The Policy Research Initiative in Science Education (PRISE) is an innovative science education research project that seeks to improve teaching and learning in high school science classrooms. The project uses a systems approach to link prior research findings with mixed-methods research techniques. Results from using a systems approach to policy research inform the development of policies and practices related to the teacher professional continuum for science teachers.
There are two intertwined goals of the PRISE project, research and graduate preparation. The research goal is to provide the State of Texas and the Nation with findings that lead to the development of an articulated and coherent system of policies and practices to improve factors associated with the teacher professional continuum for science teachers. In turn, this system can improve the quality of science teaching while making significant contributions to reducing the turnover of teachers. The graduate preparation goal is to prepare Ph.D.s with backgrounds in science education policy research. Graduate researchers are trained in education policy research using first-hand experiences in designing, implementing, analyzing, and preparing policy research reports useful for informing policies and practices associated with science teachers.
The PRISE – I Research Group was brought together at Texas A&M University in 2006. The Group was tasked with conducting a state-wide research project consisting of five phases and a total of 37 tasks to answer three essential policy research questions about the teacher professional continuum of science teachers in Texas high schools: Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there? Data from 50 Texas high schools, selected using a modified random sampling design, was collected and analyzed to answer the three research questions. The presentation of research results to a Blue-ribbon panel on science education in 2009 satisfied the PRISE research goal. The completion of four Ph.D. dissertations, satisfactory progress on four other dissertations, and employment of most Group members in some area of education policy research satisfied the PRISE preparation goal.
The issues investigated by the PRISE – I Research Group were influenced by the growing concern over teacher turnover. The PRISE – II Research Group, brought together at Texas A&M University in 2011, proposed to the National Science Foundation (NSF) to investigate the achievement gap between white and students of color in science achievement and college readiness. The Group will conduct a research project consisting of four phases and a total of eight tasks to answer the three essential policy research questions (i.e., Where are we? Where do we want to go? How do we get there?) about the relationship between the student achievement gap and teacher professional continuum for science teachers. Instruments, developed by the PRISE – I Group and modified by the PRISE – II Group, will be used to measure science education policies and practices occurring in 12 purposively selected high-performing and high-minority high schools. Presentation of research results in 2012 to the NSF and a Blue-ribbon panel will satisfy the PRISE research goal. The anticipated completion of five dissertations and gainful employment of Group members in education policy research will satisfy the PRISE preparation goal.