Professor receives $700,000 grant to investigate science achievement gaps

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Paul L. Morgan, associate professor of education and director of the Educational Risk Initiative, is the recent recipient of a $700,000 grant from the Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. The grant will fund research to identify the factors that may be resulting in science achievement gaps being experienced by students in U.S. elementary and middle schools.

The two-year project expands on previous research conducted by Morgan and his colleagues investigating achievement gaps in reading and mathematics. With assistance from this IES grant, Morgan and his colleagues seek to explain why science achievement gaps exist, which groups of students are at an increased risk of experiencing these gaps, and how these students may be better helped by schools.  

The study will also explore the role of instructional characteristics, such as instructional time, student-teacher ratios and classroom assignments, and how they are associated with or predictive of experiencing low levels of science achievement.

“This research will help policymakers and practitioners better address the low levels of science achievement experienced by too many students in the U.S. These science achievement gaps limit the opportunities of these students as well as constrain the country’s economic competitiveness and prosperity. Our project will help by providing badly needed information as to why these gaps may be occurring,’’ Morgan said.

“This includes understanding how early science achievement gaps begin to manifest as well as whether they maintain, resolve or worsen over time. The project builds upon our prior work identifying factors that may be contributing to low levels of achievement in reading and mathematics, particularly for students with disabilities.”

The research will analyze population-based data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Cohort, in which the students were repeatedly assessed during different times of their educational careers — first, third, fifth and eighth grades.

Joining Morgan on this project as investigators are Penn State professors Marianne Hillemeier and Richard Duschl, research associate Yoonkyung Oh and George Farkas from the University of California, Irvine.

Paul Morgan, associate professor of special education Credit: Penn StateCreative Commons

Last Updated June 02, 2015