LASER i3: Houston Independent School District
In 2010 the U.S. Department of Education awarded the SSEC a five-year Investing in Innovation (i3) validation grant to evaluate the LASER model’s efficacy in systemically transforming science education. The Houston Independent School District (HISD) comprised 43.8% of the resulting study population.
So what is LASER i3?
“LASER i3” refers to a study conducted by evaluators from the Center for Research in Educational Policy (CREP) at the University of Memphis on student performance at schools implementing the LASER model (Fig. 1). Over three years CREP studied approximately 60,000 students and assessed the impact of the SSEC’s products and services on a subsample of more than 9,000 elementary and middle school students in (1) the Houston Independent School District (HISD), (2) eight school districts in northern New Mexico, and (3) seven school districts in North Carolina. They found that the inquiry-based science promoted by the LASER model improved achievement not only in science, but also in reading and math. LASER plays a critical role in bolstering student learning, especially among underserved populations including children who are economically disadvantaged, require special education, or are English language learners.
Fig. 1 The SSEC’s LASER model describes five elements, which when planned around a shared vision for science, form the infrastructure to sustain student-centered learning and teaching.
What do student assessments tell us about LASER i3 outcomes in the HISD?
Among the three study regions, the HISD experienced the most dramatic impact on achievement with the most diverse group of students. For example, all elementary school LASER students in the HISD, including English language learners (ELL) and economically disadvantaged students (receiving free or reduced price lunch), showed statistically significant and educationally meaningful achievement on the PASS performance task relative to the comparison group.
These gains are particularly noteworthy as they indicate students are able to apply what they have learned in science to hands-on tasks, just as professional scientists apply their expertise to conduct investigations and solve problems.
In addition to tremendous achievements on the PASS, the LASER model led to statistically significant and/or educationally meaningful improvements for both elementary and middle school students in state reading, mathematics, and science assessments. For example, ELL and IEP (individualized education program) middle school students achieved educationally meaningful gains on the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) administered for mathematics (at right).
“Statistical significance” refers to the likelihood that an outcome can be attributed to a specific cause (i.e., improved student achievement due to the LASER model). “Educationally meaningful” signifies the magnitude of difference between two measures (i.e., the LASER and comparison groups) has practical significance.
LASER i3 Videos - HISD
What does the future hold for LASER i3?
The LASER i3 study demonstrates that inquiry science improves student achievement not only in science but also in reading and math for students of all abilities at elementary and middle school. We know inquiry science programs supported by the LASER model play a critical role in bolstering student learning in science, reading, and math among all students and especially among English language learners, the economically disadvantaged, and students receiving special education. Students are learning science and loving it, thanks to the legacy of LASER i3 and the LASER model’s five elements: a research based-inquiry-centered curriculum; differentiated professional development; administrative and community support; materials support; and state and local assessments to measure the impact on student learning. Armed with this validation, the SSEC will continue its efforts to transform science education and support the LASER i3 regions as they sustain and scale the great work that has already been done.
To read more from our independent evaluator, choose a link below:
Alberg, M. (2015). The LASER Model: A Systemic and Sustainable Approach for Achieving High Standards in Science Education, Summative Report. Memphis, TN: The University of Memphis, Center for Research in Educational Policy.
Section 1: Executive Summary
Secton 2: Overview
Section 3: PASS Multiple Choice
Section 4: PASS Open-Ended
Section 5: Student Attitudes
Section 6: State Assessments
Section 7: Case Studies
Zoblotsky, T., Bertz, C. Gallagher, B. & Alberg, M. (2017). The LASER Model: A Systemic and Sustainable Approach for Achieving High Standards in Science Education: SSEC i3 Validation Final Report of Confirmatory and Exploratory Analyses. Memphis, TN: The University of Memphis, Center for Research in Educational Policy. Summative report prepared for Smithsonian Science Education Center, Washington, DC.
This work was completed under a validation grant (U396B100097) awarded to the Smithsonian Science Education Center (SSEC), formerly the National Science Resources Center, by the U.S. Department of Education through the Investing in Innovation (i3) program. Matching private sector funding for the SSEC LASER i3 study was contributed by Los Alamos National Laboratory Foundation, Shell Oil Company, JP Morgan - National Philanthropic Trust, Golden Leaf Foundation, North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline, Carolina Biological Supply Company, Rural School & Community Trust, Noyce Foundation, DuPont, AT&T, Intel Foundation, and Teresa Bergeson.
Students engage in a design challenge assessing their understanding of density and buoyancy from the SSEC's Floating and Sinking unit.