California renews push to promote environmental literacy in schools

According to Ed Source environmental education in California got another big push last November when the State Board of Education approved integrating five key environmental principles into the new science frameworks last November. The frameworks provide a blueprint for introducing the Next Generation Science Standards, which the state adopted in 2013, and are gradually being introduced in schools across the state.

The standards represent a comprehensive approach to teaching K-12 science focused on hands-on experiments, critical thinking, and multidisciplinary concepts and patterns.

The State Board also voted last year to include environmental principles in the framework for the history-social science curriculum, which means students would learn about topics such as how humans have attempted to shape their environment throughout history, from Paleolithic times to the present, or how a healthy environment is crucial for human survival.

Thus, as schools move forward with implementation of the standards, educators are hoping that a range of environmental topics related to the environment will be routinely taught in science as well as history and social studies classes, and will cover everything from habitats to water systems and the impact of deforestation.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (February 12, 2017)

New Mexico House Ed Committee Passes Bill to Adopt NGSS

House Bill 211, requiring the Public Education Department to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for New Mexico schools, has passed the House Education Committee.

NGSS standards establish a framework that incorporates the application of technology and engineering in addition to science and mathematics. Sponsored by Rep. Andres Romero (D-Albuquerque) and Rep. Bill McCamley (D-Mesilla Park), HB 211 takes into account the need for New Mexico’s students to be competitive with their national peers by becoming proficient in the skills, technologies and critical thinking skills required for jobs as scientists, engineers, technologists and technicians.

“From our military bases, national laboratories, and research universities, New Mexico needs students who are proficient in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” said Romero, a high school teacher. “For our state to be economically competitive and self-sufficient, teaching our students these next generation science standards is critical.”

HB 211 passed House Education Committee in an 8-3 vote and will be heard next on the House floor.

Click here to read the full story in the Los Alamos Daily Post (February 9, 2017)

Lawmakers strip climate change references from new Idaho K-12 science standards

NY’s science standards energize learning, teacher says

In response to a community commentary published on Dec. 25 in The Journal News (, New York State teacher Kottie Christie-Blick writes about her appreciation of the Next Generation Science Standards.

“As an elementary teacher, I appreciate having the Next Generation Science Standards. They are well thought out guidelines for creating a scientifically literate population. The standards were authored by a consortium of scientists and educators in 26 states, and sent out for public review while in the making.”

“Meeting these science standards in the classroom requires that my students be actively engaged in scientific discovery and engineering practices. The emphasis is on understanding scientific concepts, and learning how to think like scientists by wondering, exploring, observing, experimenting, recognizing patterns and cause-and-effect relationships, as well as learning background information from reliable sources.”

Click here to read the full commentary in The Journal News ( (January 30, 2017)

With More Exposure to Science, English-Learners’ Achievement Soared

Ed Week’s Corey Mitchell writes about a new study that shows integrating innovative science courses and English-language instruction can dramatically boost student achievement and test scores in the sciences, along with reading, and writing. This is according to a new study from the Oakland, Calif.-based Education Trust West.

The report, “Unlocking Learning: Science as a Lever for English Learner Equity,” explored how six districts, ranging from rural to urban and all with sizable English-learner populations, taught science to the students.

The curriculum in each district was aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of common science standards adopted by states that emphasize scientific inquiry along with engineering and design, and prioritize experimentation over memorization. The study notes that conducting experiments in teams forces ELL students to communicate, allowing them to practice their problem-solving and English-language skills at the same time. The researchers also noted that many key science vocabulary words are Spanish cognates, which means they’re accessible to Spanish-speakers who have a base of science knowledge in their native language.

Click here to read full story in Education Week (January 19, 2017) registration required

U.S. Education Department rejects California’s science testing plans

With two days remaining before President-elect Donald Trump’s inauguration, the U.S. Department of Education has rejected California’s request to begin administering online tests this spring based on new science standards, in lieu of a test based on standards established in 1998.

The state’s final administrative appeal following a six-months-long battle over science testing in California was denied Wednesday in a Jan. 18 letter sent by Ann Whalen, a senior adviser to U.S. Secretary of Education John King Jr., to State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson and State Board of Education President Michael Kirst.

Whalen wrote that she made her ruling based on concerns about the lack of transparency of science testing data during California’s transition from online pilot testing to fully operational tests set for the 2018-19 school year.

“I remain deeply concerned about the (California Department of Education’s) transition plan and timeline,” Whalen wrote.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (January 18, 2017)

What does leading the nation on NGSS look like?

Washington State is ahead of peers in developing a comprehensive, summative assessment based on the Next Generation Science Standards

After participating as a lead state in writing the Next Generation Science Standards, Washington adopted the NGSS in the fall of 2013. This is the first academic year schools are supposed to have fully implemented the standards in classrooms, and the state plans to pilot new test questions aligned to them this spring. By next year, the transition will be nearly complete.

Washington’s efforts put it at the head of the pack nationwide. Eighteen states and the District of Columbia have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards and all are at varying stages of readiness when it comes to assessing students based on them. California, for example, which approved a blueprint for aligning curriculum with the NGSS in November, will not have an operational test until the 2018-19 school year.


Click here to read the full story in Education DIVE (January 19, 2017)

Students respond enthusiastically to new science standards in ‘early adopter’ districts

California’s new science standards were in full flower last week at a middle school in Oakland when 8th-grader Amy Zhang strung together a battery, wire and carpentry nail and marveled when not one, not two, but five paper clips jumped to the nail magnetically.

“Wow. We did it. I thought it wasn’t going to work,” she said to her classmates at Edna Brewer Middle School in Oakland Unified, one of eight districts and two charter school organizations that have been early adopters of the Next Generation Science Standards.

They are all participants in the California K-8 Next Generation Science Standards Early Implementation Initiative, a “fast start” demonstration project for the new standards adopted by California in 2013.

WestEd is overseeing the early implementation program, which is funded by the S.D. Bechtel Jr. Foundation. Other schools across the state have also begun implementing the new standards, but those in the WestEd program will share what works and what doesn’t with other districts.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (January 18, 2017)

New Hampshire Adopts Next Generation Science Standards

NSTA congratulates the state of New Hampshire for adopting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in November. The New Hampshire Business Review quoted Tom Raffio, chair of the New Hampshire Board of Education, as saying the standards “will help our students develop the fundamental academic knowledge and the 21st century skills that will be so important in their daily lives and for any career they pursue.“

Click here to read the full story in the New Hampshire Business Review (November 25, 2016)

Click here to read the press release issued by the New Hampshire Department of Education.

Students egg-cited about engineering

“100 feet! 100 feet!” chanted more than 100 fifth-graders as East Fork Fire Department firefighters extended their ladder and launched the students’ “egg-stronauts” during the second annual Egg Drop Challenge Wednesday at Meneley and Minden elementary schools.

The Egg Drop Challenge is the culminating activity for Douglas County School District’s Next Generation Science Standards science kit on gravity. The kit covers motion and gravity and its effects, as well as engineering design with time, material and monetary constraints.

Scarselli Elementary School students also participated in the challenge at Meneley.

“The objective is engineering stemming from gravity and teaching how gravity pulls everything to the center of the Earth,” said Meneley fifth-grade teacher Cathy Hackler. “It teaches problem solving and using a fixed material lists.”

Click here to read the full story in The Record-Courier (December 16, 2016)