PBS Program Explores Efforts to Downplay Teaching of Climate Change

Teaching climate change in schools is a hot-button issue in a number of states, including Idaho and New Mexico, where lawmakers have tried to weaken or dismantle science standards crafted by educators and scientists. Amid a climate-change skeptical Trump administration, legislators cite a concern about one-sided arguments. Special correspondent Lisa Stark of Education Week reports.

NSTA Executive Director David Evans was interviewed for the program.

“When a legislative body decides to recommend against science content that’s been well-vetted by the science community and the education community, we undergo a great risk in denying our children really important information that they are going to need.”

Click here to view the PBS program, Making the Grade (aired, Feb 20, 2018)

Teachers Learning to Teach the ‘Next Generation of Science Standards’

During a recent school day, 40 teachers and administrators from 12 school districts were gathered in the Frog Pond Elementary School (NJ) media center and told to spend 10 minutes having fun with a paper whirligig.

They were also given three paperclips to add to or subtract from the whirligig. After tossing the flimsy toy in the air and seeing its lackluster performance, they were asked to conclude why the toy wasn’t selling well and then come up with ways to make the toy better. By talking within their small groups, the teachers were to “define the problem, develop and test solutions and then optimize the solution.”

This was a simple experiment in engineering during the last day of the three-day Jersey Shore Consortium Science Institute at the school, in Little Egg Harbor Township.

“I want you to experience how it feels to learn this way,” said Stacey van der Veen, founder and lead consultant for “Leadership in Science” and the facilitator of the Science Institute.

The attending educators were learning how to teach the Next Generation Science Standards, a science curriculum mandated by the state for all K-12 science classes that is revolutionizing how science is taught.

Click here to read the full story on the Sandpaper.net (Feb. 21, 2018)

NGSS Extend to Orinda (CA) Elementary Schools

Next Generation Science Standards, guidelines implemented across the United States as of April 2013, have been adopted in 19 states as of November, and have continued to develop as schools work toward replacing old science curriculum with NGSS. The Wagner Ranch Elementary School garden in Orinda has made considerable changes regarding NGSS in its most recent form of garden education.

The school’s teachers apply these principles in grades K-5 in ways like developing and using models of the rock cycle in fourth grade classes. The NGSS emphasize three areas: Crosscutting Concepts, Science and Engineering Practices, and Disciplinary Core Ideas. Within these notions, ideas of cause and effect, inquiry-based learning, and application of key objectives across multiple areas of science are stressed.

Click here to read the full story in the Lomalinda Weekly (Feb. 21, 2018)

Anti-NGSS Bill in Iowa

House File 2317, introduced in the Iowa House of Representatives on February 12, 2018, and referred to the House Education Committee, would, if enacted, revert the state’s science standards to “the science standards utilized by school districts in this state during the 2014-2015 school year” — just before the state adopted the Next Generation Science Standards.

Click here to read the full story by the National Center for Science Education (Feb. 13, 2018)

Juneau Students Get New Science Lessons in 2019

A new science curriculum approved Tuesday will send Juneau (Alaska) School District elementary students out of the classroom and into the community.

Starting next year, guidelines for kindergarten through fifth-grade students will emphasize “place-based” and “culturally relevant” learning, two approaches taking hold in national teaching standards. The new curriculum was also written with Next Generation Science Standards, a national framework written by a group of 26 states.

The 82-page document guides teachers in lesson and unit planning. It was developed with extensive input from local scientists, Tlingit elders and teachers, authors Carin Smolin and Pam Garcia said. The curriculum was last updated in 2011.

The idea is to have science learning more closely mimic science work: the scientific process always starts with a question or an observation based in the real world. Place-based learning progresses similarly.

“It’s not about memorizing scientific facts, it’s more about thinking and acting like scientists and engineers because in the real world, you observe phenomena and then you wonder and you ask questions and you make connections to learn about how the world works,” Garcia said.

Click here to read the full story in the Juneau Empire (Feb. 15, 2018)

Idaho Senate Drills Down Into Nitty Gritty Of Science Standards

The third year — and possibly final year — of the Idaho Legislature’s science standards debate could come to closure next week.

The Senate Education Committee spent an hour taking public testimony on science standards Wednesday afternoon. As expected, the committee took no action. There is no date set for a vote, but it appears likely that the committee will vote next week.

Wednesday’s public hearing was more of the same, as senators heard another round of one-sided testimony. More than a dozen people testified — including teachers, parents, students and business lobbyists — and every speaker supported passing the controversial science standards in full, including references to climate change and fossil fuels.

But senators also spent some time drilling down into the finer details of the standards, and especially wording that their House counterparts rejected one week ago. The House Education Committee rejected one science standard, referring to air pollution and fossil fuels, and about a dozen pages of “supporting content” that refer to climate change.

Most of the standards have been approved without controversy. But the three-year-old debate at the Statehouse has centered on climate change — and what the science standards should say on the matter. Lawmakers have deleted language referring to climate change, forcing a State Department of Education to reconvene a committee of 19 educators to rewrite the standards last spring. But the rewrite still didn’t pass muster with House Education, which voted 12-4 to edit the standards even further.

But in essence, the process starts over in the Senate. The Senate can override the House’s action if it votes to adopt the standards in full.

Speakers urged senators to do just that, saying schools need to teach students about issues such as climate change.

“How are we to address and solve problems if we don’t know what they are or what caused them?” said Veronica Richmond, a 12-year-old student at the Treasure Valley Math and Science Center.

“It is important that students have an understanding of the issues,” said Trent Clark, a former state Republican Party chairman who now lobbies for Monsanto.

Click here to read the full story in the Idaho Ed News (Feb. 14, 2018)  

In Fight Over Science Education in Idaho, Lawmakers Move to Minimize Climate

When Idaho lawmakers scrubbed all mentions of human-caused climate change from the state’s education standards last year, they faced a swift backlash from teachers, parents and students who said that censoring science would leave students disadvantaged, jobs unfilled and the state unprepared for the future.

On Wednesday, the Idaho House Education Committee approved a revised set of standards that included some discussion of climate change. But the committee cut a section on the environmental impact of nonrenewable sources of energy and removed supporting content for standards that contained multiple references to human-driven warming.

The House committee’s decision is not final. The state’s Senate Education Committee will have a chance to weigh in, and the standards will need final approval from both chambers.

“The way I see it is, it disregards science and the scientists who are out there doing the work,” said Erin Stutzman, a science teacher at Timberline High School in Boise who has been following the battle between over the guidelines. Last week, a number of Ms. Stutzman’s students testified at a committee hearingand called for lawmakers to approve the revised standards in their entirety.

Click here to read the full story in The New York Times (Feb. 7, 2018)

Lawmakers Delay Action on Proposed Science Standards in Idaho

For a second consecutive day, a large crowd Friday at the Idaho Statehouse offered enthusiastic, unanimous support for a slate of proposed new science standards.

And for a second consecutive day, the House Education Committee took no action.

At issue is a politically charged controversy over the science standards that will be taught in Idaho’s K-12 public schools and charters.

In 2016, legislators quietly rejected a proposed slate of science standards after some lawmakers made comments about the age and history of the universe and global warming. At the time, legislators said more public input was needed, but they declined to accept public comment on the standards at the Statehouse that year.

Last year, in 2017, the Legislature approved a temporary slate of new science standards after first removing five paragraphs that reference climate change and human impact on the environment. Those standards are set to expire, which is why legislators are considering science standards again this year.

Public testimony ran 7-0 in favor of the full science standards Thursday, and 21-0 in favor of the standards Friday. During public hearings in 2017, public testimony ran 995-5 in favor of passing the full science standards, State Department of Education officials said.

Many of the teachers, students and scientists who testified this week said students deserve a full, well-rounded education rooted in inquiry-based science standards. Removing references to climate change, they said, would amount to censoring their education and would hurt their ability to confront the challenges of a changing planet in the future.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the standards this session.

Click here to read the full story in the Idaho Ed News  (Feb. 2, 2018)

Idaho House Education Committee To Take Up Science Standards Feb. 1

The Idaho House Education Committee will consider a proposed slate of new science standards during hearings Thursday and Friday at the Statehouse.

At issue are standards that will be used in Idaho’s K-12 public schools and charters.

Last year, lawmakers approved science standards on a temporary basis after first removing five paragraphs that reference global warming and human impact on the environment.

Those standards are now set to expire.

After the 2017 session adjourned, a team of Idaho science teachers, university officials and industry representatives developed a new set of proposed science standards and gathered feedback on them during public hearings last year.

News of the hearings broke Friday afternoon, and the House Education agendas appeared Friday on the Legislature’s Internet page. It’s unusual, but not unprecedented, for committee chairs to announce hearings several days in advance.

Click here to read the full story in the Idaho Ed News (January 26, 2018)


Two Years Ago, IL Students Took a State-Mandated Science Test. Schools Just Got The Results

Results from a new state test have been released two years after students turned it in, and the budget impasse is getting the blame for the delay.

But some local educators say there’s still plenty to learn from the dated scores about the way they teach.

The Illinois Science Assessment was given to students in 2016. That’s when the state expected schools to have a new curriculum in place based on updated standards for what children should be learning about science.

In Highland District 5, Assistant Superintendent Derek Hacke said the lessons became more hands-on with students, from building things to doing experiments in class.

“We’re trying to do science rather than just read about science,” he said.

Some school officials who saw their students fall short on the assessment said that their curriculum changes either hadn’t hit classrooms by 2016 or that the concepts may have been too new for students to grasp them.

“The two-year-old data will be viewed as a baseline from which to grow,” said Sydney Stigge-Kaufman, spokesperson for East St. Louis District 189. She said schools have since made changes to help students.

The students who are required to take the Illinois Science Assessment each year are in fifth and eighth grades. High school students taking biology for the first time are also tested.

Statewide, an average of 57.5 percent of fifth-graders and 61 percent of eighth-graders in 2016 were considered proficient in science. An average of 40 percent of high school students met the expectations.

More than 90 metro-east schools scored above those averages.

Click here to read the full story in the Belleville News-Democrat (January 26, 2018)