Cultural Studies of Science Education

, Volume 13, Issue 3, pp 649–670 | Cite as

Inspiring science achievement: a mixed methods examination of the practices and characteristics of successful science programs in diverse high schools

  • Stephen C. ScoginEmail author
  • Baki Cavlazoglu
  • Jennifer LeBlanc
  • Carol L. Stuessy
Original Paper


While the achievement gap in science exists in the US, research associated with our investigation reveals some high school science programs serving diverse student bodies are successfully closing the gap. Using a mixed methods approach, we identified and investigated ten high schools in a large Southwestern state that fit the definition of “highly successful, highly diverse”. By conducting interviews with science liaisons associated with each school and reviewing the literature, we developed a rubric identifying specific characteristics associated with successful science programs. These characteristics and practices included setting high expectations for students, providing extensive teacher support for student learning, and utilizing student-centered pedagogy. We used the rubric to assess the successful high school science programs and compare them to other high school science programs in the state (i.e., less successful and less diverse high school science programs). Highly successful, highly diverse schools were very different in their approach to science education when compared to the other programs. The findings from this study will help schools with diverse students to strengthen hiring practices, enhance teacher support mechanisms, and develop student-focused strategies in the classroom that increase science achievement.


Science education Achievement gap Mixed methods Student diversity Student-centered practices 


  1. Buxton, C. A. (2005). Creating a culture of academic success in an urban science and math magnet high school. Science Education, 89, 392–417. doi: 10.1002/sce.20057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Chang, M., Singh, K., & Mo, Y. (2007). Science engagement and science achievement: Longitudinal models using NELS data. Educational Research and Evaluation: An International Journal of Theory and Practice, 13, 349–371. doi: 10.1080/13803610701702787.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  4. Chenoweth, K. (2010). Leaving nothing to chance. Educational Leadership, 68(3), 16–21.Google Scholar
  5. Codrington, J. (2014). Sharpening the lens of culturally responsive science teaching: A call for liberatory education for oppressed student groups. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 9, 1015–1024.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Creswell, J. W., & Plano Clark, V. L. (2011). Designing and conducting mixed methods research (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  7. Duschl, R. A., Schweingruber, H. A., & Shouse, A. W. (2007). Taking science to school: Learning and teaching science in grades K-8. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  8. Etheredge, S., & Rudnitsky, A. (2003). Introducing students to scientific inquiry: How do we know what we know?. New York, NY: Pearson Education.Google Scholar
  9. Fisher, D., Frey, N., & Lapp, D. (2011). Focusing on the participatiion and engagement gap: A case study on closing the achievement gap. Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk, 16, 56–64. doi: 10.1080/10824669.2011.545976.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fraser-Abder, P., Doria, J. A., Yang, J.-S., & De Jesus, A. (2010). Using funds of knowledge in an ethnically concentrated classroom environment to teach nutrition. Science Activities, 47, 141–150.Google Scholar
  11. Freelon, D. (15 Jan 2013). ReCal: Reliability calculations for the masses. Retrieved April, 2013, from
  12. Gay, G. (2010). Culturally responsive teaching: Theory, research and practice. New York, NY: Teachers’ College Press.Google Scholar
  13. Glaser, B. G. (1965). The constant comparison method of qualitative analysis. Social Problems, 12, 436–445. doi: 10.2307/798843.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2010). Switch: How to change things when change is hard. New York, NY: Crown Publishing Group.Google Scholar
  15. House, N. G. (2006). Closing the ‘reality gap’: The first step in closing the minority achievement gap is to educate all students to be conceptual thinkers. American School Board Journal, 193(4), 57–59.Google Scholar
  16. Johnson, C. C. (2009). An examination of effective practice: Moving toward elimination of achievement gaps in science. Journal of Science Teacher Education, 20, 287–306. doi: 10.1007/s10972-009-9134-y.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lee, O., & Buxton, C. (2011). Engaging culturally and linguistically diverse students in learning science. Theory Into Practice, 50, 277–284. doi: 10.1080/00405841.2011.607379.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Lee, O., & Luykx, A. (2006). Science education and student diversity: Synthesis and research agenda. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/CBO9780511617508.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lemke, J. L. (2001). Articulating communities: Sociocultural perspectives on science education. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 38(3), 296–316. doi: 10.1002/1098-2736(200103)38:3<296:AID-TEA1007>3.0.CO;2-R.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lombard, M., Snyder-Duch, J., & Bracken, C. C. (2002). Content analysis in mass communication: Assessment and reporting of intercoder reliability. Human Communication Research, 28, 587–604. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2002.tb00826.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lombard, M., Snyder-Duch, J., & Bracken, C. C. (2004). A call for standardization in content analysis reliability. Human Communication Research, 30, 434–437. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2958.2004.tb00739.x.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lorenz, E. N. (1972). Predictability: Does the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil set off a tornado in Texas? Paper presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science 139th meeting, Cambridge, MA.Google Scholar
  23. Milner, H. R. (2006). But good intentions are not enough: Theoretical and philosophical relevance in teaching students of color. In J. Landsman & C. W. Lewis (Eds.), White teachers, diverse classrooms: A guide to building inclusive schools, promoting high expectations and eliminating racism (pp. 79–109). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.Google Scholar
  24. Milner, H. R. (2010). Start where you are but don’t stay there: Understanding diversity, opportunity gaps, and teaching in today’s classroom. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Education Press.Google Scholar
  25. National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES). (2011). The nation’s report card: Science 2009. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.Google Scholar
  26. National Research Council (NRC). (2011). Expanding underrepresented minority participation: America’s science and technology talent at the crossroads. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.Google Scholar
  27. Olszewski-Kubilius, P., Lee, S.-Y., Ngoi, M., & Ngoi, D. (2004). Addressing the achievement gap between minority and nonminority children by increasing access to gifted programs. Journal for the Education of the Gifted, 28, 127–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Onwuegbuzie, A. J., Johnson, R. B., & Collins, K. M. T. (2011). Assessing legitimation in mixed research: A new framework. Quality and Quantity, 45, 1253–1271. doi: 10.1007/s11135-009-9289-9.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. President’s Council of Advisors on Science & Technology. (2010). Prepare and inspire: K-12 education in science, technology, engineering and math for America’s future. Retrieved from
  30. Prime, G. M., & Miranda, R. J. (2006). Urban public high school teachers’ beliefs about science learner characteristics: Implications for curriculum. Urban Education, 41, 506–532. doi: 10.1177/0042085906291924.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Rodriguez, A. (2014). A critical pedagogy for STEM education. In J. L. Bencze & S. Alsop (Eds.), Activist science and technology education (Vol. 9, pp. 55–66). Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  32. Saldaña, J. (2009). The coding manual for qualitative researchers. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  33. School 14. (2007). PRISE I science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  34. School 43. (2008). PRISE I science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  35. School 45. (2008). PRISE I science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  36. School 49. (2008). PRISE I science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  37. School 47. (2009). PRISE I science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  38. School 53. (2011). PRISE II science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  39. School 55. (2011). PRISE II science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  40. School 56. (2011). PRISE II science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  41. School 57. (2011). PRISE II science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  42. School 58. (2011). PRISE II science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  43. School 60. (2011). PRISE II science liaison interview (Interview transcript).Google Scholar
  44. Southerland, S., Kittleson, J., Settlage, J., & Lanier, K. (2005). Individual and group meaning-making in an urban third grade classroom: Red fog, cold cans, and seeping vapor. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 42(9), 1032–1061.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Stuessy, C. L. (2009). Search for the state-of-the state in Texas: The high school science teacher professional continuum (TPC) (Policy Brief No. 1). Retrieved from Texas A&M University, Policy Research Initiative in Science Education website:
  46. Stuessy, C. L. (2012). Annual report year 7: Policy research initiatives in science education. Unpublished report to the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station (TEES). Department of Teaching, Learning & Culture, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX.Google Scholar
  47. Stuessy, C. L., & Bozeman, D. (2011a). Policy research initiative in science educationII: School, program and teacher instruments. Retrieved from Texas A&M University, Policy Research Initiative in Science Education website:[1].pdf.
  48. Stuessy, C. L., & Bozeman, D. (2011b). The achievement gap in Texas high schools (Policy Brief No. 9). Retrieved from Texas A&M University, Policy Research Initiative in Science Education website:
  49. Stuessy, C. L., & Bozeman, D. (2012). Retention of high school science teachers in Texas public schools (Policy Brief No. 11). Retrieved from Texas A&M University, Policy Research Initiative in Science Education website:
  50. Taraban, R., Box, C., Myers, R., Pollard, R., & Bowen, C. W. (2007). Effects of active-learning experiences on achievement, attitudes, and behaviors in high school biology. Journal of Research in Science Teaching, 44, 960–979. doi: 10.1002/tea.20183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Teddlie, C., & Yu, F. (2007). Mixed methods sampling: A typology with examples. Journal of Mixed Methods Research, 1, 77–100. doi: 10.1177/2345678906292430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Villegas, A. M., & Lucas, T. (2002). Educating culturally responsive teachers: A coherent approach. Albany, NY: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  53. Wallace, T., & Brand, B. R. (2012). Using critical race theory to analyze science teachers culturally responsive practices. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 7, 341–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wolcott, H. F. (1990). Writing up qualitative research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  55. Zapata, M. (2013). Substantiating the need to apply a sociocultural lens to the preparation of teachers in an effort to achieve science reform. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 8(4), 777–801. doi: 10.1007/s11422-013-9513-8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zeidler, D. L. (2014). STEM education: A deficit framework for the twenty first century? A sociocultural socioscientific response. Cultural Studies of Science Education, 11, 11–26. doi: 10.1007/s11422-014-9578-z.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stephen C. Scogin
    • 1
    Email author
  • Baki Cavlazoglu
    • 2
  • Jennifer LeBlanc
    • 3
  • Carol L. Stuessy
    • 4
  1. 1.Hope CollegeHollandUSA
  2. 2.Karadeniz Technical University, Fatih Faculty of EducationTrabzonTurkey
  3. 3.Riffa Views International SchoolRiffaKingdom of Bahrain
  4. 4.Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA

Personalised recommendations