Evaluation of Education Connections

SRI is evaluating an online professional development program for middle and high school teachers of English learner students in six districts. The evaluation includes an impact study on teacher and student outcomes using a cluster randomized-controlled trial

Education Connections is an online professional development program for secondary teachers of English learners developed by the Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) and funded by the federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant. SRI has partnered with CAL to evaluate the impact of participation in Education Connections on teacher knowledge and instruction and English learner students’ outcomes using both a cluster-randomized controlled trial and comparative group design in six districts across Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and California.

SRI will also evaluate the fidelity of program implementation through the examination of the online site’s backend user data, participant surveys, and interviews with participants. SRI will analyze the implementation data on a continual basis to provide timely verbal and written formative feedback to CAL so that CAL can make immediate program adjustments to best meet participant needs.

Evaluation of BaySci: A Partnership for Bay Area Science Education

The Bay Area Partnership for Science Education (BaySci), is a coordinated effort to systematically enhance the quantity and quality of K-12 science teaching and learning in districts and schools across the Bay Area. BaySci is led by the Lawrence Hall of Science, the Exploratorium, and Inverness Research. BaySci works to bring about improvements to the quality and quantity of science instruction in participating classrooms and districts with classroom teachers, science curriculum and resource leads at schools and districts, administrators, and the staff of local Science Rich Educational Institutions.

SRI Education served as external summative evaluator for BaySci, studying two academic years of BaySci programming (2012/13 and 2013/14). SRI examined the degree to which BaySci programming strategically supported its intended mission and produced key outcomes for participating districts, teachers, and Science-Rich Educational Institutions (SREIs). We explored the outcomes related to the BaySci goal of establishing networked communities of practice that systematically enhance science teaching and leadership for science instruction in the Bay Area and that can be sustained beyond the life of the project.

Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL)

SRI manages the Center for Innovative Research in Cyberlearning (CIRCL) with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and in collaboration with Education Development Center, Inc. (EDC) and NORC at the University of Chicago.

CIRCL connects high-quality research with the rapidly growing market for digital learning, an area of intense need and investment in Silicon Valley and throughout the country. The Center’s key goals are to

Accelerate progress in cyberlearning by connecting the perspectives and insights needed to make a difference in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) learning.
Maximize the potential of NSF-funded projects in cyberlearning, an emerging field that integrates technology and learning sciences insights to improve education.
To accomplish these goals, CIRCL is organizing leaders from research and innovation projects to identify synergies among approaches and to synthesize findings.This includes convening thematic meetings, online working groups and virtual events to share and communicate results more effectively. CIRCL will also provide recommendations to NSF about promising new directions for future research and investment in cyberlearning.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. IIS-1233722. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Would-be university students ‘more excited by studying than nightlife’

Credit: PA
Would-be university students today are more likely to see themselves spending time in the library rather than the bar, according to a poll.

While almost three in 10 (29%) of sixth-formers are most looking forward to studying a subject they are passionate about, less than one in 10 (9.1%) said the thing they are most excited about at university is the nightlife.

The poll, by Leeds Beckett University, also shows around a fifth (19.6%) say the thing they are most looking forward to at university is progressing their career.

Students in England now pay up to £9,250 per year in tuition fees, and there have been some suggestions that undergraduates are becoming more focused on the benefits of having a good degree, as well as gaining value for money from their university experience.

The survey, which questioned over 1,000 16-19-year-olds, found a fifth (19.7%) of those polled say their biggest concern about starting university is budgeting, while 18.9% are most worried about making friends.

Chris Watts, director of university recruitment at Leeds Beckett, said: “We have seen this trend develop in recent years where students have very different priorities to those from years gone by; they are highly career driven, arriving on campus with a clear attitude of wanting to study hard to land their dream job.

“It’s important to strike a balance, however, and we often see that the most successful graduates have successfully combined a commitment to their studies with work experience and extra-curricular activities.”

Number of pupils planning to go to university at lowest level in eight years

Credit: PA
The number of young people planning to attend university has fallen to the lowest level in eight years, according to research.

Many people said their reason for not going onto higher education was due to financial concerns.

The annual poll carried out by the Sutton Trust found that the proportion of secondary school pupils planning to study for a degree remains high, at around three-quarters (74%).

But this figure is at its lowest level since 2009 and is down from a high of 81% in 2013.

More than 2,600 young people aged between 11 and 16 in England and Wales took part in the poll.

Of those who took part, 14% said they were unlikely to go on to higher education, compared with 11% last year.

Seven in 10 pupils who said they were unlikely to go to university said they did not like the idea, or did not enjoy studying, while nearly two-thirds said they had financial reasons such as debt concerns.

More than two in five thought they were not clever enough, or would not get good enough results, while a similar proportion did not think they would need a degree for the jobs they were considering.

The findings come amid growing debate on the future of tuition fees, which now stand at up to £9,250 a year for universities in England.

The Sutton Trust said its findings are an important indicator of young people’s plans before they sit their GCSEs.

Trust chairman Sir Peter Lampl said: “It is no surprise that there has been a fall in the proportion of young people hoping to go into higher education.

“With debts up to £57,000 for poorer graduates and soaring student loan interest rates, the system is badly in need of reform,” he said.

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said that young people are more likely to go to university than “ever before” with entry rates for 18-year-olds “rising every year since 2012”.

Jo Johnson said: “Those from disadvantaged backgrounds are 43% more likely to enter higher education than in 2009.

“Our student finance system ensures that costs are split fairly between graduates and the taxpayer. However, there is still more to do to ensure that students get value for money.

“That is why we have created a new regulator, the Office for Students, that will hold universities to account for teaching quality and student outcomes through the Teaching Excellence Framework.”

Dinosaur fossil is ‘biggest creature to ever walk Earth’

Researchers with the excavated bones of the giant dinosaur. Credit: PA
Scientists have found the fossilised bones of what they believe is the biggest ever dinosaur.

The creature could have been as long as 35 metres from head to tail – more than the length of three buses.

Named Patagotitan mayorum, it is thought to have weighed the same as a Challenger 2 tank – around 62 tonnes.

Artist’s impression of the Patagotitan mayorum Credit: G. Lio/PA Wire
The bones, found in Argentina, may have belonged to the biggest creature ever to have walked the Earth.

Discovered in a quarry in Chubut Province in Argentina in 2013, researchers now think the bones belonged to six different individuals that died in a floodplain before being preserved in mud.

The dinosaurs lived 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous period.

It was a sauropod, a long-necked plant-eating relative of the Brontosaurus and Diplodocus.

The giant dinosaur bones were found in this quarry in Chubut Province, Argentina Credit: A.Otero/PA
Findings from researchers at the Museo Paleontologico Egidio Feruglio in Argentina suggest the Patagotitan mayorum was 10% bigger than the Argentinosaurus – previously thought to be the biggest land animal ever.

The team, led by Dr Jose Carballido, wrote in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: “The above-mentioned body mass estimates, as well as these vertebral comparisons, places Patagotitan as the largest known dinosaur species.”

‘I’ve come to rescue you’: My grandfather at Dunkirk

Guy Farrer in Suffolk

I went to see the film Dunkirk because of my grandfather, Guy Farrer. He was one of the volunteers who went over to rescue British and French troops from the beaches. He didn’t talk about it much but he wrote an account of his experiences. This is his story…

In May 1940, Guy Farrer found himself approaching the beaches of Dunkirk in a small open boat. One of the trawlers in his convoy had just hit a mine and had “gone up in a shattering explosion”.

In the mist, it took him a little while to make out the thousands of soldiers sitting on the beach.

The task he had been given struck him as “crazy”.

“Fancy trying to evacuate a whole army from a shallow beach with the aid of paddle steamers and sailing barges!”

And things got crazier when he tried to persuade the soldiers to get on his boat.

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I lowered myself into the gentle surf and climbed up the beach into France. I approached the nearest group of soldiers, some of whom were playing cards.

“I’ve come to rescue you,” I said modestly.

“Say that again, mate,” said the corporal.

“I’ve come to take you off,” I announced.

“Where to, mate?” asked the corporal. He sounded suspicious.

“To England.”

“How we going to get there, mate?” asked the corporal.

Guy Farrer in SuffolkImage copyrightANN BELL
Image captionBethany’s grandfather Guy, pictured in Suffolk before the war

I took a deep breath. “We are going by boat… We are unable to bring the boats any closer because the water is too shallow. You will therefore have to wade out to them. When we have a full complement of troops in the boats, we will row you out to the trawlers which are waiting to take you back to England. Is that clear?”

The corporal looked out to sea.

“I don’t see no trawlers and I don’t see no boats.”

I looked behind me. The mist had thickened. There were no boats of any description visible.

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At the time of Dunkirk, Guy Farrer was 29 years old and a civilian.

He had only got involved in the evacuation operation because he was taking a course with a yacht chandler named Capt OM Watts, in Albemarle Street, London.

A keen sailor, Guy was preparing for his Yachtmaster’s certificate exam, so that he could join the Navy as an officer.

Transcript created by Guy FerrerImage copyrightANN BELL
Image captionGuy’s account, including a trip to the former King George V’s barber

During the class, the telephone rang.

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Capt Watts excused himself and was away for quite a time.

‘That was the Admiralty,’ he told us when he returned. “They are requisitioning anything that will float and are asking everyone who can handle a boat to help take the troops off the Dunkirk beaches. I have been asked to appeal for volunteers. Any takers?”

A ripple of excitement flowed through the room. There were about 30 of us, all youngsters. “When do we go?” said one, reaching for his bowler hat.

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They were told to assemble in the City at 8pm that evening. There wasn’t time to go home, so they went to a pub.

“We laughed and joked like a bunch of rugger supporters on their way to Twickenham,” Guy wrote.

“This was the biggest adventure of our lives so far.

Guy with his wife PeggyImage copyrightANN BELL
Image captionGuy with his wife Peggy, who packed him a pair of pyjamas for the voyage to Dunkirk

“You will laugh when I tell you this was going to be my first trip to foreign parts. People in my income bracket didn’t go abroad much in those days and… I was quite excited on that account alone.”

His wife, Peggy, my grandmother, came up from their home in Richmond to see him off. She brought him a rucksack with sweaters, chocolate – and – “you mustn’t laugh” – wrote my grandfather, a pair of pyjamas.

At Tilbury, he was assigned to a lifeboat attached to a trawler. “I don’t know how long these lifeboats have been out of commission,” an elderly Naval commander told them. “But we put them in the water at thirteen hundred this afternoon, and they are still afloat so they will probably be all right.”

Guy began to wish he hadn’t come.

Dunkirk recue vesselsImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionA ‘motley procession of vessels’ rescued 338,226 troops over 10 days

They set off towards Dunkirk, “part of the motliest procession of vessels which had ever put to sea in time of war”.

As they approached the French coast, German aircraft appeared and a dogfight with British planes began. Bombs fell alarmingly close to their boat.

“I began to feel a little better as we neared the beaches,” Guy wrote.

But then he was faced with the challenge of trying to rescue the soldiers. After failing to persuade the corporal to come with him, he walked further along the beach until he found an officer.

British soldiers shoot rifles at German aircraft attacking rescue ships at DunkirkImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionBritish soldiers shoot rifles at German aircraft attacking rescue ships at Dunkirk

The officer was also suspicious, but eventually decided my grandfather wasn’t an enemy agent when Guy told him he liked going to the Fox pub, halfway up Richmond Hill.

Before they could get moving, there was “a deafening roar”.

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I flung myself to the ground as an aircraft with its guns blazing, flew low over the beach. I wasn’t able to see its markings because my eyes were tightly closed but it was clearly not one of ours. I looked around after it had gone expecting to see dead and wounded everywhere but miraculously nobody seemed to have been hit.

“I wish they wouldn’t do that,” said the officer with impressive cool. I tried to copy his nonchalant tone and said, “I suppose you get quite used to that sort of thing.” “Not a bit of it, old man,” he replied, lowering his voice. “What you get used to is pretending you are not as scared as your men are.”

We walked down to the water’s edge with the twenty men he had selected… The officer observing my anxious expression, said casually “I suppose there is more than one boat?” “Oh yes,” I said. “There’s several…”

At this moment fortunately the mist lifted… and there before us… was a great armada of rescue vessels, the smaller ones close in and the biggest ones quite a long way off shore. Ships and boats of all sizes and shapes, some at anchor, some cautiously underway, some empty and some packed with men, some that would never sail again, like the one in the harbour, which was blazing from stem to stern.

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Over the next few hours, the volunteers struggled to row the soldiers out to the waiting trawlers, in the heavy unwieldy lifeboats, which kept getting grounded in the shallows. They had to make the troops wade out into deeper water before they could board.

Once aboard the trawler, where “every inch of deck space” was occupied, they set off for Dover.

Guy in a Royal Navy uniformImage copyrightANN BELL
Image captionGuy joined the Royal Navy after volunteering to rescue British forces from Dunkirk

But their voyage was a brief one. Less than a mile from the beach, they hit a submerged wreck and became stuck. “A loud groan of dismay” went up.

They were eventually rescued from the trawler by a destroyer. There was no room for kit, so Guy had to abandon my grandmother’s carefully packed rucksack.

Back in Dover, Guy learned with relief that he was not going to be sent back to Dunkirk, as things were “hotting up” there.

He slept most of the way on the train back to London, woken from time to time by the locals, who greeted it with cheers and cups of tea.

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The arrival at Victoria brought me sharply back to reality. I rejoined my peers in the Richmond train and by half past nine I was in bed with my wife.

I joined the expedition because it seemed at the time to be the right thing to do. I spent most of my time there wishing I hadn’t come and I was profoundly grateful when they wouldn’t let me go back.

The aim of my story is to show what can happen to an ordinary young office worker should he happen to be in a certain room in Albemarle Street at a particular moment in history.

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After Dunkirk, Guy joined the Navy in 1941 and served in the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. He eventually became a Lieutenant Commander. He died in 1984 at the age of 73.

How Heavy Is Your Air?

Balloons away! You’ve seen a helium balloon float, but what gas could make a balloon heavier than air? Try this dense physics activity, and find out!  Credit: George Retseck

Key concepts

If you’ve ever accidentally let go of a helium-filled balloon while outdoors, then you know that some gases are less dense than others. In the case of your helium balloon, it most likely floated away before you could catch it because helium is much lighter (or less dense) than the air in our environment. We don’t often think about gases having density—but they do! In this activity you’ll explore the different densities of some common household gases, including the air that you exhale!

All of the materials we encounter on a daily basis, from our toothpaste to our dinner plates, are made up of different types of atoms. Atoms are the smallest units of matter that retain the properties of their chemical element. The type and arrangement of these different atoms account for the different characteristics of all the solids, liquids and gases in our environment.

These characteristics include properties known as density, mass and volume. The density of an object is the relationship between its mass (weight) and its volume (amount of space it takes up). The mass of an object’s atoms, their size and how they are arranged all determine its density. If we know an object’s mass and volume, we can figure out the density using the equation: density = mass/volume

From this equation we can also observe that if two objects have the same volume but one weighs more than the other, than the two objects have different densities. If you have a die made from plastic and another die of the same size made from lead, the one made from lead will feel heavier. Because the two dice are the same size, we know the lead is denser than the plastic.

Differences in density have to do with the size of the atoms as well as how tightly they are packed together. The atoms that comprise metal are generally heavier than those of plastic, and are packed more closely together. In this activity you will be observing the density of different gases—and how differences in density affect how an object behaves.


  • Yardstick
  • Two balloons
  • Four tablespoons baking soda
  • Stopwatch or timer
  • One cup white vinegar
  • Clean 16-ounce plastic water or soda bottle
  • Small plastic funnel (If unavailable, use tinfoil or parchment paper to make a temporary funnel.)
  • A partner to help
  • A sink
  • Pencil or pen
  • Sheet of paper


  • Create a table on your sheet of paper with three columns and three rows.
  • Label the left column: “Balloon.” Write: “Balloon A” in the middle box and “Balloon B” in the bottom box. Label the middle column: “3-Foot Drop”; label the right column: “6-Foot Drop.”


  • Carefully pour the vinegar into the water bottle.
  • Carefully pour the baking soda into one of the balloons using your funnel. Do not tie it closed. Hold it carefully so that the baking soda does not spill out.
  • Secure the baking soda–filled balloon to the top of the water bottle. Avoid letting the baking soda fall into the bottle. To do this, hold the mouth of the balloon and shake the baking soda down to the bottom. Keep holding it this way while you gently cover the top of the bottle with the mouth of the balloon, not allowing the contents of the balloon to drop into the bottle.
  • Ensure that the mouth of the balloon covers the bottle top as completely and securely as possible.
  • Place the bottle in the sink. Note the size of the balloon and the appearance of the vinegar in the bottle.
  • Carefully tip the balloon vertically so the baking soda spills into the bottle. What happens when the baking soda contacts the vinegar in the bottle? Is the liquid in the bottle changing? What happens to the balloon? What do you think is causing the balloon to change shape?
  • When the reaction slows, you can gently shake the bottle and tap the balloon, to ensure that no baking soda is stuck in the balloon or on the sides of the bottle.
  • When the reaction is complete, ask your partner to help you remove the balloon from the bottle without allowing gas to escape the balloon. While the balloon is still attached, have your partner tightly squeeze the balloon closed just above where its mouth meets the bottle. With the balloon held closed, you can gently remove it from the bottle. (Don’t be surprised if a puff of gas escapes from the bottle when you remove the balloon!)
  • Tie off the balloon. This is “Balloon A.”
  • Take the second balloon and blow it up to the same size as Balloon A and tie it off. This second balloon is “Balloon B.”
  • Have your partner hold the yardstick vertically, resting the end on the floor. They should also hold your stopwatch or timer.
  • Stand next to your partner and hold Balloon A at the top of the yardstick, so that it is exactly three feet off the floor.
  • Drop the balloon and at the same time have your partner start the timer.
  • Note how long it takes the balloon to fall to the ground. Record this time in your table.
  • Repeat the balloon-drop steps with Balloon B. Which balloon took longer to drop to the ground?
  • Have your partner use the yardstick to measure six feet from the ground. (It’s easier if you do this against a wall.)
  • Repeat the balloon-drop steps, dropping each balloon from six feet. Record your results in your table.
  • Extra: Test to see the maximum distance that you can throw each balloon. Is one easier to throw than the other? Why do you think that is?

Observations and results
In this activity you created the gas carbon dioxide (CO2) by combining baking soda and vinegar. Both are known as the reactants—in this reaction because they undergo a change while taking part in the reaction. Vinegar is weakly acidic whereas baking soda is a bicarbonate. When they are combined, a two-step reaction takes place. The first step of the reaction is an acid–base reaction, and the second step is a decomposition reaction. When both steps are complete, the final products are CO2 and water (H2O). When you added the baking soda to the vinegar, you should have observed bubbling and foaming in the bottle. This was the CO2 gas being produced and released. The reaction produced too much CO2 for the bottle to hold, however. As a result, the CO2 gas escaped into Balloon A and the balloon expanded. Once all of the baking soda mixed with the vinegar, the contents of the bottle were CO2 and H2O. When there was nothing left to react, the reaction ended.

Your next step in this activity was measuring the rate that the two different balloons dropped to the ground. As you know, Balloon A contained CO2 from the baking soda and vinegar reaction. In contrast, Balloon B contained the air you exhaled while blowing it up. The air we exhale is mostly nitrogen and oxygen, and only about 4 to 5 percent carbon dioxide. Therefore, you were measuring whether the mostly pure carbon dioxide in Balloon A dropped more quickly than the mostly nitrogen and oxygen gas in Balloon B.

You should have found that Balloon A dropped more quickly to the ground than Balloon B. You probably noticed that Balloon B encountered greater air resistance on the way to the floor. Balloon B’s path might not have been straight down, instead the balloon may have floated around as it fell. Because both balloons were the same size (or volume) but one fell more quickly than the other, our results tell us the CO2 gas in Balloon A is denser than the combination of gases found in Balloon B.

Instagram Tests Feature Allowing Users To ‘Go LIVE With A Friend’

Instagram has announced that it is “testing a fun way to go live with a friend.” The feature allows users to add a guest to their live broadcasts on the platform. 

Since Instagram introduced Live on its platform, I am sure there have been many of you out there who have wished that you could “go live” with one of your friends. Well, today is a great day, because you will be happy to hear that the photo-sharing platform is starting a to test a brand new feature that will allow you to do just that.

Only a small percentage of users have the feature for the time-being, but Instagram has promised a global rollout in the next few months. With this new feature, Instagram wants to make live sharing less intimidating, but keep it authentic. It’s simple. While broadcasting, simply tap on the new icon at the bottom of your screen, picking “Add,” to invite any one of your viewers to join.

Once they do so, the screen will split into two – and it will be the two of you. Other viewers can continue liking and commenting as usual. But say you want to be able to add someone else to the broadcast. You simply remove your first guest and add someone else. Guests can of course leave the broadcast on their own accord.

The resulting video can be shared to your Stories or discarded altogether. This feature has been available on Facebook Live since May. Any of you got the Instagram version? Please share your views!