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Lead Scientist(s): Dr. Alan R. Berkowitz

Advancing Earth Science Instruction across High School Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in Baltimore City Public Schools

EarthX is a collaboration of school district teachers and educators, scientists, and education researchers helping to bring Earth science and compelling environmental phenomena into high school Biology, Chemistry, and Physics courses in Baltimore.

Baltimore City Public Schools (City Schools) is committed to fulfilling the Maryland-adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) requirement for Earth science instruction in the elementary, middle, and high school grades  This is accomplished at the high school level through an integration approach. All high school Biology, Chemistry, and Physics teachers in City Schools will use EarthX assessments and participate in EarthX professional learning. In this way, the project will reach the entire, highly diverse student population attending all traditional high schools in the Baltimore City Public School system.

EarthX will develop, test, and refine beginning of course, embedded, and unit assessments for all three courses that will provide real- or near-real-time feedback to teachers and students, and be used in the project’s professional learning activities and supports. EarthX assessments will be 4-dimensional, featuring two disciplinary core ideas (1 Earth science and 1 from the course discipline), one  science or engineering practice, and one crosscutting concept. Assessments will support teaching and learning about phenomena in local-to-global environments in ways that are both engaging and accessible to Baltimore students and teachers.

Biology, Chemistry, and Physics teachers will benefit from EarthX instructional supports, along with ongoing professional learning that is collaborative both within schools across disciplines and across schools within disciplines. Many school districts around the nation face this same dual challenge of Earth science integration and multi-dimensional, ambitious, and equitable teaching. EarthX resources, strategies, and research findings will be disseminated and made widely available.

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EarthX at a glance

Supported by a grant from the Discovery Research K-12 (DR12) program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) for $3,770,442 ($856,471 to Baltimore City Public Schools).

Principal Investigator: Dr. Alan R. Berkowitz, Head of Education at Cary Institute, Millbrook, NY.
Project Coordinator: Angela Hood, Program Leader - Environmental Science Education at Cary Institute, stationed in Baltimore, MD.

The EarthX Leadership Team includes:

  • Dr. Kevin Garner, Baltimore City Public Schools, Co-PI
  • Ms. Kia Boose, Baltimore City Public Schools, High School Science Specialist
  • Dr. Beth Covitt, University of Montana, Co-PI
  • Dr. Jonathon Grooms, George Washington University, Co-PI
  • Ms. Lauren Browning, George Washington University, Graduate Research Assistant
  • Dr. Karen Draney, University of California Berkeley, Co-PI
  • Dr. Jessica Bean, Museum of Paleontology, University of California Berkeley, Science Education Specialist
  • Dr. Carolyn Parker, American University, External Evaluator.
  • Mr. Martin Schmidt, McDonnogh School, Earth Science Education Specialist

The project began 1 September 2022 and will run for four years.

The project will develop assessments for the Biology, Chemistry and Physics high school courses:

  • A Beginning of Year Assessment covering all course content, including new Earth science material.
  • 6 Embedded Assessments spread across 4 units, each addressing an Earth science and core subject Disciplinary Core Idea, a Science Practice and a Cross Cutting Concept. 
  • 2 End of Unit Assessments.

The project will work with three groups of teachers intensively:

  • Six teachers, two from each discipline, starting in spring 2023 to collaborate with the EarthX team to help guide, develop, pilot test and refine the assessments and professional learning activities and resources. Ideally, these teachers will remain engaged for at least three years.
  • 15 teachers, five from each discipline, joining in summer 2023 to carry out similar activities.
  • A small group of teachers will be recruited in the third year of the project to collect data for project improvement and research purposes.

EarthX will contribute to systemic professional learning opportunities and supporting resources for all high school science teachers from the very beginning of the project.

For more information, contact EarthX Director, Dr. Alan R. Berkowitz, Head of Education, Cary Institute, Millbrook, NY. Phone: 845-677-7600 ext. 311. Email:

EarthX Goals, Objectives and Theories of Change

Table 1. The four EarthX project goals and associated objectives.

Goal 1. Build and nurture a strong Research-Practice Partnership to achieve Goals 2-4, employing best practices of partner engagement and empowerment, collaboration, evidence-based improvement, and productivity.

Goal 2. Develop and test disciplinary and cross-disciplinary professional development (PD) strategies for supporting effective Earth science teaching in high school Biology, Chemistry, and Physics classes.

Objective 2.1 - Develop intensive and then extensive PD strategies through several cycles of implementation and improvement.

Objective 2.2 - Collect data on teachers’ practices and classroom discourse that can serve the multiple purposes of: 1) use in PD, 2) assessing the impact of PD on teacher practice for improving PD, and 3) scale-up and sustainability at the City Schools district level.

Objective 2.3 - Address our teacher research questions, including: How does teacher practice related to three-dimensional, rigorous and responsive teaching change over time through intensive multi-year or more extensive, district-wide professional learning and support?

Goal 3. Develop learning progression-aligned, embedded, and summative 3D assessments of student performance that can support rigorous and responsive teaching about phenomena in the local-to-global environment at the interfaces between Earth science and Biology, Chemistry, and Physics.

Objective 3.1 - Develop assessments through several cycles of implementation and improvement.

Objective 3.2 - Support use of assessments for informing 1) rigorous and responsive instruction, 2) PD strategies and supports, and 3) scale-up and sustainability of District student assessment.

Objective 3.3 - Address our student research questions, notably: How do students’ 3D, Earth science performances improve over the course of a year and over the Biology, Chemistry, Physics sequence in response to teachers’ repeated use of 3D assessments to guide their instruction?

Goal 4. Bring EarthX strategies to scale, resulting in transformative, phenomena-based 3D instruction across the District.

Objective 4.1 - Document how data on student performance, teacher practice, and PD outcomes are used by the District for district-wide adoption of the EarthX PD strategies, assessments, and supporting resources.

Objective 4.2 – Document what supports are needed at the teacher, school, and District level to implement EarthX effectively across the District

Objective 4.3 - Examine sustainability of implementation of the EarthX innovations.

earthx diagram
Theory of change and overall design for the EarthX project. The main project goals and objectives associated with each component of the design are shown in the lilac-colored circles (refer to Table 1).

EarthX – Advisory Board

  • Erin Furtak, University of Colorado at Boulder, brings research expertise at the intersection of disciplinary (biology) teaching, learning progressions, formative assessment and 3D pedagogy. 
  • David Hammer, Professor in the departments of Education and Physics and Astronomy at Tufts University, has extensive expertise in physical science education practice and research.
  • Stefanie Marshall, Assistant Professor of Curriculum & Instruction at University of Minnesota, is an expert in culturally responsive science education leadership, policy, and networks.
  • Vicente A. Talanquer, Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at the University of Arizona, has extensive expertise in chemistry teaching and learning, and in developing learning progressions to support meaningful learning. 
  • Michael Wysession, Professor of Earth and Planetary Science, Washington University of St. Louis, brings expertise in integrating Earth science into chemistry, biology, and physics curricula.
  • Maceo Cooper, Biology teacher and Dept. Chair at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore, has taught Chemistry and Physics, with expertise in phenomena-driven instruction and school change.
  • Mary Weller, Coordinator of Science, Division of Curriculum, Instructional Improvement, and Professional Learning, Maryland State Department of Education, with expertise in dissemination of innovative science education practices and resources.