May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

District-Level Race to the Top to Focus on the Classroom, Provide Tools to Enhance Learning and Serve the Needs of Every Student

Posted: Monday, June 4th, 2012

2012 Competition Proposal Available for Public Comment Until June 8

The U.S. Department of Education announced today proposed criteria for the 2012 Race to the Top program—a nearly $400 million competition that invites school districts to create plans for individualized classroom instruction aimed at closing achievement gaps and preparing each student for college and career.

“Today, we’re taking the next step forward. We’re announcing a new Race-to the Top competition for school districts that is aimed squarely at the classroom level and the all-important relationship among teachers and students,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

“With this competition, we are inviting districts to show us how they can personalize education for a set of students in their schools. We need to take classroom learning beyond a one-size-fits-all model and bring it into the 21st century,” Duncan said.

Race to the Top (RTT), launched in 2009, has inspired dramatic education reform nationwide, leading 46 states to pursue higher standards, data-driven decisions making, greater support for teachers, and turnaround interventions in persistently low-performing schools. The next phase proposes to build on those principles at the classroom level, supplying teachers with the strategies and tools they need to help every student learn at his or her own pace.

The proposed 2012 program criteria invites applications from districts or groups of districts serving at least 2,500 students with 40 percent or more qualifying for free or reduced price lunch. Districts will choose to apply for funding to support learning strategies that personalize education in all or a set of schools, within specific grade levels, or select subjects.

Eligibility, as outlined in the proposed criteria, will be determined by a district’s demonstrated commitment to RTT’s four core reform areas. Applicants from all districts will be invited to apply. The criteria has been designed to ensure no district is at a disadvantage—including those already participating in a RTT grant awarded through one of the first three phases, districts not currently participating, and rural districts. Awards will range from $15 million to $25 million, depending on the population of students served through the plan.

As proposed, applicants will be selected based on their vision and capacity for reform as well as a strong plan that provides classrooms and teachers with the resources to prepare students for college and career. Districts must effectively engage and collaborate with teachers, parents and outside organizations to create their plan and provide assistance to ensure a successful transition to proposed reforms. Plans will focus on transforming instruction so that it meets all students’ learning abilities. Teachers will track and receive real-time data and information that helps them adapt their lessons and individualize instruction to accommodate the differences among their students.

The Race to the Top district-level competition will encourage transformative change within schools, targeted toward leveraging, enhancing, and improving classroom practices and resources. School leaders will have the ability and flexibility to strategize how best to use time, staff the school, and manage the school budget.

Teachers will have resources inside and outside the classroom that help them build on their talent and offer tools and ideas to improve their day-to-day work. School staff will work collaboratively to grow each teacher’s instructional skillset by leveraging the support and skills of their colleagues. And all students will have equal access to high-quality learning materials inside and outside of class, be challenged to demonstrate learning before transitioning to new material, and know where he or she stands in a given subject based on performance data.

The proposal offers competitive preference to applicants that form partnerships with public and private organizations to sustain their work and offer services that help meet students’ academic, social, and emotional needs, and enhance their ability to succeed.

To read or comment on the Race to the Top district-level proposal, visit http://www.ed.gov/race-top/district-competition. Public Comment ends June 8. The Department plans to release the application in July with an October submission deadline. Awards will be announced no later than Dec. 31, 2012.

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

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Participate in Chemistry Education Research Study, Earn $500-800 Dollars!

Posted: Tuesday, May 9th, 2017

WestEd, a non-profit educational research agency, has been funded by the US Department of Education to test a new molecular modeling kit, Happy Atoms. Happy Atoms is an interactive chemistry learning experience that consists of a set of physical atoms that connect magnetically to form molecules, and an app that uses image recognition to identify the molecules that you create with the set. WestEd is conducting a study around the effectiveness of using Happy Atoms in the classroom, and we are looking for high school chemistry teachers in California to participate.

As part of the study, teachers will be randomly assigned to either the treatment group (who uses Happy Atoms) or the control group (who uses Happy Atoms at a later date). Teachers in the treatment group will be asked to use the Happy Atoms set in their classrooms for 5 lessons over the course of the fall 2017 semester. Students will complete pre- and post-assessments and surveys around their chemistry content knowledge and beliefs about learning chemistry. WestEd will provide access to all teacher materials, teacher training, and student materials needed to participate.

Participating teachers will receive a stipend of $500-800. You can read more information about the study here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/HappyAtoms

Please contact Rosanne Luu at rluu@wested.org or 650.381.6432 if you are interested in participating in this opportunity, or if you have any questions!

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption Reviewer Application

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

The California Department of Education and State Board of Education are now accepting applications for reviewers for the 2018 Science Instructional Materials Adoption. The application deadline is 3:00 pm, July 21, 2017. The application is comprehensive, so don’t wait until the last minute to apply.

On Tuesday, May 9, 2017, State Superintendent Tom Torlakson forwarded this recruitment letter to county and district superintendents and charter school administrators.

Review panel members will evaluate instructional materials for use in kindergarten through grade eight, inclusive, that are aligned with the California Next Generation Science Content Standards for California Public Schools (CA NGSS). Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Lessons Learned from the NGSS Early Implementer Districts

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

On March 31, 2017, Achieve released two documents examining some lessons learned from the California K-8 Early Implementation Initiative. The initiative began in August 2014 and was developed by the K-12 Alliance at WestEd, with close collaborative input on its design and objectives from the State Board of Education, the California Department of Education, and Achieve.

Eight (8) traditional school districts and two (2) charter management organizations were selected to participate in the initiative, becoming the first districts in California to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Those districts included Galt Joint Union Elementary, Kings Canyon Joint Unified, Lakeside Union, Oakland Unified, Palm Springs Unified, San Diego Unified, Tracy Joint Unified, Vista Unified, Aspire, and High Tech High.

To more closely examine some of the early successes and challenges experienced by the Early Implementer LEAs, Achieve interviewed nine of the ten participating districts and compiled that information into two resources, focusing primarily on professional learning and instructional materials. Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Using Online Simulations to Support the NGSS in Middle School Classrooms

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

Middle school teachers in Kings Canyon Unified School District (KCUSD), a CA NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative district, have been diligently working on transitioning to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) integrated model for middle school. This year, the teachers focused on building their own knowledge of the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). They have been gathering and sharing ideas at monthly collaborative meetings as to how to make sure their students are not just learning about science but that they are actually doing science in their classrooms. Students should be planning and carrying out investigations to gather data for analysis in order to construct explanations. This is best done through hands-on lab experiments. Experimental work is such an important part of the learning of science and education research shows that students learn better and retain more when they are active through inquiry, investigation, and application. A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) notes, “…learning about science and engineering involves integration of the knowledge of scientific explanations (i.e., content knowledge) and the practices needed to engage in scientific inquiry and engineering design. Thus the framework seeks to illustrate how knowledge and practice must be intertwined in designing learning experiences in K-12 Science Education” (pg. 11).

Many middle school teachers in KCUSD are facing challenges as they begin implementing these student-driven, inquiry-based NGSS science experiences in their classrooms. First, many of the middle school classrooms at our K-8 school sites are not designed as science labs. Learn More…

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Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.

Celestial Highlights: May – July 2017

Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

May Through July 2017 with Web Resources for the Solar Eclipse of August 21, 2017

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graphs of planet rising and setting times by Jeffrey L. Hunt.

In spring and summer 2017, Jupiter is the most prominent “star” in the evening sky, and Venus, even brighter, rules the morning. By mid-June, Saturn rises at a convenient evening hour, allowing both giant planets to be viewed well in early evening until Jupiter sinks low in late September. The Moon is always a crescent in its monthly encounters with Venus, but is full whenever it appears near Jupiter or Saturn in the eastern evening sky opposite the Sun. (In 2017, Full Moon is near Jupiter in April, Saturn in June.) At intervals of 27-28 days thereafter, the Moon appears at a progressively earlier phase at each pairing with the outer planet until its final conjunction, with Moon a thin crescent, low in the west at dusk. You’ll see many beautiful events by just following the Moon’s wanderings at dusk and dawn in the three months leading up to the solar eclipse. Learn More…

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Written by Robert Victor

Robert Victor

Robert C. Victor was Staff Astronomer at Abrams Planetarium, Michigan State University. He is now retired and enjoys providing skywatching opportunities for school children in and around Palm Springs, CA. Robert is a member of CSTA.