WWC review of this study

The Urban Advantage: The impact of informal science collaborations on student achievement

Weinstein, M.G & Shiferaw, M. (2017). New York, NY: Steinhardt School of Education, New York University.

  • Quasi-Experimental Design
    , grades

Reviewed: August 2018

At least one finding shows moderate evidence of effectiveness
At least one statistically significant positive finding
Meets WWC standards with reservations
Science Achievement outcomes—Statistically significant positive effect found for the domain
Comparison Period Sample Intervention
Significant? Improvement

New York State Intermediate Level Science (ILS) Exam (8th grade)

Urban Advantage (UA) vs. Business as usual

0 Days

Full sample;
199,603 students





Evidence Tier rating based solely on this study. This intervention may achieve a higher tier when combined with the full body of evidence.

Characteristics of study sample as reported by study author.

  • 13% English language learners

  • Female: 49%
    Male: 51%

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    Not Hispanic or Latino    


The study sample included 223,775 students in 514 schools who took the Intermediate Level Science (ILS) exam in 8th grade, in a New York City public middle school. In NYC, 41.2% of all students who took the ILS exam were enrolled at a school that offered the Urban Advantage (UA) program, and 54.9% of the science teaching staff at a UA school are UA teachers. The total number of teachers in the sample was 1,717 among the 514 NYC public schools. The authors excluded charter schools and special education-only schools, and excluded teachers and schools with less than 10 students who took the ILS exam. The analyses treated any teachers who ever taught at a UA school as UA teachers.

Study sample

In this sample, more than half of middle school students (54.2%) scored at least proficient on the science exam in 8th grade. About three-fourths of the sample (76.4%) were considered free or reduced price lunch eligible. One third of the sample (33.1%) were taught by a UA teacher. About half (48.6%) of the sample was female, 17% had an Individual Education Plan, and 13% were English Language learners. The largest proportion of students (42%) were Hispanic, 27.1% were Black, 13.9% were White, and 16% were Asian.

Intervention Group

The Urban Advantage (UA) program offers middle schools the opportunity to participate in informal-formal science education partnerships with New York City's informal science education institutions (ISEIs). Within participating schools, teachers can choose to participate in this program which includes intensive professional development, materials for science classrooms, and free access to ISEIs for class trips and independent visits. The authors did not provide specific information on the average number of professional development hours, types of instructional science materials provided, or the average number of class trips and independent visits to participating institutions.

Comparison Group

Teachers in the comparison group did not participate in the Urban Advantage program during the study period.

Support for implementation

The Urban Advantage program in New York City has the support of eight of New York City's leading cultural institutions, including museums, zoos, and botanical gardens. Participating institutions include: the American Museum of National History, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, the New York Hall of Science, the Queens Botanical Garden, the Staten Island Zoo, the Wildlife Conservation Society's Bronx Zoo, the New York Aquarium, and the New York City Department of Education, with leadership funding from the New York City Council. Supports for implementation include professional development programming, instructional science materials, and free admission to participating institutions.


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