May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

High Hopes – Few Opportunities: The State of Elementary Science Education in California

Posted: Wednesday, November 2nd, 2011

by Valerie Joyner

The results of the research report High Hopes – Few Opportunities will not come as a surprise to science educators in California. On October 25, 2011, in partnership with The Lawrence Hall of Science at the University of California, Berkeley, SRI International, Belden Russonello & Stewart, Stone’s Throw Communications, and Inverness Research, The Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning at WestEd released the report on the state of science education in California’s elementary schools. The results of this 2010-2011 study included research surveys of California elementary and middle school teachers, principals, school district leaders, case studies, the results of previous public opinion surveys, and focus groups. While Californians maintain the belief that “high-quality science education” should be a top priority; the reality is that it is not.

The 2010 research survey A Priority for California’s Future: Science for Students found 86% of the respondents view science education as critical for California’s students. They further believe (70%) that science education should begin in elementary school in order to keep California and the United States in the forefront of technology and innovation. It is not only the public perception that science education is essential, but 92% and 95% of principals and teachers, respectively, believe the need to have quality science education is a high priority and that it should begin in kindergarten.

Despite public opinion and the opinions of California’s educators the fact remains that science does not exist as a priority in our schools. The study points out several challenges that keep science from being taught in our elementary classrooms; the emphasis on English Language Arts (ELA) and math, limited funds to purchase supplies, limited professional development opportunities, and lack of district support. Teachers point to the lack of time that can be devoted to science because of the state’s continued emphasis on ELA and math, and its associated testing to determine proficiency. As students move up in the grades they begin to spend more time learning science. The majority of kindergarten and first grade teachers report spending less than one hour per week on science instruction and experiences. Yet in fifth grade classrooms where science is tested, about 40% of classrooms spend 120+ minutes per week. The evidence suggests that a majority of our students spend less than one hour on science instruction per week.

About 90% of California’s elementary teachers report that they feel “very prepared” to teach ELA and math, yet only one-third feel they are “very prepared” to teach science. Add to that the feeling of teachers that they lack the background necessary for “high-quality” science instruction, including investigations and inquiry. Science related professional development is lacking and seldom supported by districts. If teachers are to present “high quality” science instruction where students are actively involved in the practices of science, they need strong district support and significant science initiatives.

The report concludes with recommendations that will assist with the development of science education as a priority in our elementary schools where students participate in meaningful investigations, experimentation, and scientific reasoning. These recommendations include providing teachers with district commitment, science expertise, resources, and building partnerships with industry, universities, and science institutions. Additionally, a recommendation was made to allocate the time necessary for science instruction by integrating science across the curriculum.

This is a very powerful study, one that should be used to influence our schools, administrators, and the California legislature. Read the full report at www.cftl.org/science and share it with your colleagues. Reform efforts always take time in education, but when we work together we can accomplish so much. Let us all work to change the title of this study from High Hopes – Few Opportunities, to High Hopes – Many Opportunities!

It is time to take action! Read and discuss High Hopes – Few Opportunities with parents, colleagues, your administration, and potential partners. Take time to share your thoughts, ideas, and implementation efforts with us. Let us all take a first step toward reforming science education!

Valerie Joyner is district science lead teacher for Petaluma City Schools and is the CSTA’s region 1 director.

Written by Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner

Valerie Joyner is a retired elementary science educator and is CSTA’s Primary (grades K-2) Director.

One Response

  1. […] first identify it. CSTA Region I Director and second grade teacher, Valerie Joyner, discusses in her eCCS article this month, the recently released study High Hopes-Few Opportunities-The Status of Elementary Science […]

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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.

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Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

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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.

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Posted: Monday, May 8th, 2017

by Lesley Gates, Loren Nikkel, and Kambria Eastham

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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

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

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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.