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)

Middle Schools in Plainfield, IL, Implement New Science Standards

Eighth graders in Tabitha Galaty’s Ira Jones Middle School science class tried to decide how much modeling clay to allocate to the Earth versus Pluto.

The students gazed at the paper cutouts of the solar system hanging from the ceiling and compared it to solar system pictured on the white board.

Galaty told the students to use the information they have and their own observations to make a modeling clay replica of the planets.

Last year, Galaty said, she would have given them each planet’s mass, size and weight to use as they constructed their own models.

However, this year, teachers are encouraging and guiding students to solve problems for themselves as part of the new K-12 Next Generation School Science Standards implemented at the middle school level this school year.

The new science standards are one of several changes District 202 implemented in its middle school curriculum this school year.

The Next Generation Science Standards put the “doing of science” in students’ hands, Galaty said.

Teachers are seeing early, encouraging signs of success already, said Paula Sereleas, Director for Middle School Curriculum and Instruction.

Click here to read the full article in the Joliet Herald-News (December 14, 2016)


California wants to update its standardized science tests, but the government says no — again

California wants to update its standardized tests in science. But for the second time, federal officials have nixed the state’s rollout plans.

State officials say that disapproval won’t stop them.

Students have been taking the same science tests in California since 1998. The new tests are supposed to be more hands-on.

They’re in keeping with the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of goals the state recently adopted to focus science learning more on experiments than on listening to teachers give lectures.

California education officials had planned to administer a pilot test this year to students in grades 5, 8, 10, 11 and 12, and then do a field test the following year before fully switching to the new test the year after that. Field tests and pilot tests are different methods for trying out new tests and fixing their flaws before they count.

The officials requested a waiver from federal testing requirements, in part, so students wouldn’t have to take both the pilot tests and the old standardized tests in the same year.

Science instruction evolving to meet needs

In an Orange County Register column called Living Textbooks, Maria Grant, a professor of Secondary Education at California State University, Fullerton, explores the Next Generation Science Standards.

As residents of this planet we are a part of it all – a part of the global society, a part of our local communities and a part of the natural environment. We strive to compete internationally in terms of technology and innovation. Our communities must be designed and sustained in functional, efficient ways. Additionally, we are charged with preserving and protecting our natural world as a place that can sustain us, and future residents, for the long term. We have a responsibility to our young people – the ones seated in K-12 classrooms, poised and ready for relevant and engaging learning.

Because science is so closely tied to the needs just noted, there is a call to action for our elementary, middle and high school teachers. Fortunately, they are heeding that call en masse to revise, reorganize and reconstitute old methods of instruction in favor of newer, research-based means of guiding learning for all. Teachers are altering curriculum to include the practices of engineering, design and stewardship, and they are using tools that are more relevant, more meaningful and more interesting to the children they teach.

The impetus for this forward move in science education comes from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The National Research Council (NRC) developed what it calls A Framework for K-12 Science Education, alongside the new standards (the NGSS). The goal of this is to support learning in ways that foster the following: the comprehension of science-related current events, informed decision-making when it comes to health care, innovation in technology and engineering on local and global scales and an integrated existence with our environment to maintain balance, flow and sustenance. The NGSS are for all students from kindergarten through 12th grade, and California educators across the state have been engaged in professional development, training, planning, and in some cases, implementation, to ensure that students will be prepared to be the engineers, scientists and informed voters of the very near future.

Click here to read the full article in the Orange County Register (December 13, 2016)

New York Approves New Science Education Guidelines

According to The Wall Street Journal, New York state education officials voted to approve a new set of guidelines Monday for what children should learn in science in preschool through 12th grade, starting next fall.

The guidelines emphasize more hand-on projects, engineering and real-world problems. Supporters say they focus less on memorizing collections of facts than in the past, and more on a deeper understanding of scientific phenomena and how they are related.

New York’s new standards are based on the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education” and the nonprofit Achieve’s Next Generation Science Standards, which have been adopted by 17 states and the District of Columbia.

In announcing the new guidelines, the State Education Department said they reflected feedback from teachers and public surveys. A committee of the Board of Regents approved the new standards and the full board, which comprises the same voters, are expected to finalize them Tuesday.

Click here to read the full story in The Wall Street Journal (December 12, 2016)

Click here to read a story in the Times Herald-Record (December 12, 2016)

Click here to read a press release from the New York State Board of Regents