The Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) was established in 1993 as a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving K-12 science education through teacher and program development.
MISE collaborates with teachers, school administrators, parents, Merck employees and higher-education institutions to improve science education in the classroom and to build consensus around the urgency for reform. The Merck Company Foundation has provided more than $50 million to support MISE since its inception. MISE has become a model for how corporations can support the nation's STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) education objectives and make a lasting difference in education reform by focusing on the specific goals of:
- Developing and delivering research-based professional-development opportunities to enhance teachers’ knowledge and skills
- Providing access to high-quality curriculum materials and resources
- Building communities within schools that are committed to strengthening science teaching and learning within and across schools and school districts
- Promoting local, state and national policies that support effective science education
The work is guided by a vision of science classrooms in which inquiry is an integral and regular part of the learning experience of all students. Inquiry-based teaching and learning imitates the thinking and methods of scientists and helps students explore and understand the natural world. The MISE approach to instructional reform rests on the premise that when students are engaged in legitimate inquiry, they develop a greater interest in and deeper understanding of science than is possible through more conventional instructional approaches.
MISE also takes a long-term, systemic approach to science education reform, which focuses primarily on professional development to enhance the knowledge and skills of educators. MISE works in partnership with the New Jersey school districts of Elizabeth, Hillside, Linden, Newark, Rahway and Readington Township, and the Pennsylvania district of North Penn. Newark, New Jersey's largest school district became the newest MISE partner in 2010.
In addition to funding provided by The Merck Company Foundation, MISE has received funding from the National Science Foundation, including $7.1 million in 2003 for MISE and a regional partnership of schools and education organizations to strengthen science and mathematics education in New Jersey’s Elizabeth, Hillside, Linden and Rahway school districts.
MISE has had a significant impact on the character of teaching and learning science in its partner school districts, according to research performed over a 15-year period, first by the Consortium for Policy Research in Education (CPRE) and subsequently by Horizon Research, Incorporated (HRI).
The reports from HRI, which were focused solely on the work of MISE in middle school mathematics and the science classrooms of four New Jersey districts, found that the professional development provided by MISE had an effect on teachers’ instructional strategies, the ability to diagnose student thinking, and the use of formative assessment strategies. Additionally, the professional development strengthened classroom culture and increased focus on content and the use of questioning to stimulate student thinking.
The external analyses also show that MISE is helping to:
- Elevate science as a priority in partnership schools and districts
- Support rigorous, inquiry-based teaching in partnership classrooms
- Support research-based adoption of instructional materials
- Improve hiring and recruitment practices that put more emphasis on teachers' knowledge about content and instructional strategies
- Inform administrators of characteristics of high-performing classrooms
- Develop new district-wide science assessments
Most importantly, MISE has achieved results in the classroom. Analysis of student performance on standardized tests by CPRE found that students receiving science instruction from teachers who participated in MISE professional development over several years outperformed students whose teachers had had only one or no years of MISE training. The differences were statistically significant when comparing the students of teachers with more than three years of MISE professional development with students of teachers with less than three years of MISE professional development.
Additionally, analyses of student achievement data across all four New Jersey districts on the state's Grade Eight Proficiency Assessment found that the race/ethnicity achievement gap is significantly smaller in science for students of teachers who participated in in-class support coaching than for students whose teachers did not participate in coaching. MISE provides academic content and pedagogical support for coaches.
For more information, visit MISE.
While MISE concentrates its efforts in local school districts in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, it seeks to have a broader impact on state and national education reform through its public policy and stakeholder efforts.
Members of the MISE team played a leadership role in the revision of the New Jersey Core Curriculum Content Standards in Science.
MISE contributed to the development of New Jersey’s statewide Mathematics and Science Coalition, made up of educators, policymakers, representatives from business and parents.
In 2010, President Obama recognized MISE as a model science-education initiative when he announced his "Educate to Innovate" campaign, which was designed to strengthen science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education over the next decade. The president highlighted MISE's work and cited the significant expertise and resources that MISE has brought to the task of improving science education.
The Merck Institute for Science Education (MISE) is guided by an Advisory Board of leading experts in science education and education reform.
The Advisory Board is charged with the responsibility to advise and assist the MISE executive director on broad program and policy issues, to review an annual program for the Institute, and to inform the executive director of new research, professional development, education and program opportunities for the institute.
MISE strives to achieve its goals through a variety of programs and activities, including:
The Academy for Leadership in Science Instruction, a three-year professional development program for teachers, principals and district administrators who are able to work in school- and district-based teams and deepen their understanding of the fundamentals of leadership and strong science instruction in classrooms. The program was launched in August 2008, with 365 educators currently participating.
Peer Teacher Workshops is a weeklong professional development program focused on building teachers' capacity to engage in inquiry-based science instruction. During the past 17 years, MISE has offered more than 350 workshops attended by more than 5,000 educators.
MISE Resource Centers, in Rahway, New Jersey, and West Point, Pennsylvania, house and make available high-quality educational materials for local teachers and Merck employees. These include hundreds of books, periodicals, videotapes and curriculum modules based on national science-education standards.
Merck Employee Volunteers is a program through which volunteers support teachers and students in the classroom through electronic mentoring, offering a view of real-world applications of science and mathematics. During the past 12 years, approximately 10,000 Merck employees have shared their time with students and teachers in their communities.
Since 1993, MISE has provided opportunities for professional growth to more than 6,000 educators. Teachers and administrators in MISE professional development programs engage in doing science, reflecting on their teaching, and examining how students learn science.
In 2006, MISE launched an international program in the tsunami-ravaged areas of Thailand, in conjunction with MSD Thailand, the Kenan Institute Asia and the Thai Ministry of Education. Known as the Inquiry-based Science and Technology Education Program (IN-STEP) and launched in Phang-nga with a $500,000 commitment from Merck, the initiative seeks to improve student performance in science through inquiry-based learning and to develop a proven model for the Ministry of Education to replicate nationwide.
Since the program began, MISE has worked with local experts in Thailand to adapt instructional materials from the United States for consistency with Thailand's educational reform program. More than 125 Thai educators have been trained on the use of these instructional materials.
The pilot program has transformed science teaching in Thailand’s lower secondary schools and has had a significant effect on the country’s overall science education policies and practices.