Measuring New Science Standards Is Hard. These Projects Aim to Change That

About 18 states have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. And although these shared science expectations have been out for about five years, testing models that fully capture students’ grasp of them have lagged far behind. (So far, only a handful of states have updated their science tests to match.)

The NGSS poses some big technical challenges for the smarty-pants who develop student tests. For one, the NGSS expects students to learn primarily by interacting with phenomena and recording and analyzing data. That’s basically the inverse of how most of us learned science, in which a teacher explained a new concept and, if we were lucky, illustrated it through a lab.

New tests also needs to match the standards’ crosscutting concepts, such as being able to recognize patterns and understand scale and proportion.

Now, the American Association for the Advancement of Science has begun a new project to craft model test items related to the standards’ energy practices.

Click here to read the full story in Education Week (April 10, 2018) registration required


NGSS Expands Science Peer Review Panel

Achieve, a non-profit that focuses on college and career readiness, has announced new members of its Science Peer Review Panel. The additions will help the organization to expand its work evaluating lesson sequences and units designed for the Next Generation Science Standards and sharing high-quality examples online. Participants will receive ample professional development as part of their new roles.

Three-hundred people applied for the jobs. Those chosen will join a group of 38 other educators on the panel. Over half have identified engineering as an area of content experience, a high-need area for the focus of the Science panel’s work, and about half of the new peer reviewers have spent more than a decade as classroom teachers.

Click here to read the full story in T.H.E. Journal (March 21, 2018)

Worcester Polytechnic to Help Train Science, Math ‘Ambassadors’ in MA

WORCESTER – A local university is helping the state’s education department assemble a team of educators who will fan out across Massachusetts in the coming year to help school districts figure out how to implement the state’s new math and science standards in their classes.

The math and science/technology/engineering (STE) ambassador program, the first of its kind to be used by the education department, aims to train 35 “ambassadors” in total, who will not only use the expertise they acquire in their own districts, but also assist other school systems with the transition to the new standards.

The state has partnered with Worcester Polytechnic Institute’s STEM Education Center on the project. The university was one of several organizations that bid to take on the project, according to state officials. WPI’s role will be to help select and train local educators to be ambassadors and monitor those candidates’ progress assembling and training their own teams to assist with the implementation of the standards in their districts.

Click here to read the full story on (March 25, 2018)

Juneau Alaska School Officials Consider Teaching Climate Change

The Associated Press reports that Juneau school officials are considering adopting science education standards that include teaching middle and high school students about climate change.

Alaska’s Energy Desk reports the Juneau School District is borrowing some core ideas from the Next Generation Science Standards, which include providing students with an understanding of the relationship between human activity and the Earth.
Climate change is included in the state’s science education standards. The Alaska Department of Education says it’s largely up to the school districts to decide how the topic is taught.
Click here to read the story from KTVA radio (March 24, 2018)

Nonprofit Will Issue ‘Digital Badges’ for Science Units That Align With Standards

The nonprofit group Achieve, which advocates for better standards and assessments, has launched an interesting new initiative that brings together several trends: curricular alignment, digital badges or credentials, and open educational resources.

The initiative is meant to respond to the continuing challenge of ensuring that, in the nearly 20 states that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, the materials used for teaching and learning are aligned to the new expectations.

The NGSS’ complex structure includes three “dimensions,” generally outlining not just what students should know and be able to do but also the scientific tools and practices they need to master in order to investigate scientific topics. But too often new curricula are listed as aligned when they omit some of those features, said Chad Colby, an Achieve spokesman.

Click here to read the full story in  the Curriculum Matters blog in Education Week  (March 15, 2018)

Teacher Shortage, Lack of Supplies Hinder Rollout of New Science Standards in CA

ost teachers are embracing California’s new science standards, but the rollout has been hampered by teacher shortages, lackluster elementary science education, lack of supplies and other obstacles, according to a new report.

The report by the Public Policy Institute of California surveyed 204 school districts across California at the end of the 2016-17 school year about their progress in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, which were adopted in 2013 and which schools are currently introducing.

“The upshot is that the vast majority of districts have high hopes for Next Generation Science Standards and believe the standards will improve students’ performance in science,” said Niu Gao, report co-author and research fellow at the institute. “But districts are facing a variety of challenges.”

The report found that some districts, especially those that are low-income or low-performing, are struggling to implement the new standards because of inadequate science labs, lack of materials and a shortage of credentialed science teachers, which has led to larger class sizes.

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (March 12, 2018)

In the Classroom: Students Learn to Weather the Storm in Science

A fan sat in front of Middletown Middle School sixth-grader Morgan Speirs, slightly blowing her blond hair as she held a fake microphone.

“There’s a hurricane here in Ocean City, and winds are reaching more than 75 miles per hour,” she said, recording a mock news report for her class about a hurricane in Ocean City.

Morgan and her partner, Addie Betro, used Flipgrid, a student engagement video recording software, to record the news report that explains how technology can be used to mitigate the effects of a hurricane.

After Morgan and Addie record their video, they post it for other students, who log in to watch the videos and offer critiques.

“Having them watch each other’s videos creates a positive discourse that allows them to engage and bounce ideas off of each other,” said Middletown Middle School sixth-grade teacher Stacey Morrissey.

Under the Next Generation Science Standards, which Maryland adopted in 2013 but didn’t begin full statewide implementation until this school year, students are required to “analyze and interpret data on natural disasters, such as floods, hurricanes or volcanic eruptions, to forecast future catastrophic events and understand how the development of technologies is used to mitigate those effects.”


Click here to read the full story in the Frederick News-Post (March 9, 2018)

North Idaho Schools Cut Through Climate Debate by Teaching Kids to Think Like Scientists

Somewhere in the process of digging down through 7 feet of snow near the top of a mountain, measuring the snowpack and jotting down numbers, Cheyenne Kiecker discovered something that, for her, felt impossible: Maybe she does like science after all.

In February, Kiecker and her classmates studied the snow at Lookout Pass in North Idaho. She learned how the snow impacts the runoff into streams and rivers and lakes, how it affects the fish and the spring foliage, how it changes the wildfire season. And she’s learned that in recent decades, the snowpack in the very spot she and her classmates dug into has trended downward.

“It was really interesting to think about how the snow I was looking at impacts everything I deal with on a daily basis,” Kiecker says. “I never thought about these kinds of things.”

The field trip that brought nearly 150 Timberlake High School students up to Lookout Pass is part of a yearlong project that teaches science education in eight different North Idaho schools. It’s called “The Confluence Project,” an education model developed by University of Idaho graduate students several years ago. Today, more than 300 students in area high schools participate, learning about water-science education from the natural environment surrounding them.

And in a state where some politicians have argued human-caused climate change shouldn’t be taught in schools, the project has given students the chance to discover it for themselves.

“The intent of this program was to show students science,” says Jim Ekins, an educator for University of Idaho Extension who helps coordinate the project. “As they become more science literate, it’s a whole lot easier to understand the data that supports anthropogenic climate change.”

Click here to read the full story in the Inlander (March 8, 2018)

Maine Department of Education Seeks Public Input on Science Standards

As part of the scheduled periodic review of the Maine Learning Results, the Maine Department of Education is seeking public comments regarding the current science standards.

A public meeting is planned in Houlton Wednesday, Feb. 28, from 4-6 p.m. Other hearings will be held in Augusta and Westbrook.

The science standards are based on the National Research Council’s 1996 National Science Education Standards and include both processes (ways scientists investigate and communicate about the natural world) and bodies of knowledge (concepts, principles, facts, theories). Technology includes the design process and the study of technological tools and their effects on society.

Click here to read the full story in The County (Feb. 24, 2018)

Idaho Schools to Adopt New Science Standards

According to the Associated Press, after three years of resistance at the GOP-dominant Statehouse, Idaho schools are implementing a new slate of robust science standards.

The Senate Education Committee on Thursday (Feb. 22, 2018) approved adopting the updated science standards after little debate.

“I think it’s important to recognize this content has been well vetted by our teachers, we’ve had public hearings on this information,” said Sen. Janie Ward-Engleking, a Democrat from Boise. “So it’s very important to recognize that these are the professionals of our field and it’s very important to adopt them in their entirety.”

The low-strife energy surrounding the decision stands out in comparison to the years of contested debate led by some Republican lawmakers who had tried to amend the proposed standards over concerns about references to global warming and the origin of the universe.

Click here to read the full story by the Associated Press (Feb. 22, 2018)