Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Urban Education


Nicholas M. Michelli

Committee Members

Anthony Picciano

Mario Kelly

Subject Categories

Science and Mathematics Education


Senge, organizational change, professional development, secondary science education, organizational learning


This dissertation is a mixed methods study of the Urban Advantage Program- a Middle School Science Initiative formed by the New York City Department of Education and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in collaboration with New York City’s science culturally rich institutions – the Bronx Zoo, the Staten Island Zoo, the Hall of Science, the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the Queens Botanical Garden, the New York Botanical Garden, and the New York Aquarium. Unprecedented in size and scope, UA brings together the largest school system in the largest city in the United States in a partnership with eight large independent science cultural institutions toward supporting teachers and students in implementation of science inquiry. The purpose of this study is to elucidate how the program is structured to support all stakeholders involved. The main argument is that UA is a learning organization when viewed through the lens of Senge’s Learning Organization Theory. Senge argues that all learning organizations incorporate and enact five disciplines, also known as component technologies: systems thinking, personal mastery, mental models, building shared vision, and team learning (Senge, 1990). The findings of this study map UA practices and structure directly onto each of the five disciplines. Systems thinking is evidenced in the program design, policy and direction and involves two change leaders at the helm. Using one partner institution as a unit of analysis personal mastery is evidenced via interviews and observations of a partner and lead teacher. Mental models of UA teachers and lead teachers are surfaced through a survey and interviews. Building shared vision is evidenced in a two day retreat of UA in 2011 as well as a Middle School Leadership Institute held at AMNH in the spring of 2009. Arguably, team learning is present throughout all of UA activities, however is markedly evident in the evolution of a UA designed tool, the Rubric for Long-Term Science Investigations. UA changed the rubric incorporating the changes in the national standards including National Science Education Standards, Common Core Standards, and Next Generation Science Standards. Analysis of the rubric changes involved rubrics from a ten year period. A reflective rubric designed for use by UA teachers to evaluate student long-term investigations brought to an annual Science Expo held at AMNH in 2011, was a tool used to analyze 112 student work projects as well as teacher understanding of the component parts of an inquiry investigation. The analysis was submitted to UA shortly after it was completed and was used to inform professional development and instructional practices. While a UA National initiative, using the UA model is already underway for Middle School Science in several cities, recommendations for further research include examining the UA model for use in NYC for high school students and for other disciplines including ELA, Social Studies and Art.