The study took place in 20 schools in Maryland’s Montgomery County School District (10 schools for Cohorts 1 and 2 and 10 schools for Cohort 3).The student population of this large suburban district is 43% White, 22% African American, 14% Asian American, and 20% Hispanic. Self-contained classrooms of English language learners and special education students were excluded from this study. The study is part of a multiyear research project called “Scaling Up Curriculum for Achievement, Learning, and Equity Project” (SCALE-uP).
In this randomized study, researchers followed three cohorts of sixth-grade students. A sampling frame of five school-profile categories was created based on achievement and demographic factors. Each profile contained approximately seven schools. The authors randomly selected two schools from each of the five profiles, and one school from each pair was randomly selected to implement ARIES: Exploring Motion and Forces. Cohorts 1 and 2 were sixth-grade students from the same set of implementing and non-implementing schools. For the analysis of Cohort 3, researchers excluded schools in the previous analyses and repeated the randomization scheme on the remaining schools. Cohorts 1 and 2 consisted of sixth-grade students in the 2003–04 and 2004–05 school years, respectively. The Cohort 1 analysis sample included 1,266 sixth-grade students who received the intervention and 1,115 sixth-grade students who did not receive the intervention. Cohort 2 included 910 sixth-grade students who received the intervention and 1,005 who did not receive the intervention. For these cohorts, students were randomly dropped from each of the matched pairs of schools to create balanced sample sizes across schools. Cohort 3 consisted of sixth-grade students
in the 2005–06 school year and included 902 students who received the intervention and 860
students who did not receive the intervention. Overall and differential attrition rates for Cohorts
1, 2, and 3 were low. Students’ outcomes were presented by cohort; these findings can be
found in Appendix C. Additional findings for subgroups by gender, race/ethnicity, and students
eligible for Special Education (SPED) can be found in Appendix D.
Exploring Motion and Forces: Speed, Acceleration, and Friction (Harvard-Smithsonian Center
for Astrophysics, 2001) is an inquiry-based middle school science curriculum that received an
acceptable rating by the American Association for the Advancement of Science Project 2061,
a curriculum analysis project funded by the Interagency Educational Research Initiative of the
National Science Foundation. ARIES: Exploring Motion and Forces, a six-week physical science
unit, is intended for fifth- to eighth-grade students and is broken into four parts and 18
“explorations.” Its focus is on inquiry-centered and activity-based student-centered material.
The materials contain a teacher manual, a student science journal, and exploration materials.
Cohort 3 students also received a 114-page notebook. The same notebook was given to
teachers in the first two cohorts, with the expectation that the pages would be copied and distributed to students. The material covered in ARIES: Exploring Motion and Forces was aligned
with the district’s sixth-grade curriculum standards, but it did not cover all of the topics. The
unit was implemented over a period of approximately six weeks.
Comparison group teachers used regular curriculum materials normally available to Montgomery
County Public Schools’ teachers that addressed the same target benchmarks. There was no single comparison group curriculum, and teachers were not restricted to any specific material. In the final report only, for Cohort 3, Pyke et al. (2006) clarified that teachers in the comparison group used a wide variety of sources, including textbooks, handouts, the Internet, and videos.
For both the pretest and posttest, students took the Motion and Forces Assessment (MFA),
which consisted of six constructed responses and four selected responses. For a more
detailed description of this outcome measure, see Appendix B.
Support for implementation
The study does not discuss the training of teachers.