Office of Shared Accountability Reports

Evaluation of the High School Biology Curriculum Pilot


Montgomery County Public Schools is revising the high school biology curriculum by utilizing a problem-based learning (PBL) approach. A group of 16 high schools voluntarily piloted one unit of the revised biology curriculum in 2014–2015. Based on classroom observations of teachers in pilot schools, there was a high level of implementation of PBL practices and a moderate level of implementation of the lesson plans. Based on surveys of students in both pilot and nonpilot schools, there was some evidence that student engagement with the biology unit was higher at the pilot schools; results were strongest for cognitive engagement, which is commitment to learning and understanding the content. Based on unit assessments from students in both pilot and nonpilot schools, there was some evidence that student achievement was higher at the pilot schools than at nonpilot schools for all students and most student subgroups.


  • Place more emphasis on teacher implementation of those PBL practices that are more critical and also have the lowest levels of implementation: connection to the central problem/unit project, student choice related to the unit project, and constructive investigation.
  • Encourage higher levels of fidelity to the lesson plans by overcoming some of teachers’ concerns with pacing, specific lesson content, and lesson clarifications.
  • Explore ways to increase the level of emotional engagement (i.e., excitement and enjoyment of class) among honors level students; the lesson plans were primarily written for on-level students, with some honors distinctions/extensions, so additional honors distinctions/extensions may be helpful.
  • Explore ways to increase the level of psychological engagement (i.e., connection to team and unit project solution) among all students.

    File Name: Report_Bio Pilot_FINAL 2.0.pdf (744KB PDF)