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The Impact of a Multiyear Systemic Reform Effort on Rural Elementary School Students' Science Achievement



This paper is a report of the impact of an externally funded, multiyear systemic reform project on students' science achievement on a modified version of the Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) test in 33 small, rural school districts in two Midwest states. The systemic reform effort utilized a cascading leadership strategy of professional development delivered at summer workshops and through distance technologies and local leadership groups that focused on helping teachers work in communities of practice to adapt science inquiry lessons to teach and reinforce strategies and skills in language arts in the lessons. Science achievement scores of Grade 3 and Grade 6 student cohorts on the two forms of the TIMSS administered at the beginning, middle, and end of the professional development effort revealed a V-shaped pattern of scores, suggesting that teachers struggled with the newly adapted science inquiries at first but then became more effective in their use. The impact of the adaptation strategy on the students' achievement, questions about the time needed for new instructional strategies to be embraced by teachers, and the wisdom of using “low stakes” achievement tests in studies are discussed.