Want To Keep Students Engaged? Ask, Don’t Tell

When we think back to our time in school, the teachers who stick out are the ones who actively engaged us in our learning. New research suggests that those teachers are the minority, but they don’t have to be.

Active learning. Also called hands-on, problem-based, experiential, or student-driven learning—this method is helping students strengthen their abilities to make observations, collect, analyze and synthesize information, and draw conclusions using problem-solving skills. In addition to building skills, research shows that inquiry-based instruction generates the “interest and excitement” needed to set students up for a lifetime of curiosity and self-driven learning, the hallmarks of success in the new economy. Whatever you call it, this kind of learning emphasizes the students’ central role in education and sets them up to drive their own development through exploration of real-world challenges and problems.

Click here to read the full story by Talia Milgrom-Elcott in Forbes Magazine (October 23, 2018)

New Arizona K-12 Science Standards Recognize Evolution

On October 22, the Arizona State Board of Education approved revised science standards, shrugging off outgoing State Superintendent Diane Douglas’ suggestion to replace all the standards with a set from a conservative college in Michigan. The science standards include edits recommended by the Arizona Science Teachers Association after an outcry over how the draft standards addressed evolution. Those edits emphasize that “The unity and diversity of organisms, living and extinct, is the result of evolution.”

Click here to read the full article featured in The Arizona Republic (October 22, 2018)

Commentary: Getting Students from Classroom to Workforce


In a Commentary  featured on the Herald.net, Barbara Hulit, senior vice president at Fortive Corp., and Gary Cohn, superintendent of Everett , Wash, Public Schools note the expected job growth in STEM-related fields and the importance of a strong science education to prepare students for the future workforce.

“… all students should have access to a high-quality education that prepares them to graduate high school ready for whichever career pathways they choose. To ensure this happens, Washington’s learning standards lay out what students should know and be able to do at each grade level. The High School and Beyond Plan helps students explore their interests, connect their learning to potential careers, and plan a meaningful path to complete the 24 credits required for high school graduation. We believe each of our students must also have opportunities to experience hands-on, minds-on science education.

Washington adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which our state calls the Washington State Science Learning Standards, in 2013. These standards are based on extensive research about how students can best learn science. They are designed to make science education accessible and relevant to all students, engaging them in technology and engineering practices that help them understand the world and prepare for any number future careers.

With the standards in place, students in Everett schools, for example, are very engaged in science. They are exploring and investigating concepts such as gravity, light and the water cycle through practices that scientists and engineers use. The standards provide a high bar for the skills, knowledge and experiences students should master, while allowing local flexibility to design lessons that are relevant to students in our community.”

Click here to read the full Commentary in Herald.net (October 7, 2018)

Efforts to make science relevant to diverse populations inadvertently create divisions, study finds

Around the turn of the 20th century, U.S. educators widely considered certain populations less educated, less healthy and unprepared to be true American citizens. If asked, most might argue those practices have disappeared as social norms have changed—particularly given that many reforms today focus on equity and diversity. A University of Kansas researcher has published a study showing how the very efforts to make science relevant to diverse populations inadvertently create new divisions by relying on educational practices with unexamined colonial histories.

The Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, are being implemented in U.S. schools with the goal of improving science relevant to the lives of diverse student populations. This aligns with broader reforms to link science education to real-world problems such as the obesity epidemic by having students from marginalized groups analyze data on their daily habits and advocate for healthier choices in their homes and communities. The standards recommend that teachers connect science to students’ everyday lives through methods like discussing the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup in order to motivate students from nondominant racial and ethnic groups. While the goal of improving science education for all students is admirable, Kirchgasler said, the reforms reflect a tendency to formulate educational and health disparities in psychological terms by assuming some children and families lack the knowledge or motivation to make informed, responsible choices. Societal explanations such as unequal access to health care, income inequality, food deserts and others tend to be overlooked.

Click here to read the full story on phys.org (September 26, 2018)

‘Science Not Fairy Tales:’ Teachers Speak Out Against Proposed Science Standards

Parents and teachers on Monday rallied outside an Arizona Board of Education meeting, and then took turns during the meeting blasting a proposal to remove references to evolution and climate change from state science standards.

A separate proposal from Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas to replace all the education standards for K-12 district and charter schools with a set developed by a private college in Michigan with ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos drew another round of outrage.

Before the meeting, protesters with the Secular Coalition of Arizona held up signs with phrases such as “Teach science not fairy tales” and “Science made America great, make America great again.”

Click here to read the full story from azcentral.com (September 24, 2018)

WV hasn’t externally tested SAT’s alignment to state’s science standards

The West Virginia Department of Education hasn’t yet had an external, independent study done of whether the SAT test’s “Analysis in Science” section actually measures what Mountain State students are learning in their science classrooms.

The department, nevertheless, plans to report SAT science scores to the federal government, at least for last school year.

ACT Inc., while protesting the department’s decision about a year ago to award the statewide 11th grade standardized testing bid to College Board, which produces the SAT, challenged the idea of the state using the SAT to test science. Sara Sympson, field communications director for College Board, wrote in an email Friday that “we don’t know of another state using the SAT as its statewide high school science test.”

Click here to read the full story in the Charleston Gazette Mail (September 8, 2018)

Guy who says dinosaurs were on Noah’s Ark tapped to review Arizona’s evolution standards

Here is a bit of instruction from a guy Superintendent Diane Douglas tapped to help review Arizona’s standards on how to teach evolution in science class:

The earth is just 6,000 years old and dinosaurs were present on Noah’s Ark. But only the young ones. The adult ones were too big to fit, don’t you know.

“Plenty of space on the Ark for dinosaurs – no problem,” Joseph Kezele explained to Phoenix New Times’ Joseph Flaherty.

Flaherty reports that in August, Arizona’s soon-to-be ex-superintendent appointed Kezele to a working group charged with reviewing and editing the state’s proposed new state science standards on evolution.

Click here to read the full opinion piece by Laurie Roberts in the Arizona Republic (September 13, 2018)

Getting The Next Generation Science Standards Into The Classroom

In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, “Oklahoma”, the returning cowboy sang, “Everything’s up to date in Kansas City”. Similarly, the Los Alamos High School (LAHS) Science Department wanted to keep up to date with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), so Department Chair Liz Bowden turned to the Los Alamos Public Schools (LAPS) Foundation for help.

The NGSS is a multi-state effort to create new education standards that are “rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education”. The standards were developed by a consortium of 26 states and by the National Science Teachers Association and others. The final draft of the standards was released in April 2013, but the New Mexico version was just released last spring.

Click here to read the full story in the Los Alamos Post Daily (August 28, 2018)

Science Refreshed in Elementary Schools This Year

The San Francisco Unified School District began rolling out the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in secondary schools in 2017. This year, they are rolling out new science standards — and the lessons that helps students learn those standards — across all of our elementary schools.  According to the Vincent Matthews, “in today’s world of information overload, it can be difficult to determine fact from fiction. That’s why we’re teaching critical thinking skills and scientific literacy–to prepare students to think like scientists and engineers, from kindergarten on.”

Click here to read the full article in the San Francisco Examiner (August 27, 2018)

Michigan to Withhold Science Test Scores for Two Years

LANSING — State education officials plan to withhold the public release of science scores from the Michigan Student Test of Educational Progress for two years because they say the exam is a sample test that does not yet measure student proficiency.

The Michigan Department of Education says it plans next Wednesday to release scores in all other subject areas from the M-STEP — math, English Language Arts and social studies.

But student scores from the science test, taken in April and May by students in grades 5, 8 and 11, are being withheld because state education officials are still developing the new computer-based science assessment through the 2019-20 school year and are continuing to vet test questions and make changes.

Michigan adopted new K-12 science standards in 2016 based on the Next Generation Science Standards, which replaced the standards adopted in 2006 and introduced science and engineering practices, state officials said. In 2017, knowing field tests would be conducted, state education officials moved M-STEP testing in science from grades 4, 7 and 11 to grades 5, 8 and 11.

Click here to read the full story in The Detroit News (Aug 22, 2018)