The Urban Advantage: Comprehensive Science Professional Development and Student Achievement

32 Pages Posted: 18 Aug 2023

See all articles by Meryle Weinstein

Meryle Weinstein

Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development

Menbere Shiferaw

Mathematica

Kaitlyn G. O'Hagan

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service

Date Written: August 16, 2023

Abstract

This study evaluates the impact of the Urban Advantage (UA) program on eighth grade science test scores. UA is a collaboration between the New York City (NYC) Department of Education and eight NYC informal science education institutions that began in 2004 and currently serves two-thirds of all NYC middle schools. The UA program provides high-intensity teacher professional development and additional support services (e.g. field trips, materials, principal engagement). We contribute to the literature on science professional development interventions to improve student outcomes, using a standardized assessment to assess impact and seven years of student-, school- and teacher-level data. We capitalize on the availability of unique student-teacher linkage and course data that allows us to identify students who have a UA teacher for science, unlike an earlier study, which defined the treatment at the school level. Our empirical strategy relies on matching to create a treatment and comparison group with similar observed characteristics. Results suggest, across all schools, performance in eighth grade science is not higher for students taught by a UA teacher compared to those without a UA teacher. However, comparing students within the same school, students with a UA teacher perform 0.02 standard deviations higher than students without a UA teacher. The magnitude of effects differs across subgroups; for instance, we find students with disabilities with a UA teacher are 1.5 pp more likely to meet eighth grade science proficiency standards compared to similar students in the same school. The analyses provide evidence that UA continues to be a successful intervention—though impacts may be smaller than previously estimated. In context with prior research on professional learning in science, the positive findings suggest districts with comparable access to informal science education institutions may want to implement similar programming.

Keywords: professional development, science achievement, middle school

JEL Classification: I21

Suggested Citation

Weinstein, Meryle and Shiferaw, Menbere and O'Hagan, Kaitlyn, The Urban Advantage: Comprehensive Science Professional Development and Student Achievement (August 16, 2023). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4542712 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4542712

Meryle Weinstein (Contact Author)

Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development ( email )

United States

Menbere Shiferaw

Mathematica ( email )

Cambridge, MA
United States

Kaitlyn O'Hagan

New York University (NYU) - Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service ( email )

The Puck Building
295 Lafayette Street, Second Floor
New York, NY 10012
United States

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