PBL students excel compared to peers in typical classrooms

Students in project-based learning (PBL) classrooms across the United States significantly outperform students in typical classrooms, according to four studies released from Lucas Education Research, a division of the George Lucas Educational Foundation (GLEF), along with researchers from five major universities.

In the first study ever reported on project-based learning and Advanced Placement results, research scientists at the Center for Economic and Social Research at USC Dornsife found that students taught AP US Government and AP Environmental Science with a PBL approach outperformed peers on exams by 8 percentage points in year one of a randomized controlled trial, and were more likely to earn a passing score of 3 or above with the chance to receive college credit. In year two, PBL students outperformed peers by 10 percentage points.

The yearlong curricula were developed by University of Washington professors alongside Seattle and Des Moines teachers. For example, in one of the five projects in the AP Government course, students answer the question, “What is the proper role of government in democracy?” by conducting a presidential campaign, taking on the roles of candidates, lobbyists and media. In the first of five projects in AP Environmental Science, students explore sustainability by conducting a personal environmental impact audit and developing a proposal to reduce consumption.…Read More

The College Board Partners with PBLWorks to Train Teachers for New AP Courses Rooted in Project Based Learning

PBLWorks, the leading provider of professional development for Project Based Learning (PBL), has partnered with the College Board to offer a new PBL-based professional development program for Advanced Placement (AP) courses in Environmental Science and U.S Government and Politics. The new courses use a Project Based Learning method of teaching and are based on powerful new breakthrough research just released by the Center for Economic and Social Research at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, that found PBL coupled with high-quality professional development significantly improves student performance when compared to students in non-PBL classrooms.

Specifically, the research demonstrated that high school students in AP classes who engaged in hands-on, inquiry-based projects with real-world applications performed higher than their peers on AP U.S. Government and Politics and AP Environmental Science exams. In year one of a randomized controlled trial in five U.S. cities they scored 8 percentage points higher, and in year two of the study they scored 10 percentage points higher – and they were more likely to earn a qualifying score of 3 or above which could increase their chance of receiving college credit and saving on tuition.

“We’ve seen the impact of PBL firsthand in our work with schools and now this research provides proof of its impact on students who are taking AP classes,” said Bob Lenz, CEO of PBLWorks, “That’s why we’ve partnered with the College Board to support new project-based AP courses that are relevant, authentic, and engaging.”…Read More

VHS Learning Students Once Again Exceed National Averages on Advanced Placement Exams

Students taking Advanced Placement® courses through VHS Learning maintained their decade-plus record of exceeding the national average pass rate on AP® exams. A score of 3 or higher on an AP® exam is considered a “passing” grade for AP® college credit at many universities.

The national pass rate for the 2020 AP® Environmental Science exam was just over half (53%), but almost all (95%) VHS Learning students passed that exam. Pass rates for the 2020 AP® English Literature and Composition exam were even more remarkable. Nationally, 60% of all the students who took that exam received a passing score, but the VHS Learning pass rate was 100%, meaning all VHS Learning students who took the exam achieved a score of 3 or higher.

“What a pleasure it is to see our VHS Learning students continue to surpass AP® exam national averages, especially in a year as stressful as this one,” said Carol DeFuria, President & CEO of VHS Learning. “We’re happy that VHS Learning can help provide continuity of learning and a strong educational foundation to students during these trying times.”…Read More

VHS Learning and NMSI Program Enables Students to Take AP Courses

VHS Learning’s new partnership with the National Math and Science Initiative (NMSI) has helped over 100 students from rural schools take Advanced Placement courses that would have been unavailable to them. The partnership enabled the schools to enroll the students in VHS Learning’s AP courses via a NMSI grant program. Students also received guidance from NMSI coaches. Schools will receive grants to cover all enrollment costs and student access to laptops, as necessary.

The students came from 15 parochial and public schools in Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Dakota, Vermont and Pennsylvania. The program allowed them to enroll in the following courses:

AP Statistics
AP Biology
AP Computer Science Principles
AP Calculus BC
AP Chemistry
AP English Literature and Composition
AP English Language and Composition
AP Physics 1…Read More

7 keys to effective online learning

Online learning’s reputation has taken a hit in recent years amid reports of poor academic performance and concerns over lax regulation. While there is certainly some cause for concern, many of the problems center on for-profit providers who manage full-time virtual schools. The truth is that not all online learning experiences are of suspect quality.

When done well, online learning can be highly successful—opening the door to numerous learning opportunities that students otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to, while providing very rich and rigorous instruction. In fact, students who take online Advanced Placement courses from VHS Learning consistently outperform national passing rate averages on AP exams.

Related content: 10 things to help students during the COVID-19 outbreak…Read More

4 keys to building an equitable STEM program

This year in schools across the nation, approximately 136,000 students took advanced placement (AP) computer science, a 31 percent increase from last year. This group included a record number of female and minority students, but girls still only accounted for 28 percent of students taking AP computer science exams, while underrepresented minorities accounted for 21 percent. Meanwhile, the increase in STEM jobs shows no sign of slowing down, and only 33 percent of workers ages 25 and older have a degree in a STEM field.

What does this all mean? It means we can’t afford to leave anyone out. We need to find ways to immerse all students of all ages, races, genders, and types (not just the “talented and gifted” kids) in rich STEM learning. Educators need to do whatever they can to engage all students in a way that appeals to their interests across all STEM subjects. In working with hundreds of school districts across the country, here are four steps I’ve seen educators take to effectively build and nurture an equitable STEM program.

1. Provide STEM professional development (PD) to elementary teachers.
One of the challenges educators face is that there are limited opportunities for STEM-specific PD designed for elementary teachers. To promote STEM equity, schools first need to help more teachers figure out how to integrate STEM into their curriculum.…Read More

New AP course materials are getting an independent review

Today Learning List, the leading instructional materials review service for schools and districts, announces its alliance with The College Board to provide professional, independent reviews of Advanced Placement (AP) materials to empower educators to select instructional materials that will best prepare their students for success in AP courses.

In collaboration with the College Board, Learning List has developed a review methodology that assesses materials’ alignment to the Learning Objectives and Skills/Practices contained in the new AP course frameworks for math, science and history courses. The College Board will use Learning List’s reviews to select materials for the AP Example Textbooks lists.

For each AP instructional material, Learning List provides three professional reviews:…Read More

Motivated student seeks challenge. School says no.

Fayette County, Ga., population 106,567, resembles many Washington-area suburbs, the Washington Post reports. It has lovely trees, expensive cars and good schools. Most of the residents are middle-class. They set high standards for their kids. But what is happening to one particular Fayette County student is sadly at odds with the way ambitious students are treated here. Jacqueline Berthold, a sophomore at Starr’s Mill High School, has a grade point average of 92 on a 100 point scale, including a 93 in English. Like many students showing academic promise, she wants the challenge of taking Advanced Placement English Language next year. In the Washington area, that would be no problem. Anyone who wants to take a college-level course like AP, International Baccalaureate or Advanced International Certificate of Education may do so in the school districts along the Potomac…

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AP surges as a tool for schools raising standards

Last year, 18 percent of U.S. high school graduates passed at least one AP exam, up from 11 percent a decade ago.

Not long ago, Advanced Placement exams were mostly for top students looking to challenge themselves and get a head start on college credit. Not anymore.

In the next two weeks, 2 million students will take 3.7 million end-of-year AP exams—figures well over double those from a decade ago. With no national curriculum, AP has become the de facto gold standard for high school rigor. States and high schools are pushing AP classes and exams as a way to raise standards across the board, in some cases tying AP scores to bonuses. And the federal government is helping cover the exam fees.…Read More