A textbook case of improving education

Educators at Northern Arizona University are primed to help Arizona’s high school teachers get and implement quality curriculum materials through Project PRIME, Promoting Reform through Instructional Materials that Educate.

“This program shows teachers how to choose effective curriculum that is aligned with state and national standards, and it provides them with content support and strategies for teaching biology,” said Sharon Cardenas, a science instructor in NAU’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning, a teaching, research, evaluation and materials resource for science faculty and students at NAU as well as for K-12 science educators statewide.

Two cohorts of 25 high school biology teachers will participate in the project, which will provide pilot biology text material for their classrooms, stipends for travel and program involvement, and the ability to earn up to 24 hours of graduate credit that can be used toward a master of arts in science teaching, or a master’s in education at NAU.

“We’re pleased with the teacher response,” said Nena Bloom, a research associate in the center. “Teachers not only get support from exemplary curriculum materials that may influence student achievement, they also will receive professional development to implement this curriculum.”

Program involvement also includes two years of ongoing professional development with two weeks of leadership and curriculum training on the NAU campus each summer, as well as continued support for piloting and implementing the biology coursework. The first cohort begins this June and the second cohort begins spring 2007.

Project PRIME, funded by the National Science Foundation, is a collaboration between NAU’s Center for Science Teaching and Learning and the Research and Evaluation Center at the Biological Science Curriculum Study, a nonprofit organization that researches, develops and supports the implementation of innovative science curriculum for students and teachers in kindergarten through college.

The curriculum materials selected for the project were chosen based on an independent analysis of biology curriculum materials conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Michigan. The team evaluated eight high school biology programs for their potential for promoting teacher learning.

Schools that participate in the project will select one of the two top-ranked programs developed by the Education Development Center, Inc. Both programs are published by Kendall/Hunt Publishing Company, which will donate materials.