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

California Issues Draft NGSS Framework for Revising Science Ed

California has adopted a revised science framework intended to help its public schools transform instruction to mesh with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). It claims to be the first state to do so. The framework offers guidance to educators and science content publishers on how to teach the standards in K-12.

The revision work kicked off in 2013 when state legislators approved adoption of changes to science education that incorporated NGSS. From there the State Board of Education recruited a focus group from among local education agencies, science, higher education and other “stakeholder” organizations to develop a framework for guiding the transition. A draft was issued in 2015 for public review, then again in 2016. In total, about 3,000 public comments were considered during the drafting process.

The new framework expands and refines coverage of climate change and adds engineering, environmental literacy and strategies to support girls and young women in science. It also encourages the teacher-as-facilitator model, in which he or she poses questions and students conduct experiments and projects to make discoveries.

Click here to read the full story in T.H.E. Journal (December 6, 2016)

Click here to  read the draft science framework.

Louisiana Seeks Public Input on Science Standards

According to the Louisiana News Star, the Louisiana Department of Education announced the launch of the Louisiana Student Standards Review Portal, which gives parents, educators and other stakeholders the opportunity to provide input on Louisiana’s Student Standards for science. The portal provides the public with the first look at the initial draft of the new standards and an opportunity to submit feedback.

The science standards review process, approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in June, is designed to replace Louisiana’s current grade-level expectations for science which were established in 2005.

All public comments received through the portal by Jan. 6 will be shared with the workgroups and committee and will be posted on the Department’s website.

In January, the content workgroups will review all feedback submitted through the portal, revise the standards accordingly, and present a final draft to the Standards Committee on Jan. 25. If needed, the content workgroups will meet again in early February to make final revisions to the standards before the Standards Committee reviews and approves the final draft at its Feb. 13 meeting, and presents it to BESE for approval in March.

Pending BESE’s approval, Louisiana educators will receive tools and resources to support the implementation of the new standards during the Teacher Leader Summit in June, and throughout the 2017-18 school year.

Click here to read the full story in the New Star (December 1, 2016)

Click here to access the Louisiana Student Standards Review Portal

School district committee proposes progressive student standards

Blaine County (Idaho) School District teachers and administrators are proposing new science and social/emotional learning standards.

During a school board meeting Nov. 8, Dan Vanden Heuvel, a biology and botany teacher at Wood River High School, said Idaho’s state science standards are lagging behind others’. He suggested that the School District join other Idaho districts in implementing higher standards so that local kids are more competitive on the state and national levels.

After several committee meetings and suggestions from school teachers and staff, Vanden Heuvel said, a good guide is the Next Generation Science Standards. He explained that those standards are already implemented by several states and were designed by the scientists that actually implement those skills.

Click here to read the full article in the Idaho Mountain Express (November 17, 2016)

U.S. Supreme Court Won’t Hear Religious Argument Against Science Standards

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday (November 14) declined to hear the appeal of a group of Kansas parents and students who object on religious grounds to the state’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards.

The group alleged in a lawsuit against the Kansas state education department that the standards, developed by 26 states based on a framework published by the National Research Council, address religious questions by removing a “theistic” viewpoint and creating a “non-theistic worldview” in science instruction in the public schools.

The lawsuit by a group called Citizens for Objective Public Education said that in addressing questions such as “where do we come from?”, the Next Generation standards rely on an “orthodoxy called Methodological Naturalism or Scientific Materialism and a variety of other deceptive methods to lead impressionable children, beginning in kindergarten, to answer the questions with only materialistic/atheistic answers,” as the group said in its Supreme Court appeal.

Click here to read the full story in Education Week’s School Law Blog. (November 14, 2016)

Teaching to higher standards

Channahon (Illinois) Junior High School seventh-grade science teacher Kirk Lange is making the most of the new science standards, declaring that they give him even more opportunity to immerse his students into science.

While many see the new Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, as too complex or demanding, Lange sees them as a great opportunity.

Seventh grade focuses on biology, he said, which is the perfect venue to combine subject matter with projects, collaboration and technology, which is what the new K-12 standards are all about.

“I was looking to make a big change,” Lange said, “and with the new standards, it seemed like the best time to make a big shift. I took everything I was doing and revamped it from the ground up. I think this will show us what the students can really do with higher-order thinking. … I’m driving for a much deeper understanding.”

Click here to read the full article in The Herald-News (November 9, 2016)

Day in the Life: Teaching the next generation of scientists

Thomas ‘TJ’ McKenna didn’t ask to be called ‘The Science Guy,’ but it happened anyway.

McKenna, a graduate student at the University of Connecticut studying science education, is a staff scientist at the Connecticut Science Center. His resume includes a masters in entomology, running a widely-read science blog, being cited as a co-author in a study on squirrel behavior, hosting two weekly science shows and, most recently, moderating a question and answer session for the Mythbusters.

McKenna’s main focus is currently on the Next Generation Science Standards, a set of teaching standards that help teach students about topics in the field of STEM.

“The way we learn science in classrooms now is very different from what we need to compete on an international level,” McKenna said. “We need to shift the way science is done.”

One of the ways McKenna encourages STEM involvement is through his blog, Phenomena for NGSS. The site features various articles, videos and gifs of different questions and topics in the field of science, such as bicycle aerodynamics and deer migration. The point of these topics, McKenna said, for teachers to use them to get students to ask questions.

Click here to read the full story in The Daily Campus (UConn, November 8, 2016)