowledge and teaching strategies of their teachers, said Steve Case, assistant research professor at the KU Center for Research on Learning.

Beginning in 2005, the academy will offer three intensive summer courses for teachers that will foster a deep understanding of the basic concepts presented in the Topeka middle-school integrated science curriculum.

One course on physical science was successfully implemented with Blue Valley Public Schools USD 229 in Johnson County in June 2003, Case said.ĘThis course will be revised, and new courses on earth science and life science will be developed to align with the Topeka school district's curriculum for grades six, seven and eight.

Courses will be taught using the "Peer Instruction" model developed by Eric Mazur, a Harvard University physics professor, Case said. They will use an electronic student-response system provided during the first year to all participating middle schools.

The academy also will study the effectiveness of university-level science courses that are organized around middle-school curricula and standards as vehicles for teaching advanced science to teachers.

The extent to which the courses promote the use of research-based teaching practice, including peer mentoring and inquiry-based instruction, will be evaluated, as will the impact of the techniques on pupil understanding of science concepts.

The grant may be renewed for two years at a similar funding level.

Principal researchers are Case; Philip S. Baringer, professor of physics and astronomy; Gloria Fish, Topeka Public Schools curriculum coordinator; Christopher Haufler, professor and director of the Division of Biological Sciences; Joseph A. Heppert, professor of chemistry; Douglas Huffman; associate professor in teaching and leadership; P. Allen Macfarlane, assistant scientist with KU's Kansas Geological Survey; and Susan K. Rogers, Topeka Public Schools.

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