Transforming science education through research-driven innovation

BSCS Science Learning and Partners Awarded $4M Research Grant by the US Department of Education to Impact Middle School Science

December 19, 2023

BSCS Science Learning and partners have been awarded a $4M research grant by the US Department of Education (DOE) to investigate the potential far-reaching impact of a promising new middle school science program.

There is widespread enthusiasm among the thousands of teachers and students across the country who are using this OpenSciEd Middle School Science program today. Teachers have reported seeing their students ask questions they care about, strengthen their ability to solve problems, and become more curious about the world around them.

But how does this enthusiasm translate to program effectiveness and impact? And what will it take for the program to make a difference where it’s needed most?  

That’s what BSCS, Southern University and A&M College, and American Institutes for Research (AIR) plan to explore over the next five years with financial support from the DOE’s Education Innovation and Research (EIR) program. 

“The OpenSciEd middle school science materials were extensively field-tested and have received rave reviews from teachers, students, and EdReports since the program’s public release in 2022. However, no one has had the opportunity to collect evidence for the efficacy of the program. We are especially interested in its efficacy when used by high-need students and in low-resourced schools,” said Dr. Chris Wilson, BSCS Director of Research & Innovation and EIR Project Director. “BSCS led the development of the OpenSciEd Middle School Science program. It has received top ratings in external reviews designed to identify high quality programs that will improve outcomes for high-needs students. We’re looking forward to leveraging the expertise of our partners to explore the potential impact of this program–which to date has been used in 4,000 classrooms, reaching approximately 400,000 students per year.”  

This project kicks off in January 2024. To start, BSCS and Southern University will co-develop, pilot, monitor, and refine a professional learning program to support the implementation of the OpenSciEd instructional materials for grades 6-8. 

The partners will conduct their work across high-needs schools in Louisiana–including East Baton Rouge Parish Schools, the primary study site and the second largest school district in the state. This district serves over 40,000 students, most of whom are non-white, eligible for free/reduced price lunch, and/or economically disadvantaged. 

Southern University brings a critical perspective to this work as a public, historically black land-grant university located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

“We are fortunate to have Southern University as a partner and will be leaning on their extensive experience working with high-needs schools in Louisiana. They are ideal collaborators to help adapt and implement the OpenSciEd professional learning program for this population of teachers,” said Dr. Susan Gomez Zwiep, BSCS Senior Science Educator and EIR Professional Learning Lead. 

Throughout the project, AIR will conduct an independent and rigorous evaluation of the OpenSciEd instructional materials and professional learning program on state assessments, equitable learning, and noncognitive outcomes such as students’ perceptions of the program as relevant and coherent. The ongoing study will allow BSCS and Southern University to continuously monitor and refine project materials and resources and ultimately improve the implementation of the program. 

“The Carnegie Corporation of New York invited BSCS in 2017 to bring together researchers and educators from across the county to envision a new open source, middle school science program. We developed a plan for a program that would be engaging, relevant, and inclusive–particularly for students from high-needs communities. That became the OpenSciEd program,” said Dr. Daniel Edelson, BSCS Executive Director. “While the OpenSciEd program has excelled in outside evaluations designed to identify high quality instructional materials for the Next Generation Science Standards, the study by AIR will be the first opportunity to collect evidence of its impact on students in real-world classrooms using rigorous research methods.”    

By 2029, there will be clear evidence on the effectiveness of the OpenSciEd Middle School Science program. And for the first time, there will be specific insights on how to support implementation of the program to improve science achievement for high-needs students.

This work will be led by BSCS Science Learning’s Dr. Chris Wilson, Dr. Susan Gomez Zwiep, and Dr. Zoë Buck Bracey.


The contents of this press release were developed under a grant from the US Department of Education, Education Innovation and Research (EIR) Program. However, those contents do not necessarily represent the policy of the US Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the federal government.