Santa Clarita Valley teachers study California’s newest science standards

Teachers from the Santa Clarita Valley’s four elementary school districts are spending their summer vacations studying the state’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) during a three-day outreach training session at College of the Canyons.

“My biggest hope is from coming to these trainings is that we can remove some of the fear of doing science with the kids,” said Teresa Ciardi, chair of COC’s Earth Space and Environmental Sciences department who led the training session.

The NGSS standards were adopted by the State Board of Education in September 2013.  Since their adoption, school districts throughout the state have slowly begun implementing the standards before they fully take effect in the 2018-19 schoolyear.

With the NGSS, students are taught science and engineering concepts through three dimensions of science learning and grade-level aligned standards.  Overall, the dimensions work together to create an in-depth understanding of concepts while encouraging communication, collaboration and problem solving.

Click here to read the full story in the Santa Clarita Valley Signal (June 20, 2017)

Columbia teachers among thousands to receive anti-climate change materials

Columbia Public Schools science teachers are among hundreds of thousands across the country who have received a book from the Heartland Institute that denies that Earth is warming and that human activity is causing it.

Although 97 percent of scientists agree that global warming is caused largely by human activities, The Heartland Institute and its publications argue differently. Those arguments are central to the book the organization sent out starting last spring.

How climate change is taught

Up until about a year ago, the Columbia Public Schools curriculum on climate change used to be only about weather.

“It’s completely the opposite now,” said Mike Szydlowski, science coordinator for the Columbia Public Schools district.

Three years ago, the schools adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, which state that human activities are largely responsible for global warming and that global warming and climate change is real and requires solutions to reduce human impact on the earth. The state of Missouri adopted the standards as recently as a year ago.

“We didn’t want to wait for Missouri,” Szydlowski said. “We took a leap of faith.”

Columbia Public Schools revises its curriculum every seven years while the state undertakes revisions about every 15 years. Szydlowski said he thinks the schools will retain Next Generation Science for another six to seven years because of how good it is.

Climate change and global warming are introduced to fifth-graders and taught more comprehensively to seventh-graders, he said.

Click here to read the full story in the Missourian (June 16, 2017) Missourian




Iowa Teaching Standards Don’t Say Humans Cause Climate Change, But…

At first, people who reject predominant scientific findings that humans are the main cause of climate change may be glad that new public-school science standards don’t require teachers to teach that. But if inquiry-based teaching guides under development in the Iowa K-12 Climate Science Education Initiative are used, students may reach that determination on their own, educators say.

Click here to read the full article in the Des Moines Register (June 9, 2017)

Climate change in schools where it’s ‘fake news’

Eric Madrid teaches advanced sciences, including topics on climate change and evolution, to high school students in the deep-red Texas Hill Country.

As one might expect in this conservative bastion of the nation, some of the students say it’s all lies or fake news.

“But that’s usually in the beginning of the semester,” said Madrid, who left a Ph.D.-level research gig to go into public education. “As I show them data and evidence, that tends to go away.”

In fact, Madrid isn’t so worried about his students. It’s the other teachers who concern him: “I get much more pushback from other teachers than students. Adults have already pretty much made up their minds, and we also don’t have the time to sit down and discuss the issues.”

Nationally, there continue to be tensions surrounding climate change, with the Trump administration expressing doubts about its validity and seeking cuts in climate research programs. This conflict has trickled down to the state level too — even in the schools.

A bill in the Texas House of Representatives would allow science teachers to teach “the scientific strengths and scientific weaknesses of existing scientific theories,” namely theories around subjects such as climate change, evolution, the origins of life and cloning.

The Texas measure mirrors efforts in Idaho and West Virginia, where objections to the inclusion of climate change in state education standards have met with varying degrees of success. There is also a bill in Florida that would make it easier for residents to challenge school textbooks, including those that discuss topics such as climate change and evolution.

This year, 11 bills designed to alter science education standards have been unsuccessfully introduced across the United States, by sponsors who perhaps have been encouraged by the Trump administration’s stance on climate change.

Meanwhile, 18 states and the District of Columbia have approved the Next Generation Science Standards, which were developed with the help of several national science organizations and unveiled in 2013.

“When we do climate science sessions at our conferences, it’s standing-room only,” Evans said. “Teachers are anxious to learn the science so that they can take it to their kids.”

Click here to read the full article on CNN (June 14, 2017)



Public Input Sought on Nebraska Science Standards

The Nebraska Department of Education says proposed Science Standards are a change in thinking.

The department is in the process of updating the standards right now.

What’s proposed focuses more on asking students to “think like a scientist” rather than memorize content.

State education leaders say the standards were written by 50 science educators from across Nebraska.

Now, they’re asking the public to weigh in on a survey. Questions ask you if you’re a member of the public, an educator, parent, student or college representative.

Sara Cooper, with the Nebraska Department of Education, said a big difference is that science content and analyst and research would no longer be separate standards.

To voice your opinion, click here.

Click here to listen to the news segment on (June 2, 2017)

More teachers turning to nonprofits for innovative science lessons

Stoneman Elementary School in Pittsburg, CA, is one of numerous schools throughout the state that are using curriculum provided by science education nonprofits to teach the state’s new Next Generation Science Standards.

Science lessons provided by nonprofits are an attractive option for some teachers, especially as schools roll out the new science standards, said Lisa Hegdahl, president of the California Science Teachers Association and an 8th-grade science teacher in Galt in rural Sacramento County.

The state has not yet adopted textbooks and other instructional materials for the new science standards, so teachers trying to teach the standards “are pretty much on their own,” she said.

“There is nothing right now, so we’re all looking for these gold mines of information we can use in the classroom,” Hegdahl said.

Galt Unified, where Hegdahl teaches, is one of eight districts selected as “early adopters” of the new standards. Hegdahl has used free curriculum material from science education nonprofits such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium, NASA, the Exploratorium and other sources, and found it to be “extremely useful,” not just for students but for her.

The California Academy of Sciences is one of the state’s largest providers of free online science lessons. The San Francisco science museum provides dozens of K-12 lesson plans, covering everything from phases of the moon to earthquakes to “the secret lives of sharks.” Field trips, teacher training workshops, online classes, videos, games and “citizen science” toolkits are also among the offerings.

California’s new science standards focus on hands-on projects, rather than rote learning, and core concepts taught through several scientific fields at once, such as how “cause and effect,” applies to physical science, life science, engineering, and earth and space science.

Click here to read the full story in EdSource (June 4, 2017)


Illinois years behind in scoring state science tests; officials blame budget

Three years after Illinois made a bold change in how science would be taught and tested, little is known about how students have performed because neither schools nor families have seen state science exam scores since 2013-14.

But the delay in science scores — blamed largely on state budget woes — is unusual and problematic, given that federal law requires states to administer science exams at least three times from grade school through high school and make the results public.

There were no scores in 2015 because the Illinois State Board of Education didn’t give a state science exam, getting into hot water with the U.S. Department of Education. At the time, the state argued it shouldn’t give an old exam based on outdated standards for what students should know in science. For years, students took the state science exam in 4th, 7th and 11th grade grades.


Without a state science exam in 2015, for example, teachers got the chance to train in the new science standards without the pressure of a statewide exam. And teachers have been incorporating the new standards in their instruction.

The state board of education keeps track of how much instruction time is spent in math, English, science and social sciences in grades 3, 6 and 8, and statewide data in 2016 show science instruction minutes on average rose to the highest in 15 years.

Third grade instruction in science rose to to an average of 34 minutes per day; 6th grade minutes went up to 48, and 8th grade minutes to 50. Science has usually trailed math and English in terms of instruction minutes, and has been about equal to minutes spent on social sciences.

The current Illinois Science Assessment was put together by using test questions from the Washington, D.C., school district, a process that was not ideal because Illinois was under pressure from the federal government to give a science exam in 2016 after missing the science test in 2015.

Click here to read the full story in the Chicago Tribune (June 5, 2017)




Water Filters and Space: A Glimpse Into a Next-Generation Science Classroom

Sometimes showing is easier than telling. That’s certainly the case in trying to capture the Next Generation Science Standards—the K-12 learning benchmarks that 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted and are now using in classrooms.

Unlike some previous science standards that focused on the facts, these standards emphasize action. They ask students to construct models, interpret data, design structures, and make arguments.

As part of a recent special report on assessment, I wrote a story about where states stand with their NGSS-aligned tests. To give readers a taste of what the science standards look like in the classroom, we sent photographer Andrew Cullen out to Manhattan Beach, Calif., to snap some photos for the story.

The photos are vibrant—and really seize on the hands-on, action-oriented nature of the standards.

Click here to read the full story in Education Week (May 31, 2017)

How Science Standards Went Mainstream Without Common Core’s Drama

Even as the political blowback against the rapid adoption of the Common Core math and English language competency benchmarks during the Obama administration was reaching a crescendo, backers of the national standards movement had shifted their sights to science. To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have formally agreed to the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which lay out what students should know in which grades to be on track for college and career readiness. Another dozen or so have adopted substantially similar benchmarks that don’t carry the NGSS tag, and still more states may adopt the standards in the coming months and years.

A coalition of major philanthropies, led by the Carnegie Corporation, funded the effort to update science standards nationally. After recruiting the National Research Council, a government-chartered non-profit, to determine what should be included, another constellation of nonprofits, led by Achieve, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and delegations from 26 states adapted the hard science into an actionable package of standards. The process was completed in 2013.

Chad Colby, the vice president of strategic communications and outreach for Achieve, spoke with InsideSources about the processes that led to the creation of the NGSS, and how the groups involved were able to sidestep much of the political controversy that engulfed the Common Core. Colby, a former official at the U.S. Department of Education, is a proponent of the NGSS, which he said takes a more holistic view of the subject and encourages active exploration rather than passive memorization. Though the NGSS were created separately from Common Core, the standards are designed to link up together—should educators decide to take a cross-disciplinary approach to curricular development.

Click here to read the full story in Inside Sources (May 23, 2017)

Next-Generation Science Tests Slowly Take Shape

Around the country, science instruction is changing—students are being asked to make models, analyze data, construct arguments, and design solutions in ways that far exceed schools’ previous goals.

That means science testing, of course, needs to change as well.

Students “have got to show us how they know, not just what they know,” said James Pellegrino, a co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an expert on assessment.

Yet considering federal requirements around science testing, and states’ logistical, technical, and financial limitations, putting a new, performance-heavy state science test in place is no easy task.

Of the 18 states now using the Next Generation Science Standards, which were released in April 2013, only Illinois, Kansas, and Nevada, as well as the District of Columbia, have moved completely from their previous science tests to ones that align to the newer “three-dimensional” benchmarks. Illinois and the District of Columbia were the first to take the leap, putting an operational test in place in spring 2016. Illinois did so especially quickly to comply with federal reporting requirements, designing a new test in just six months—a move some experts have questioned.

Most other states that have adopted the NGSS are taking things a bit more slowly, aiming to start operational tests aligned to the standards in 2019 or later, with a few, including Kentucky, an early adopter, aiming for 2018. About a dozen more states are using standards based on the same framework as the NGSS, and many of those are on similar schedules for implementing large-scale tests.

Click here to read the full story in Education Week (May 24, 2017)