May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Inquiry Instruction Is Not Cold Fusion

Posted: Sunday, April 1st, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

In last month’s issue of eCCS I wrote to you about the exciting opportunities that lie ahead for science education and several issues that threaten the implementation of these opportunities. As I said in that article, the political and financial issues and actions of the State often negate or diminish the actual implementation of new, cutting edge curricula and technologies. These actions ultimately hurt our students’ chances of competing on the national and world stage as leaders in science and technology.

In this article, I want to bring to your attention another situation that, if not addressed, might be construed by some as an argument against the power of critical thinking, investigation, and scientific inquiry as tools for improving literacy. In a recent article published in the Imperial Valley Press, it was reported that Michael Klentschy, former Superintendent of Schools in El Centro, CA, and author of Using Science Notebooks in Elementary Classrooms*, plead guilty to falsifying research findings that reported significant increases in students’ achievement scores as a result of integrated instruction in science. At the time he reported these findings, Klentschy was lauded for finally demonstrating the positive link between inquiry based science instruction and student achievement.  He had published achievement data that, he claimed, clearly demonstrated that engaging students in inquiry instruction had a positive impact on science and achievement scores.  In many ways, he became the poster child for the type of science instruction that has been so lacking since the adoption of the current standards. Klentschy was lauded for his work. He presented at professional conferences (including CSTA), was recognized as a keynote speaker and received accolades and awards for his work. Many organizations, including CSTA, the Association of California School Administrators, and the National Science Education Leadership Association looked favorably on Klentschy’s findings, conveying honors and awards such as California Superintendent of the Year, and the Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award. Unfortunately, events of the past few weeks have shown that these accolades were based on a sham. Klentschy’s admission of guilt demonstrated how easily people can be fooled when a respected authority figure reports results that they want to hear. Klentschy’s inflated test results supported many science teachers’ beliefs in the value of inquiry instruction. Now that the truth is known, CSTA must move forward to heal the wound this realization has caused and develop strategies to educate our members on what is known about the connections between high quality science instruction and improving student literacy.

Though Klentschy’s fraudulent reporting of inflated achievement data doesn’t rank on the level of cold fusion or Hwang Woo-suk (the South Korean scientist who falsified his findings in the field of stem cell research), it still causes the science education community great pain and suffering. As advocates for high quality, student centered, science instruction, CSTA must continue to advocate for instructional practices that engage all students in science learning while supporting academic literacy.

So what are we to do?  We can accept that all of Klentschy’s work was a hoax and allow naysayers yet another tool to argue for the current standards, OR we can educate the decision-makers on the power and value of contextually-relevant science teaching.  We can educate ourselves, the parents and students we serve, and decision makers about current, peer-reviewed research on learning. We must not be tricked into thinking that all research is fraudulent and dishonest, keeping in mind that, by his own admission, Klentschy falsified his data and published claims that he could not make. We should honor research findings that support the link between high quality science instruction and gains in literacy and achievement through honest, reliable, and peer-reviewed sources.  The Framework for K-12 Science Education upon which the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are based is a good place to start. The Framework provides strong support for the premise that engaging students in science and engineering practices, core discipline content, and cross cutting concepts will promote scientific literacy that will prepare students for college or careers.

Over the next six to nine months, you will have several opportunities to interact with the NGSS.   In late April or early May, the first public draft of NGSS will be released for public review and comment. To prepare yourselves to participate in this process, I highly recommend that you review the Framework for K-12 Science Education. By reading the Framework, you will see that we have moved beyond Klentschy. The authors of the Framework have based their recommendations on over 80 published articles about the relationship between teaching and learning and described ways to better prepare students for college or careers. We should invest the time to educate ourselves to be prepared to make thoughtful recommendations on the form and substance of the NGSS and advocate for what we believe serves or students best.

In the coming weeks, CSTA will be passing along information about opportunities to participate in organized review sessions along with information on how to participate if you cannot attend a scheduled meeting. By joining with a wide range of science focused institutions, CSTA leadership hopes that California stakeholders will make their feelings and ideas known directly to the writers of NGSS.

* Using Science Notebooks in Elementary Classrooms was published by NSTA Press and as of press time had been removed from their on-line store while they work to verify the underlying data.

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California, Davis and is CSTA’s president.

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Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy is science education lecturer/supervisor in the School of Education, University of California Davis.

One Response

  1. It should be noted that Klentschy did it for the money.
    It’s always about the $$$$!

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LATEST POST

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.

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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

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.