Overhauling Math and Science Education

Quanta magazine, online publication seeking to enhance public understanding of science explores the efforts to overhaul math and science education with Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

“While the ultimate impact of both the Common Core and NGSS is still uncertain, it’s clear these standards go beyond simply swapping one set of textbooks for another — to really take hold, they’ll require a fundamental rethinking of everything from assessments to classroom materials to the basic relationship between teachers and students.”

“NGSS and the Common Core are a significant departure from the way science and math have been taught, but they didn’t come out of nowhere. In fact, they’re consistent with a trend that’s been slow-boiling for a half-century.”

“Teaching in this fashion can be exciting, but it will take sustained commitment for these techniques to ripple through the 100,000 or so public schools in the United States. In order for the new science and math standards to succeed, the entire education ecosystem will need to pull in that direction, from writers of standards to textbook publishers to professors in education schools to curriculum leaders running professional development sessions, to teachers swapping lesson ideas online. Just as the core concepts in math and science require repeated encounters over many years to be fully absorbed, a new practice of math and science teaching will need time to become established.”

Click here to read the full article in Quanta (October 5, 2016)

Rhode Island science scores continue to slide

The Providence Journal reports that no school district and no groups of students made significant improvements in science in 2016, according to the Rhode Island Department of Education. In fact, this year’s results continue a four-year decline in science proficiency.

State Education Commissioner Ken Wagner said there is a reason for the poor showing. In 2013, Rhode Island adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, but the current assessment (the New England Common Assessment Program or NECAP) is much more focused on subject matter, so the test no longer reflects what students are learning in the classroom.

“There is a mismatch between our test and our new standards,” Wagner said.

Rhode Island is in discussions with other Next Generation states about what the new assessment test that will replace the NECAP should look like, and Wagner hopes it will be up and running in 2018.

Click here to read the full story in the Providence Journal (September 27, 2016)


New science standards approved by the Wyoming Board of Education

wyoming-tribune-imageThe Wyoming State Board of Education voted unanimously Friday to approve the 2016 Wyoming Science Content and Performance Standards, the first new science standards in 13 years, according to a release from the board.

The standards will now be sent to Gov. Matt Mead. If the standards are approved, school districts will develop local curricula to implement the standards by the 2020-21 school year.

“We are very pleased to be moving forward with new science standards built by an engaged and diverse group of educators, administrators, business people and parents throughout Wyoming,” said Pete Gosar, chairman of the state board. “The public input process on this was lengthy and robust. We applaud and appreciate Laurie Hernandez and the entire Wyoming Department of Education’s efforts and analysis throughout the process.”

Modeled after the Next Generation Science Standards written by the National Research Council in collaboration with the National Science Teachers Association, with significant input from 41 educators, parents, business leaders and community members, the new science standards are customized for Wyoming students, according to the release.
Click here to read the full story in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle (Sept. 24, 2016)
Click here to read a press release issued by the Wyoming State Board of Education

Encouraging the Scientists of Tomorrow

In an opinion piece in the Santa Barbara publication, Noozhawk, Santa Barbara Superintendent of Schools Bill Cirone explores the states new science education standards. 

Having a strong scientific background enables students to make informed decisions about issues that affect their lives, and helps prepare them for a future that, in many ways, is unpredictable.

Recognizing the critical role science plays in a student’s academic and intellectual development, California recently adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. This adoption marks the first science-standards update since 1998.

While the old standards heavily emphasized knowing scientific facts and theories, the new standards address all three dimensions of science: content, concepts and practice.

That intellectual growth is valuable not only for those students who go on to become scientists or engineers, but also for the great majority of students who do not follow these professional paths.

The new standards are great developments in science education. They capture the wonder, curiosity and excitement most students bring naturally to science. By engaging students in these concepts and practices, teachers help them develop the skills to think like scientists and engineers.

Click here to read the full article in Noozhawk (September 21, 2016)


Montana adopts new science standards

The Montana Board of Public Education adopted new science standards for public school students Friday at a meeting in Bozeman.

The standards have benchmarks for what students are supposed to learn at certain grade levels. They don’t dictate how teachers get students there, as local districts have control over their curriculum.

The new guidelines resemble the Next Generation Science Standards, which were developed by a 26-state group in 2013 and are considered by many to be more rigorous than most previously instituted standards.

Click here to read the full story in the Billings Gazette (September 16, 2016)

St. Vincent de Paul School embraces new science standards

The Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City implemented the Next Generation Science Standards in all Utah Catholic Schools this year. These new standards explore content at a deeper level, provide more hands-on science experiments, and include practices scientists use in the field.

Click here to read the full story in Intermountain Catholic (September 2, 2016)

Here’s What We Know About the Next Generation Science Standards Tests

ngss imageEducation Week’s Liana Heitin reports that many states plan to start testing students on Next Generation Science Standards in the spring of 2018.

She writes that last week, the American Institutes for Research, a research and evaluation nonprofit that is contracting with some states to design and implement NGSS tests, brought together psychometricians, science education experts, and state leaders for two days on how to turn the standards into state summative exams. The states represented included California, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and West Virginia. (New Hampshire and Utah didn’t officially adopt the NGSS, but New Hampshire is considering adoption and Utah adopted standards based on the NGSS framework for grades 6-8.)

The meetings were closed to the press, but she spoke with Jon Cohen, president of AIR assessment, and Gary Phillips, AIR’s senior vice president and an institute fellow about some of what the attendees decided at the gathering.

In a nutshell, while the tests will most likely differ from state to state, there will be much in common.

Click here to read the full article in Education Week (August 31, 2016)

After nearly two decades, Lousiana state science standards under review

A state panel Wednesday began reviewing science standards used in public schools, which have not been changed since 1997 and are the third oldest in the nation.

The update, which was ordered by Louisiana’s top school board, is overseen by a 39-member Standards Committee, mostly educators.

Under that panel are two work groups – 35 and 28 members – that will hammer out new benchmarks for students from kindergarten through eighth grade and high school respectively.

The first draft of the changes is due Nov. 7.

A final vote on the plan is set for Feb. 13 in New Orleans.

Click here to read the full story in The Advocate (August 31, 2016)

University of Wyoming Is Training School Districts How To Teach Science Differently

The University of Wyoming has been working with a number of school districts across the state in an effort to change the way science is being taught in K-12 schools. Just this week ACT test scores show that Wyoming students still have a ways to go in being prepared to take college level science. With the roll out of the Next Generation Science Standards, UW has been working with districts to find new ways of teaching to those standards.

Pete Ellsworth is the former coordinator of UW’s Science and Math teaching center and Ana Houseal is UW’s science outreach educator. She says early results show that within the districts that are doing things differently…scores are improving.

Click here to listen to the full story on Wyoming Public Radio (August 26, 2016)

New standards teach Montana students to work like scientists

Guest Opinion by Linda Rost (Billings Gazette)

Montana is adopting new science standards. Our new science standards, for which I served as one of the writers, are currently open for public comment and review.

The Next Generation Science Standards were written in 2013 by teams of teachers and scientists from 26 lead states, including Montana. The main focus of NGSS is for students to actively do science and engineering, the way scientists and engineers do, rather than passively learning about it.

I am the biology, chemistry and science research teacher at Baker High School, with nine years of experience. I have been implementing parts of the standards that are complementary to our current standards for the past three years, and have seen remarkable improvements in student achievement, depth of learning and growth. The lessons I have designed are deeper, exciting, and most importantly, students are the scientists and engineers.

Click here to read the full story in the Billings Gazette (August 27, 2016)