NSPARC researchers present at Reno conference

A team of Mississippi State researchers presented research at the Association for Science Teacher Education international meeting in Reno, Nev., last week [Jan. 7-9]. The four presentations included studies produced by National Strategic Planning and Analysis Research Center (NSPARC), an MSU interdisciplinary research center that uses smart data, analytical techniques and advanced technology to develop innovative solutions, often for policymakers and state government.

“Our research focuses on science education or curriculum and science educators/teachers and how both are influenced by testing, standards and other accountability measures,” said Ryan Walker, NSPARC faculty fellow and assistant professor in the Department of Curriculum, Instruction, and Special Education at MSU.

Walker attended the conference with NSPARC researchers Christina Hillesheim, Aressa Coley and Gabe Posadas, along with other MSU presenters. He supervised the research cited in the presentations. The three presentations included:

-- Connecting Secondary Education to the Job Market in Mississippi: Establishing True Measures of College and Career Readiness.

-- Implications of Degree Modifications and an Innovative Science Artifacts Portfolio in a Secondary Education Program: Phase 2.

-- The Impact of High-Stakes Testing on Biology Curriculum: An Assessment of Student Level Data from the State Longitudinal Data System.

“Our work at ASTE is bridging the gap between the work we do at NSPARC and academia,” said Coley, who authored one presentation. “We are closing the distance between theoretical and applied research in science education.”

Coley said her study used publicly-available data from Mississippi LifeTracks, Mississippi’s State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS), to examine how the inclusion of inquiry in biology impacts student performance in both related assessments and the delivery of curriculum.

“Longitudinal data from the SLDS, in conjunction with qualitative data collection and analysis from our teachers, administrators, district, and state-level staff, can be used to develop a feedback mechanism to allow for continuous evaluation and fine-tuning of our education system,” said Coley. “It can better inform educational policy decisions to help our students and promote scientific literacy within our state.”

Hillesheim’s presentation also used the SLDS’s publicly-available data to address the current workforce demand and observed outcomes for students exiting secondary education in Mississippi.

“Understanding the link between the state’s secondary education system and the workforce will allow policymakers to make informed decisions about both objectives and measures of accountability in the curriculum,” said Hillesheim.

“Mississippi’s SLDS is a robust, important tool to help researchers better understand education outcomes, both intended and unanticipated,” said Walker. “NSPARC offers us the opportunity to do research using publicly-available data from the SLDS that will result in more information being available to both educators and policymakers. Our results will help them better plan to educate students for the college or career. It will also benefit the current workforce by offering individuals educational pathways for new training and new jobs.”

For more about NSPARC, please visit www.nsparc.msstate.edu. Walker may be reached at 662-325-9242.

MSU is Mississippi’s leading university, available online at www.msstate.edu.

Carol Gifford | NSPARC

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