NH State Board and Ed Commissioner Clash on Science Standards

When New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut was appointed to his post in January, the Republican politician assured critics that whatever his personal beliefs, he would consider himself “the implementation guy” for an agenda largely dictated by others.

At a recent State Board of Education meeting, the new commissioner was sharply reminded of his circumscribed role when the State Board of Education unanimously rejected his proposal to reconsider the state’s science standards.

Just last year, the board adopted the Next Generation Science Standards as the state’s model curriculum after a two-year review process. Many local districts – which aren’t bound by the state’s standards – had already adopted the NGSS, as have nearly 20 other states.

Citing a rating by the Fordham Institute, Edelblut wanted the standards reviewed again.

But board members forcefully pushed back, saying that the state had spent two years painstakingly reviewing standards they had only just adopted, and that initiating a new review would confuse teachers and administrators on the ground.

Bill Duncan, another board member, said the board had looked at Fordham’s critique when mulling the standards but they weren’t convinced.

“Fordham’s view of the standards is from 1950 science teaching. This is not the criterion for New Hampshire,” he said.

The board ultimately voted unanimously not to review science standards until 2022.

Click here to read the full story in the Concord Monitor (April 8, 2017)

Climate Change Deletion Finalized in Idaho

The Idaho House of Representatives voted 56-9 to adopt Senate Concurrent Resolution 121 on March 24, 2017, thus finalizing the legislature’s decision to delete five standards — those discussing climate change and human impact on the environment — from a proposed new set of state science standards for Idaho.

As NCSE previously reported, the House Education Committee originally voted in February 2017 to remove the five standards, on the grounds that they failed to present “both sides of the debate.” Despite overwhelming testimony from the public in favor of retaining the standards, the Senate Education Committee followed suit later in the same month.

Click here to read the full story on the National Center for Science Education website (March 27, 2017)


Achieve Publishes Guide for Districts to Help with Implementation of NGSS

To successfully implement the Next Generation Science Standards, districts should establish a science leadership team, ensure that teachers and school leaders get high-quality professional learning, and collaborate with other districts, according to new guidelines from Achieve.

The group, which led the development of the standards, recently released a document outlining 13 “implementation indicators” districts can aim for as they bring the new standards to classrooms. The guide is based on feedback from educators in 10 California districts that served as early implementers.

The new guide acknowledges this and some of the other challenges educators are facing, and offers concrete actions districts can take to make implementation go more smoothly.

Click here to read the full story in Education Week (April 6, 2017)

NM Govenor Vetoes Bill to Set New Science Standards in State Law

To the surprise of no one who’s been following the long, winding road to updating the science taught in New Mexico’s schools, Gov. Susana Martinez vetoed a measure designed to force the adoption of new standards.

House Bill 211 would have required the state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, nationally vetted benchmarks for teaching public school children science from K-12. A group of educators and experts, all appointed by education secretary Hanna Skandera, unanimously recommended the NGSS for adoption four years ago. Two years ago, a focus group of teachers, professors and school administrators—again picked by the Public Education Department—reached the same conclusion.

Click here to read the full story in the Sante Fe Reporter (April 7, 2017)


Engineering Making Headway in Schools, Analysis Shows

Engineering is getting more attention in classrooms, especially in those states that have adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, according to an analysis of national test data.

The NGSS, which were finalized in April 2013, emphasize engineering and design in ways that many previous state standards did not.

Change the Equation, a nonprofit group that mobilizes the business community to improve STEM learning, looked at data from surveys administered to 4th and 8th grade teachers and students as part of the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. The group wrote about the results in two blog posts.

“For 8th grade, pretty much across the board, the early adopters in NGSS saw swift increases in the amount of time teachers were reporting spending on engineering on a couple different measures,” Claus Von Zastrow, the chief operating officer and director of research for Change the Equation, said in an interview.

Click here to read the full story in Education Week (March 28, 2017)

New Guidebook Addresses Assessment and New Science Standards

A new guidebook is aiming to help educators better align their assessments to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

“The book is based on the 2013 National Academies report Developing Assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards, which found that the assessments states and districts currently use were not designed to assess the type of understanding envisioned by the NGSS, which stress the integration of knowledge of science with scientific and engineering practices,” according to a release.

In the new guidebook titled, Seeing Students Learn Science: Integrating Assessment and Instruction in the Classroom, educators can expect a rundown of the changes that are now associated with teaching science. Educators will also be provided with various case studies and sample tasks as well as an explanation for how different assessment types measure proficiency. The guidebook also contains information about “how to build new kinds of assessments into the flow of instruction.”

Click here to read the full story in Education World (March 30, 2017)

Connecticut schools tackle climate change and evolution

The new head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt, says carbon dioxide is not a primary cause of climate change — despite a clear scientific consensus that it is.

But a recent survey showed that most Americans, and most Connecticut residents, accept climate change as a fact. Seventy percent of Americans over 25, and 72 percent of Connecticut residents, agreed with the proposition that global warming is happening.

And if climate change is controversial among today’s adults, it’s likely to be much less controversial among tomorrow’s: Climate change — and similarly controversial topics like evolution — are taught as the accepted scientific consensus in Connecticut biology and environmental classes.

The state is in the midst of converting school science curriculum to the Next Generation Science Standards, an inquiry-based program created by several states, the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Associationand the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Under the standards, teachers will increase the number of lessons on climate change and related environmental topics.

Click here to read the full story in the Connecticut News Times (March 19, 2017)

Embracing new ways of teaching science and language with English learners

In an opinion piece in Education Dive, Okhee Lee, a professor of Childhood Education at New York University and a writer of the Next Generation Science Standards, shares the opportunities to support teaching science and language with English learners.

She writes that student demographics across the U.S. are changing, and English learners make up a fast-growing subset of the student population. New science standards are being adopted in many states, including those in New York modeled closely on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS provide opportunities not only for rigorous science learning but also for rich language use. Realizing this vision for promoting rigorous science learning and rich language use with English learners will require innovative approaches to classroom teaching, curriculum design, assessment, and teacher preparation and professional development.

Click here to read the full story in Education Dive (March 17, 2017)

New science standards to be phased into Louisiana classrooms

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana’s new science standards for public schools will be phased into classrooms, taking full effect by the 2018-19 school year.

The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education gave final approval Wednesday to the rewrite of the state’s 2-decades-old teaching benchmarks with no discussion.

The upcoming 2017-18 school year will include teacher training and field testing in the new science standards, according to the education department. They will be fully implemented a year later.

On Tuesday, board members spent much of the afternoon listening to testimony about the standards, with some people saying the benchmarks should include language encouraging science teachers to challenge evolution.

In response, the education board added a provision referencing a 2008 state law that allows public school teachers to use supplemental materials to promote “critical thinking skills” in areas such as evolution and global warming. Critics call the law a backdoor way to introduce creationism into science classes, which supporters of the law deny.

Click here to read the full story published by the Associated Press. (March 8, 2017)

Lighting the way for STEM students

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Hispanic students are the largest minority group in the public school system, but many studies — including a 2016 article in US News & World Report — indicates the Latino demographic makes up less than 10 percent of the STEM workforce.

Part of this is because only about two-thirds of Latino students nationwide have access to advanced math and science offerings in school, and many students and families are not aware of the opportunities available for them in STEM.

Click here to read the full story in the Ventura County Star (March 11, 2017)