National Science Foundation
Supporting Students and Teachers in Challenging Science Courses
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Three twelfth grade students from Boston’s John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science receive guidance from a retired Advanced Placement Physics teacher during an AP Physics laboratory investigation conducted at Northeastern University.

Credit: Boston Science Partnership
Permission Granted
State: Massachusetts

An essential feature in National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Math and Science Partnership Program is that projects develop strategies to ensure that students are prepared for, have access to, and are encouraged to participate and succeed in challenging mathematics and/or science courses. In Boston, the Boston Science Partnership (BSP) is providing intensive, year-round support to Advanced Placement (AP) science classrooms throughout the Boston Public Schools, to support the district’s growth of student enrollment in AP science programs. In collaboration with The College Board, the BSP has provided workshops and institutes for teachers, university-based laboratory programs for students and teachers, summer “bridge” programs for entering AP students, classroom volunteer support and a full-length practice exam for students. To help lead some of these activities, BSP recruited experienced AP teachers, with the long-term goal of developing them into endorsed College Board consultants. 

More than three-quarters of all Boston Public School teachers teaching AP science courses in academic year 2006 participated in BSP’s supporting programs in some capacity. Moreover, in its first year of providing direct student support in all AP science disciplines, BSP reached approximately one-fourth of the Boston Public School students who took AP science exams in Spring 2006. One hundred and forty-seven Boston students and ten of their teachers participated in year-round AP laboratory programs at the University of Massachusetts at Boston, Northeastern University, and Harvard Medical School during the past year. One-hundred and thirty-five students participated in full-length AP practice exams administered by BSP in April 2006. During Summer 2006, BSP piloted Bridge to AP Science programs in biology, chemistry and physics that served approximately 120 students across five schools. BSP is supporting one of these programs with intensive school-based services throughout the current school year, including classroom instruction and teacher mentoring provided by a retired AP teacher. 

BSP is developing these new structures to support high achievement by all students amidst the intent to dramatically expand AP science programs in the Boston Public Schools. Between 2000 and 2006, the number of Boston Public School students taking AP science exams has nearly tripled, from 183 to 517. BSP expects that there will be further growth in numbers, particularly due to the vertical alignment of learning expectations conducted by BSP, and that more students will succeed on the challenging AP exams.

Partners: Northeastern University, Harvard Medical School, Roxbury Community College, Bunker Hill Community College, Boston Public Schools, the College Board, the Education Development Center

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