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Our Idea

The Knowles Science Teaching Foundation (KSTF) was established by Janet H. and C. Harry Knowles in 1999 to increase the number of high quality high school science and mathematics teachers and ultimately, improve science and math education in the United States. Currently in the U.S. education system, teachers are often relegated to implementing others’ ideas for improving education. But KSTF understands that teachers are the most critical players in education and therefore can and should be the primary agents of educational improvement.  

While teachers’ work is deeply contextual and localized, it can be hindered by the lack of robust systems for sharing, critiquing and disseminating locally-generated knowledge in appropriate ways. This localization and lack of systems for knowledge generation and dissemination makes increasingly difficult the work of learning from experience. However, knowledge about teaching and learning that is generated through non-practitioner research is often too far removed from practice to be of use to teachers. KSTF sees a need (and an opportunity) to seed, support, connect and build on this kind of knowledge-generation work—initiated, implemented and owned by networks of teachers—to drive sustainable and meaningful educational improvement.  

Project ASCENT (Achieving STEM Course Effectiveness through Networked Teachers) is KSTF’s first major effort to bring teachers’ considerable professional knowledge and skills to bear on a problem that has broad and deep consequences for the U.S.: too few students are successfully completing advanced science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses at the high school level.

Teams of Teachers, Leading Improvement

KSTF is supporting five teacher-led teams around the country to:

  • understand how and why the problem of too few students successfully completing advanced high school STEM courses plays out in their own contexts;
  • learn about the theory and implementation of improvement science;
  • work with their own team and teams across the country to apply improvement science and begin to make progress on this issue;
  • ultimately demonstrate what can happen when teachers take on the role of primary agents of educational improvement.

The Science of Improvement

This project will take advantage of the work done by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching on improvement science and Networked Improvement Communities (NIC). The current President of the Carnegie Foundation, Anthony Bryk, has studied improvement science in the healthcare field (primarily through the Institute for Healthcare Improvement) and has been striving to apply those same principles to improvement in education. KSTF believes that the principles and practices of improvement science, particularly when carried out by teachers, has tremendous potential to help bridge the gap between research and practice in education.