Will new standards improve elementary science education?

Science could be considered the perfect elementary school subject. It provides real life applications for reading and math and develops critical thinking skills that help students solve problems in other subjects. Plus, it’s interesting. It helps answer all those “why” questions — Why is the sun hot? Why do fish swim? Why are some people tall and other people short? — that 5- to 8-year-old children are so famous for asking.

Young children are “super curious,” said Matt Krehbiel, director of science for Achieve, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping students graduate high school ready to start college or to pursue a career. “We want them to be able to harness that curiosity to help them make sense of the world around them.”

But science has long been given short shrift in the first few years of school. Most elementary school teachers have little scientific background and many say they feel unprepared to teach the subject well, according to a national survey of science and mathematics education conducted by a North Carolina research firm in 2012. Just 44 percent of K-2 teachers felt they were “well prepared” to teach science, according to the survey, compared to 86 percent who felt well prepared to teach reading.

Click here to read the full story in the Hechinger Report (July 11, 2018)

Bridging the STEM Skills Gap Involves Both Education and Industry Commitments

Rebecca Ellis, a staff writer for STEM Education Works, explores how the workforce of tomorrow requires a strong STEM foundation today. She showcases the work in the automotive industry stating, “robots have become common, performing risky or repetitive tasks and improving the production line. By 2019, there will be approximately 2.6 million industrial robots in use worldwide, according to a 2016 report by the International Federation of Robotics. However, while the increased use of industrial robots has enhanced the precision and efficiency of manufacturing, it has also fueled a skills gap in the field.”

She goes on to recommend that schools and industries  need to bridge this gap and find ways to best prepare students for workforce requirements – one in which science, technology, engineering and mathematics play a major part.

Click here to read the full story in U.S. News and World Report  (July 9, 2018)

Colorado adopts new science standards that focus on inquiry, not memorization

New science standards adopted by a divided Colorado State Board of Education call on students to learn by puzzling through problems in the natural world rather than by listening to facts from a teacher.

The Next Generation Science Standards, already in use in 38 states, represent the most significant change to what Colorado students will be expected to know in this round of revisions to state standards.

The process concluded Wednesday with the adoption of standards in comprehensive health and physical education, reading, writing and communicating, and science. The board had previously adopted new standards in social studies, math, world languages, arts, and computer science, among others. Most of those changes were considered relatively minor.

The Next Generation standards, which were developed based on years of research into how people learn science, are considered a major change. They focus more on using scientific methods of inquiry than on memorization. In a time when we can look up literally any fact on our phones – and when scientific knowledge continues to evolve – supporters of the approach say it’s more important for students to understand how scientists reach conclusions and how to assess information for themselves than it is for them to know the periodic table by heart.

Click here to read the full story in Chalkbeat (June 14, 2018)

Click here to read a story by the National Center for Science Education  (June 14, 2018)

Educators Scramble for Texts to Match Science Standards

Five years after the NGSS rolled out, districts are sorting through a nascent, untested curriculum landscape that’s full of murky claims—leaving both students and teachers in a tough spot as they try to put standards into action.

The challenge is accelerating, even as two developments promise to shake up the marketplace this fall. California, an influential bellwether, will adopt science curricula, and EdReports, a nonprofit that releases Consumer Reports-style curriculum reviews, will unveil its first look at science series.

Until then, though, many districts’ main decision on science curricula comes down to this: Buy now, or wait?

Click here to read the full story by Stephen Sawchuk in Ed Week (June 5, 2018)

Transforming Science Education in San Francisco

Janet Carlson, Associate Professor and Director of the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education writes in Ed Week’s blog, Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice. The post is written from the researcher perspective. Later this week, Ed Week will share the practitioner’s perspective on this research.

Why this Research?

Five years ago, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) made a commitment to invest in the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) through a multi-year solution strategy that combined developing and adapting new curriculum materials with an integrated professional development plan so that the persistent inequities in student learning would be interrupted. Seeing an opportunity in the disruptive nature of the NGSS to alter science teaching and learning in ways that improved learning for all students, the SFUSD Science Team partnered with the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) at Stanford University to ensure that the curriculum and professional development work was guided by best practices and research.

Click here to read the full article in Ed Week (June 4, 2018)

Evolution is and ‘will remain’ part of Arizona’s science curriculum, Ducey says

When it comes to teaching science in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey is apparently on a different page than School Superintendent Diane Douglas.

Ducey said evolution should stay a part of the state’s science curriculum, while creationism should remain out of science class.

“Evolution is part of the curriculum and will remain part of the curriculum,” he said.

The governor’s comment comes after we reported earlier this month that the Arizona’s Department of Education, under Douglas, made revisions to a draft of updated science standards prepared by some of the state’s teachers.

The revisions by the department omitted and watered down references to “evolution” and “evolve.”

Click here to read the full story on the KVOA News 4 website (May 29, 2018)

Arizona Science Educators Raise Alarms about Revised K-12 Standards

 

If you think back to your grade school science classes and Schoolhouse Rock episodes, you might remember memorizing a lot of vocabulary words.

But science is more than words. It’s about wonder, curiosity and experimentation. The new Arizona Science Standards are meant to encourage a messy, hands-on approach to science. The Department of Education’s revisions [shown in green, here] shifted the focus—backward.

“As a professional, as a science educator, I just could not support teaching students this incorrect idea of what science is,” says Lacey Wieser, the department’s former director of K-12 science education. She resigned rather than implement the changes made during an unprecedented internal review.

“I think the changes really shift from the focus from this idea of science of discipline for helping students make sense of the world, to just really memorizing a body of facts,” Wieser says.

Wieser was alarmed by the addition of so-called “key concepts” to the standards. They look a lot like the old vocabulary terms emphasized in Arizona’s outdated standards from 2004. That’s just what the committee of experts who wrote the new document wanted to get away from. Another troubling change: Department staff deleted or qualified the word “evolution” throughout the document.

 

Educators complained the internal review was an overreach of power. Sara Torres, the executive director of the Arizona Science Teachers Association, says, “In the past internal reviews were always done for formatting issues and grammatical edits, and never to change the specific content of the standards.”

 

The draft standards for Science, and History and Social Science, are available for public comment until May 28. They’ll be submitted to the Board of Education for adoption this fall.

Click here to read the full story featured on KNAU Radio (May 14, 2018)

 

Hart School District (Calif.) Eyes Updated Science Curriculum

Amidst grumblings from Santa Clarita Valley (Calif.) teachers who say they lack proper educational materials, the Hart Union High School District is sharing an update on the overhaul of its science curriculum Wednesday.

The William S. Hart Union High School District is expected to look at classroom support at Wednesday’s meeting of the Governing Board regarding the rollout of the Next Generation Science Standards curriculum, as well as an upcoming chemistry pilot that is predicted to commence this year.

To prevent a disastrous situation from occurring in the Santa Clarita Valley’s high school district, personnel have attempted to keep board members apprised of Hart’s new science curriculum for grades seven, eight and nine.

“The item on the board agenda is an update of the work we’ve been doing to shift science instruction in the district,” said Mike Kuhlman, assistant superintendent of educational services. The update is one step in a continuous process that will play out over the next couple of years, he added.

“We believe that in the world that our students are inheriting, they will need to have a STEM focus,” Kuhlman said. “Therefore, we are working to redesign the curriculum with the intent that every student in the Hart district has taken biology, chemistry and physics by the time they graduate.”

“The idea in a nutshell behind the Next Generation Science Standards is ‘science for all,’” Kuhlman said.

Click here to read the full story in The Signal, Santa Clarita Valley (May 1, 2018)

 

 

School board honors student arts — and gets a science lesson

Haughton was giving the Monroe Board of Education a snapshot of Connecticut’s Next Generation Science Standards — and how Monroe’s schools and teachers have met and even exceeded those new requirements. Presenting with Haughton were colleagues Jim Stoelzel, 6-12 instructional leader, and Director of Curriculum Sheila Casinelli.

The presentation on science education and on a separate language arts initiative took up the greater share of the board meeting.

“We have been ahead of the game in adopting the new Next Generation Science Standards,” said Casinelli. “In the curriculum, science and mathematics are interrelated. It is all based on claims, evidence and reasoning.”

Because of the latter, children’s writing and speaking skills become reinforced by the curriculum as well. The new curriculum builds on the strength and popularity of Monroe’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program, which was instituted in 2011.

“The new curriculum standards don’t come in a ‘kit’ but are something that requires innovation at the district level, including ongoing professional development for teachers,” said Stoelzel.

Click here to read the full story in the Monroe Courier (April 25, 2018)