New Nebraska science standards, which include climate change, are approved

On September 8, the Nebraska State Board of Education approved new science standards. The board voted 6-1 to approve the standards, which will introduce climate change in Nebraska high school science classes for the first time.

During an hourlong hearing, 14 people testified in favor of the standards, many urging the board to retain the new language addressing climate change.

Others said they liked the way the standards will emphasize hands-on learning over memorization.

Chad Brassil, associate professor of biological sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, said the standards represent “good solid science, good solid science education.”

“The methods in these standards are fantastic in that they engage students in the process of science: looking at data, analyzing data, generating hypotheses, thinking about models. They ask the students to act like scientists.”\

Click here to read the full story in the Omaha World-Herald (September 9, 2017)

Click here to read a story on the National Center for Science Education website.


Helping Teachers Understand and Use New Science Standards

With the adoption of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) by nearly 20 states, teachers are being asked to rethink the science content they teach and how they teach it. What can curriculum materials, which are used in nearly every classroom, do to help teachers meet the challenges posed by NGSS?

One answer comes from a team of scientists and education researchers at Project 2061, who have demonstrated that it is possible to design curriculum materials specifically to help teachers understand NGSS and support them in making its vision of three-dimensional learning a reality in their classrooms. Findings from the team’s study were published in a special January 2017 issue of the Journal of Science Teacher Education (JSTE) that focuses on the role of curriculum materials as tools for teacher learning.

The study draws on examples from Toward High School Biology (THSB), an innovative middle school curriculum unit developed by Project 2061 and its partners at BSCS. In a prior study, the Project 2061 team showed that students using the THSB unit had a better understanding of chemistry concepts central to biology than students using a traditional curriculum.

Click here to read the full story on the AAAS News Site (August 30, 2017)

Excited about science: Cabrillo High School among early adopters of new standards

A group of students and faculty members at a Lompoc Valley high school are helping pioneer the ways in which science will soon be taught in schools around the state.

The Cabrillo High School science department underwent an overhaul this summer to become one of the first in the state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards that will soon be implemented statewide. The changes, which were introduced less than a month ago at the start of the new school year, promote more hands-on learning and allow teachers to introduce students to more robust content.

Although the updated curriculum has only been in place for a few weeks, teachers at the school are excited about what’s ahead.

Chris Ladwig, a science teacher at Cabrillo, said the old science standards were based on testing and essentially amounted to students memorizing lists of facts.
Click here to read the full story in the Santa Maria Times (September 2, 2017)

Reforming Science Education in California–A Primer

As schools across the state implement the Next Generation Science Standards, this new EdSource primer provides an easy-to-read guide for parents and other community members to understand the rationale for the standards and their potential to affect science instruction in California schools.

California adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, in 2013, representing the first update to the state’s science standards in nearly two decades. The new standards will significantly shape how science will be taught and tested as well as what students are expected to know and be able to do at each grade level.

Click here to read an extensive question and answer document by Ed Source (August 30, 2017)

NGSS Bring Change to Science Education

Next Generation Science Standards has a three-dimensional approach to science education: crosscutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas.

Locally, Philip Lala, the science-curriculum coordinator for the Iowa City School District, said the district is transitioning to the new standards and has implemented new curriculum at the elementary level over the last three years. Changes will also appear at the secondary level, he said.

“I think the new standards are positive because they take what we have had in the past a step further,” Lala wrote in an email to The Daily Iowan. “Past standards have focused on simple scientific facts and knowledge, while these standards stress what students should be able to do with that knowledge.”

Click here to read the full story in The Daily Iowan (August 30, 2017)

New science standards come to NYS schools, including new approach to climate change education

The organization representing more than 600 public school boards across the state says how science is taught in the classroom will influence how a generation of students think about climate change.

Starting this fall, new standards for teaching science go into effect in New York.  They put a much more specific emphasis on the role of human activity in global warming.

Click here to listen to the story on WXXI radio (September 1, 2017)

San Francisco Unified School District takes research-based approach to science

As school begins, Vincent Matthews,  superintendent of the San Francisco Unified School District, writes in the San Francisco Examiner how teachers used the solar eclipse to teach science and how they are embracing a new teaching approach based on the Next Generation Science Standards.

“I gotta tell you: this is way more fun than reading some dry paragraphs from a textbook. And, as studies show, our students holding the “moon” and “sun” will begin to understand this complicated process in a way that will stick with them for years.”

“I’ve been an educator for over 30 years. I’ve seen lots of different kinds of teaching and learning during that time. I’m thrilled to see SFUSD embarking on a research-based approach to teaching science across all schools. It starts today.”

Click here to read the full story in the San Francisco Examiner (August 21, 2017)


How New Science Standards Avoided the Backlash of Common Core

The Wall Street Journal reports on how developers of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) learned from the pushback on Common Core. They report that the Obama administration was asked to not be engaged in promoting the standards and that states were encouraged to take the lead and get local support.

To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the NGSS and another 16 revised their standards to be similar.

“There is something to be said for being the second person through the minefield; you know where to step,” said Peter McLaren, an education consultant and former teacher who helped write the science standards. “Common Core gave us some good guidance as far as what to do differently.”

NSTA was a partner in the development of the standards and many teachers had input. There were 26 teachers on the 41-member committee that drafted the NGSS, which are based on A Framework for K-12 Education published by the National Research Council.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York was the major funder in the development of the standards and recently released a report drawing attention to the need for NGSS-based instructional materials and teacher training.

Click here to access the full story in The Wall Street Journal (August 16, 2017: subscription required)




New state science test raises the bar but proficiency drops

The Chicago Tribune reports that more than a year after students took a new state science exam but never got their scores, the state is providing at least a glimpse of how well kids did. Only about 39 percent of high school students passed the new science exam in 2016, meaning those kids were considered “proficient.” Close to 60 percent of grade school students passed, according to an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Those numbers are approximate, based on a complex process used to decide what it takes to pass the exams, and members of the state board of education still have to approve the model used. A vote is expected Wednesday, which could pave the way for schools and families to get long-awaited results in the critical area of science.

Educators and parents alike are expected to see drops in performance compared to results from the old state science exams of previous years. Then, it was usual for 50 to 52 percent of high school students to pass statewide and 75 to 80 percent of grade school students to pass, state data show.

But those exams got shelved, and in 2014 the state adopted Next Generation Science Standards that move away from memorizing science facts and toward analysis in key areas of science and engineering. Those new standards were used in the state science exam that was launched in spring 2016.

“It’s a different test and the bar has been set in a different place; and we’d rather set the bar high and strive for that than set a lower bar, which will lull us into a false sense of security,” said Charles Sprandel, executive director of research and assessment in the sprawling Indian Prairie School District 204 in DuPage County.



Illinois used test items from Washington, D.C., to launch the state’s first NGSS-based science exam in 2015-16, and ISBE hopes to get the results from that exam out in the coming weeks, after the state board makes a decision on proficiency levels, said ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews. She said scoring of the 2017 test is “about to begin.”

Switching to the new science exam is much like when the state switched to new reading and math exams, Nolten said. Scores statewide plummeted compared with prior year exams.

Idaho Science Standards Move Forward

The Idaho State Board also approved a new slate of academic science standards, which the State Board will forward to the 2018 Legislature for consideration. During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers approved a temporary slate of science standards after first removing five references to climate change and human impact on the environment. A committee of some of the state’s most-awarded teachers and industry representatives developed the new science standards and massaged the language in an attempt to appease state legislators who argued last year’s proposed standards did not do enough “to address both sides” of the climate change debate.

Scott Cook, the SDE’s director of academics, said Ybarra’s office received more than 1,000 comments as the committee developed the standards. He said the vast majority of comments supported approving the standards that left intact references to climate change. Cook said the bulk of the changes amount to reinserting references to climate change and then adding sections explaining how humans may mitigate rising temperatures.

Click here to read the full story on (August 14, 2017)