2015 GSA Annual Meeting in Baltimore, Maryland, USA (1-4 November 2015)

Paper No. 216-1
Presentation Time: 9:00 AM-6:30 PM


MATTOX, Stephen, Geology, Grand Valley State University, 133 Padnos, Allendale, MI 49401-9403, RUTHERFORD, Sandra, Wisconsin Center for Education Research, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 1025 West Johnson Street, Suite 465, Madison, WI 53706 and SOBOLAK, Christina, Geology, Grand Valley State University, 133 Padnos, Allendale,, MI 49401-9403, srutherford@wisc.edu

For nearly 15 years GVSU has awarded college credits to high school students that pass a four-part exam derived from the university course. With NSF support we expanded the program two ways. The first effort added ten more state universities and private colleges that recognized the validity of the exam and agreed to award credit. In the last three years, we have grown the program to include 14 teachers at 12 high schools across the state. More than 516 students have taken a more rigorous geology course in high school. Of these students, 265 passed the exam, 51 percent. More than 60 students have selected geology or Earth science as a major at six different institutions. However, student success in unevenly distributed and we are only beginning to reach schools with higher proportions of students underrepresented in geosciences. Some patterns emerge, in the first year of testing, either no students or only one or two passed the exam. With continued focused on the college-level content and skills the pass rate grows to 30-50 percent within two to four years and remains stable. Unfortunately, there are some schools that never have a student pass. Higher performing schools tend to be higher ranking, have strong middle school science programs, stay in the program longer, and carefully and continuously align to the college curriculum and expectations. Numerous challenges have emerged. Teachers with an Earth science certification are rare and nearly extinct in schools with higher populations of students underrepresented in the geosciences. Qualified teachers are waiting to see how NGSS is implemented in the state and their district. At some schools administrative support is lacking, even with qualified teachers in place; faculty in other sciences have blocked a high school geology course; or the geology course is an elective and can be cancelled due to low enrollment, commonly from competition from AP courses that boost GPA. Teacher support includes a GVSU HSAG website with teaching resources, statistical analysis of student data with recommendations to individual teachers, classroom materials, and fieldtrip options. In the coming year at least two new universities plan to begin awarding credit and two new high schools plan to start the course.