Design, validation, and use of an evaluation instrument for monitoring systemic reform



Over the past decade, state and national policymakers have promoted systemic reform as a way to achieve high-quality science education for all students. However, few instruments are available to measure changes in key dimensions relevant to systemic reform such as teaching practices, student attitudes, or home and peer support. Furthermore, Rasch methods of analysis are needed to permit valid comparison of different cohorts of students during different years of a reform effort. This article describes the design, development, validation, and use of an instrument that measures student attitudes and several environment dimensions (standards-based teaching, home support, and peer support) using a three-step process that incorporated expert opinion, factor analysis, and item response theory. The instrument was validated with over 8,000 science and mathematics students, taught by more than 1,000 teachers in over 200 schools as part of a comprehensive assessment of the effectiveness of Ohio's systemic reform initiative. When the new four-factor, 20-item questionnaire was used to explore the relative influence of the class, home, and peer environment on student achievement and attitudes, findings were remarkably consistent across 3 years and different units and methods of analysis. All three environments accounted for unique variance in student attitudes, but only the environment of the class accounted for unique variance in student achievement. However, the class environment (standards-based teaching practices) was the strongest independent predictor of both achievement and attitude, and appreciable amounts of the total variance in attitudes were common to the three environments. © 2001 John Wiley & Sons, Inc. J Res Sci Teach 38: 646–662, 2001