Parallel universes: Reactions to the PROMISE data from K-12 teachers and university science professors

The reactions I’ve received to Saturday’s post about the pre- and post-test data from the PROMISE summer content institutes have more or less followed two tracks – one from my science professor colleagues, and another from people involved directly in K-12 education.  Not surprisingly, my science professor colleagues had the same reaction to the data that I did – “What?!  Federal taxpayers spent $22 million on that?” 

Folks from the K-12 universe were more circumspect and positive, pointing out in particular that the nature of science institute (called “Scientific Theory” in the graph) seemed to be quite successful for science novices.  There was some discussion about the meaning of the results for the math institutes.  One commenter suggested that the lack of progress in the algebra institute may have resulted from the fact that the participants were already good at algebra, as reflected in the high pre-test scores.  Another commenter argued that the lack of success of another math institute resulted from the poor basic math skills of middle school math teachers.  In general, K-12 commenters didn’t find the data posted in Saturday’s post either surprising or even particularly discouraging. 

One of my science professor colleagues from another Florida university asked whether a two-week institute (the length of the PROMISE institutes) could ever achieve anything of any significance.  I have the same question.  My favorite model – the University of Washington summer institute in physics and physical science – is six weeks during a summer.  And the instructors suggest that teachers attend for three summers.  The cost for such a program?  A colleague from another state who knows more about this than I do thought that my guesstimate – $25,000 per teacher for a three-year program including stipends for participating teachers – was about right.

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