Eighth-Grade Teachers in Iowa are Changing the Way Science in Taught

Memorization no longer equals learning, and Iowa’s teachers must adapt their methods.

Nearly 30 eighth-grade science teachers devoted time on Oct. 28 to collaborate and learn the best practices to engage and educate their students according to new standards at an event hosted by the University of Iowa.

The state implemented new science standards in 2015, encouraging teachers to adapt their practices away from memory-based learning and mandating a curriculum in climate science.

University of Iowa (UI) graduate student Susie Ziemer said the UI surveyed teachers last year on how comfortable they felt teaching to the new standards. The professional development hosted by the UI was based on the various needs the teachers identified.

During the sessions, UI Clinical Associate Professor Ted Neal presented ideas and advice on inquiry-based teaching. Climate scientists also joined to share their knowledge.

“I’ve been teaching for 23 years and it’s been a big shift in how things are taught, when things are thoughts, and where they are taught,” said Greg Robertson, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher in Solon.

Click here to read the full story in The Daily Iowan (October 30, 2017)

New Mexico to Adopt Science Standards ‘In Their Entirety’

After facing an onslaught of opposition, New Mexico’s Public Education Department officials on Wednesday decided to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards “in their entirety” with just six state-specific standards, well short of the 35 additions the agency proposed last month.

The science standards outlined by Education Secretary-designate Christopher Ruszkowski on Wednesday contain none of the omissions or changes to the Next Generation Science Standards proposed last month by the agency. Those proposed changes prompted an outcry from scientists and educators.

His decision Wednesday comes after his announcement last week that he would reinstate the original wording regarding evolution, the rise in global temperatures and the 4.6 billion-year age of Earth – the three revisions that had generated the most outcry.

Click here to read the full story in the Albuquerque Journal (Oct. 25, 2017)

New Mexico Wavered on Evolution and Climate Change in Science Education

An apparent attempt to water down language about evolution and climate change in the guidelines for science education in New Mexico met with protests this week at an eventful public hearing at the Public Education Department’s offices in Santa Fe.

Hundreds of people — some of them demonstrating outside with signs — showed up to the event. The meeting lasted for hours, well past its noon deadline. At one point, someone interrupted the proceedings by setting off a fire alarm.

The attendants overwhelmingly called for officials to include evolution and climate change in proposed standards that would guide science education for public school students. That was on Monday, and it appears the New Mexico Public Education Department heard their complaints; on Tuesday, it announced that it would incorporate the public’s suggestions.

But some say that still wasn’t enough.

But as of Friday, the revised language still deviated from the Next Generation Science standards a little bit, according to analysis from the Environmental Education Association.

Click here to read the full story in The New York Times (Oct. 20, 2017)

Calif. strongly backs expanded science and computer education in schools

poll by Berkeley IGS/EdSource, which surveyed 1,200 registered voters in California, found that a large proportion (87 percent) support the notion of putting “greater emphasis on integrating science as part of the entire public school curriculum.”


Despite the majority of voters saying they hadn’t heard of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) – the new science standards adopted by the state in 2013 – 68 percent supported the movement once it was explained to them. Only 2 percent of voters strongly opposed the new standards.
Click here to read the full story in SI News (Oct. 23, 2017)

Methods by which students learn science undergoing revision with ACESSE Project

A high-profile, learning sciences project known as Advancing Coherent and Equitable Systems of Science Education (ACESSE) could be the impetus behind driving national change about how K-12 students learn science.

Funded by the National Science Foundation, the project brings together 13 member states, eight of which have adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and five that have not. Pennsylvania has yet to adopt those standards but ACESSE will examine systems of science education at the state level.

“The elements of bridging research and practices in support of ambitious and equitable science instruction and assessment and building coherence and capacity across state systems of education are both powerful and innovative,” said Carla Zembal-Saul, professor of science education who holds the Kahn endowed professorship in STEM education in the College of Education at Penn State.

“We’re going to look at the coherence and infrastructure for implementing and the research-based framework that underlies the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS),” said Zembal-Saul.

Pennsylvania’s ACESSE team consists of Zembal-Saul; Rick Duschl, the Kenneth B. Waterbury chaired professor in secondary education in the College; and Judd Pittman, special consultant to Pennsylvania State Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera.

ACESSE PA will examine the degree to which there is alignment of curriculum, instruction and assessment with the policies and practices in Pennsylvania science standards, or horizontal coherence.

It also will explore the extent to which there exists shared understandings and consensus practices statewide in three-dimensional science learning goals and the purposes and uses of formative assessment, or vertical coherence.

The Next Generation Science Standards, Zembal-Saul said, are based on a framework that was published first and based on a number of research syntheses. “One of the most important ones is a document from the National Research Council called ‘Taking Science to School,’ and Rick (Duschl) was one of the authors on that,” Zembal-Saul said.

“Decades of research provide strong support for a new vision for science learning that is ambitious and equitable. Transforming the vision into practice requires the integration of crosscutting concepts in science (cause and effect, systems and modeling, and patterns); scientific discourse and practices (arguing from evidence, constructing and interrogating scientific explanations); and what is traditionally known as the content of science (disciplinary core ideas),” she said.


Click here to read the full story in Penn State News (Oct. 2, 2017)

New Mexico Science Standards

New Mexico science educators, scientists, business leaders, and community members continue the fight to ensure the full science content of the NGSS is adopted without removal of select key science topics, including climate change. Here are recent news clips about the issue:

NM Rally Protests “Dumbing Down” of Science Education (Public News Service, Oct. 19, 2017)

Why does PED want to weaken public school science standards? (dchieftain.com, Oct. 19, 2017)

Teacher unions: NM PED’s changes to science standards aren’t enough (KRQE News 13, Oct. 19, 2017)

PED dropping some proposed changes to science standards (Albuquerque Journal x, Oct. 18, 2017)

New Mexico to rewrite proposed science standards (Las Cruces Sun-News, Oct. 18, 2017)

Facing Public Outcry, New Mexico Restores Evolution and Global Warming to Science Standards (Mother Jones, Oct. 18, 2017)

American Federation Of Teachers New Mexico Reacts To NM PED Hearing On Proposed Science Changes (Los Alamos Daily Post, Oct. 17, 2017)

Science standards meeting fills state hearing room

Hundreds appeared Monday in Santa Fe for the single public hearing scheduled to comment on controversial science standards proposed by the state’s Public Education Department.

Two Los Alamos schools officials, Superintendent Kurt Steinhaus and board member Andrea Cunningham, had signed up to speak, but due to a lengthy interruption from a false fire alarm and problems managing the hearing’s sign-in sheets, the two didn’t speak. A second board member was called on to speak.

Next Gen science standards were developed in 2013 by a consortium of 26 states, including people in New Mexico, and other organizations, such as National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Research Council.

Changes made at PED include replacing references to climate change with “temperature fluctuations,” removes mention of the earth’s age as 4.8 billion years, and tweaks instruction on evolution.

Attendees and commenters included scientists, educators and school officials, young students, academics, a rabbi, a Franciscan nun, and a politician or two.

Audience members clapped and cheered after every statement.


Calling one of the standards “propaganda for the oil and gas industry,” Los Alamos school board member Ellen Ben-Naim testified that renewable energy sources in New Mexico were ignored by the PED’s proposal.

She noted that PED and its secretary designate Christopher Ruszkowski, who wasn’t at the hearing, appeared to have ignored vetting requirements of instructional materials.

Click here to read the full story in the Los Alamos Monitor Online (October 16, 2017)



The next generation of science education means more doing

Five groups of high school students worked around tables in Vielca Anglin’s science classroom on a recent afternoon at City-As-School in New York City. They had half-liter water bottles in front of them and a range of materials including pebbles, soil, rice, marbles, scouring pads and gauze. Their task: create a gravity-driven water filtration system that gets dirty water as clean as possible. It was up to them to decide what materials to use and in what order.

The lesson came five days after Hurricane Maria had pummeled Puerto Rico, when residents had started to realize the lack of access to clean water could cause a public health crisis on the island. Anglin was asking students to think and act like scientists and engineers.

“That’s what this class is about,” Anglin said. “Getting students to understand that they’re designers, that they’re engineers, and they can be a part of these real-world issues and real-world problems that are coming up.”



This type of project reflects the best intentions of the Next Generation Science Standards, which encourage teachers to enable students to learn science by doing. Drafted by representatives of K-12 education, higher education, industry and state governments between 2011 and 2013, the standards call for schools to help students build on science knowledge from one year to the next and make connections across disciplines that have historically been approached as completely separate.


The Next Generation Science Standards, adopted so far by 18 states and the District of Columbia, demand a three-dimensional approach to instruction. Each lesson should combine “practices,” or the behaviors of real scientists and engineers; “cross-cutting concepts,” which clarify connections across science disciplines and help students create a coherent view of the world based on science, and “disciplinary core ideas,” or the fundamental ideas students must know to understand a given science discipline.

Click here to read the full story in the Hechinger Report (October 11, 2017)


Science lessons cook up collaboration

Vincent Matthews, superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, explores what’s starting to happen as they change how they teach science.


We already know that if our students are to thrive in the global economy and be eligible for jobs in the ever-expanding field of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, they need a solid science education that prepares them.

But we haven’t really changed how we teach science as rapidly as our world has changed.

We have seen a lot of major advances in science. We also know a lot more about how students actually learn.

So, this year we are teaching the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).


For a long time, most subjects in school were taught in separate classes. For instance, math teachers didn’t coordinate with engineering teachers on their lesson plans.

But that’s not how it works in the work world — or most projects would fail.

At SFUSD we developed our Vision 2025 plan and our Next Generation Science Standards curriculum with biotech industry leaders, engineering executives and university professors, among others.

You know what they said? They want employees who can look at a problem together and come up with creative solutions. They need people who can apply concepts in new ways.

Memorizing facts and working independently are just not enough. They also need people who can explain their new solutions well to others.


There I was, on the first day of school, at Buena Vista Horace Mann with dozens of students approaching the eclipse with art, measurements and pin holes. Everywhere students were marveling at the moon covering the sun — sharing with others what they saw happening, and why.

This is how we approach science education. Communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem solving and flexibility — these skills will serve them well throughout their lives.


Click here to read the full story in the San Francisco Examiner (October 10, 2017)

They Were Really Worried About Creationists and the Oil Companies

New Mexico’s top education official is misleading the public about how his agency crafted a series of controversial changes to the state’s science standards, according to a former state employee who worked on the standards and later quit in protest.

Last month, as Mother Jones first reported, the state’s public education agency released a plan for updating its science education guidelines for grades K-12. The draft language drew heavily on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which were developed over several years by national science and teaching associations, as well as by an array of other scientists, teachers, professors, engineers, cognitive experts, and business leaders. At least 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted NGSS to teach science to their students.

But there were some eyebrow-raising differences in New Mexico’s guidelines. The proposed standards deleted language from the NGSS referencing the “4.6-billion-year” history of the Earth, omitted entirely one mention of evolution, and eliminated references to human-caused global warming. In one case, the proposed standards would replace language about the “rise in global temperatures” with a reference to the supposed “fluctuation” in global temperatures. The new standards have not yet gone into effect; they’ll be debated at a public meeting later this month.


Christopher Ruszkowski, the head of New Mexico’s Public Education Department, shot back at critics by saying that his agency’s proposed changes—including those that fly in the face of peer-reviewed science and long-accepted facts—resulted from input by “a bunch of different groups,” among them “business groups, civic groups, teacher groups, superintendents.” He wouldn’t specify who the groups were but said the process that went into writing the controversial proposed standards was “how PED does business.”

But that’s not how it happened, according to Lesley Galyas, a former state employee who was in charge of PED’s efforts to revamp its outdated science standards until late last year, when she resigned. Galyas, who served four years as the math and science bureau chief at the department, said her job in part entailed overseeing teachers’ groups, focus groups, and a math and science advisory committee, all with the aim of bringing New Mexico’s standards in line with the latest research on science and teaching.

PED says it will hold a public hearing on its proposed science standards on October 16 in Santa Fe, the state capital.

Click here to read the full story in Mother Jones (October 6, 2017)