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Animo Pat Brown: Developing Scientists

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Designing secondary science curriculum that: (a) Remediates basic deficits in math and English, and (b) Prepares students for the independence and critical thought of college-level science coursework.

Our School

Animo Pat Brown Logo

Animo Pat Brown is located in South Central Los Angeles and is part of Green Dot Public Schools. 99% of our students receive free or reduced-fee lunches, and 100% are underrepresented minorities.

Animo Pat Brown

By all standards, our school is very successful. Our academic results and API are among the highest in our district; we have been named a California Distinguished School; Newsweek recognized us as one of the nation's Top 25 Transformative High Schools.




Our Problem of Practice

 Our students consistently outperform their peers at surrounding schools. In science, our results on end-of-year assessments CST's are particularly strong:

                   Science Department Results

Note that the performance of our students increases from 9th grade physics to 10th grade biology to 11th grade chemistry. While the reasons for our success in this area are varied, much of our student's progress can be attributed to our schoolwide focus on intervention and remediation. We understand that our students, because of their educational background, have pre-existing deficits in basic skills that are sometimes quite severe. Our school purposefully builds in systematic interventions to target these deficits in math and English.

While this enables our students to succeed on high-school oriented measures like the CST, we know that this approach does not give our students the independence and ability to think critically that they need to succeed in the university. Anecdotally, many of our best students report immense struggles in keeping up with the rigors of university coursework. Our personal knowledge and experience with our students' abilities and deficits is even more convincing. We know what college-level science coursework requires and we know that our students are not consistently prepared for it.

Our problem of practice arises out of this basic tension:

How can we remediate our student’s pre-existing deficits in basic skills, while simultaneously preparing our students for the rigors of college-level science coursework?


Our Plan

 To address this problem, we pursued three contrasting sources of professional development:

  1. Model-Based Reasoning: An approach to curriculum design that begins with observable phenomenon. Students develop scientific models that explain phenomenon and use them for various purposes (explaining scientific findings, making predictions, etc.)
  2. Reading Apprenticeship: An approach to literacy education that weaves four classroom dimensions (social, personal, cognitive, and knowledge-building) through classroom routines.
  3. Center for Math and Science Teaching: The MAST System of Teaching focuses simultaneously on developing fluency in basic skills, and developing independence and perseverance in solving rigorous, novel problems.

Click on the links above to find out more about our work with each source of professional development.

The table below summarizes how each professional development fits into our dual focus: continuing to remediate student's core deficits, while simultaneously extending toward college readiness.

Professional Development
How it Remediates
How it Extends
 Model-Based Reasoning
Students practice math, reading, and writing in scientifically authentic situations. Students engage in rigorous scientific thought as they create, evaluate, modify, and use scientific models. 
 Reading Apprenticeship
Students discuss their invisible reading processes to learn cognitive strategies from one another. Students engage with scaffolded texts that increase in complexity over time. Students gain content primarily through reading (instead of powerpoint). Students are expected to build toward complex texts and high-level thought. 
 MAST System of Teaching
Students identify and target their own weaknesses in basic math skills. Students focus on building fluency in basic skills for the purpose of solving more difficult problems. Students solve novel, difficult problems on a regular basis. Students are expected to independently monitor their own learning and actively 


Sharing Our Work

We had multiple opportunities to share our work with other teachers at our school and in our district.


Our Team

Our team comprises the entire science department at Animo Pat Brown Charter High School. Shown from left to right:

The members of the Animo Pat Brown Charter HS Science Department

  • Jason Batten, team leader, chemistry and physics teacher
  • Andrew Osterhaus, physics and robotics teacher
  • Alexis Hanson, biology and anatomy/physiology teacher
  • Janee Gerard, chemistry and physics teacher
  • Rob Daniell, biology and physics teacher
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