September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

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.

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Rick Pomeroy

Rick Pomeroy

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

One Response

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

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Announces 2017 Finalists for Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching

Posted: Wednesday, September 20th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson today nominated eight exceptional secondary mathematics and science teachers as California finalists for the 2017 Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST).

“These teachers are dedicated and accomplished individuals whose innovative teaching styles prepare our students for 21st century careers and college and develop them into the designers and inventors of the future,” Torlakson said. “They rank among the finest in their profession and also serve as wonderful mentors and role models.”

The California Department of Education (CDE) partners annually with the California Science Teachers Association and the California Mathematics Council to recruit and select nominees for the PAEMST program—the highest recognition in the nation for a mathematics or science teacher. The Science Finalists will be recognized at the CSTA Awards Luncheon on Saturday, October 14, 2017. 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.

Thriving in a Time of Change

Posted: Wednesday, September 13th, 2017

by Jill Grace

By the time this message is posted online, most schools across California will have been in session for at least a month (if not longer, and hat tip to that bunch!). Long enough to get a good sense of who the kids in your classroom are and to get into that groove and momentum of the daily flow of teaching. It’s also very likely that for many of you who weren’t a part of a large grant initiative or in a district that set wheels in motion sooner, this is the first year you will really try to shift instruction to align to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). I’m not going to lie to you, it’s a challenging year – change is hard. Change is even harder when there’s not a playbook to go by.  But as someone who has had the very great privilege of walking alongside teachers going through that change for the past two years and being able to glimpse at what this looks like for different demographics across that state, there are three things I hope you will hold on to. These are things I have come to learn will overshadow the challenge: a growth mindset will get you far, one is a very powerful number, and it’s about the kids. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Jill Grace

Jill Grace

Jill Grace is a Regional Director for the K-12 Alliance and is President of CSTA.

If You Are Not Teaching Science Then You Are Not Teaching Common Core

Posted: Thursday, August 31st, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn 

“Science and Social Studies can be taught for the last half hour of the day on Fridays”

– Elementary school principal

Anyone concerned with the teaching of science in elementary school is keenly aware of the problem of time. Kids need to learn to read, and learning to read takes time, nobody disputes that. So Common Core ELA can seem like the enemy of science. This was a big concern to me as I started looking at the curriculum that my district had adopted for Common Core ELA. I’ve been through those years where teachers are learning a new curriculum, and know first-hand how a new curriculum can become the focus of attention- sucking all the air out of the room. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Tools for Creating NGSS Standards Based Lessons

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Elizabeth Cooke

Think back on your own experiences with learning science in school. Were you required to memorize disjointed facts without understanding the concepts?

Science Education Background

In the past, science education focused on rote memorization and learning disjointed ideas. Elementary and secondary students in today’s science classes are fortunate now that science instruction has shifted from students demonstrating what they know to students demonstrating how they are able to apply their knowledge. Science education that reflects the Next Generation Science Standards challenges students to conduct investigations. As students explore phenomena and discrepant events they engage in academic discourse guided by focus questions from their teachers or student generated questions of that arise from analyzing data and creating and revising models that explain natural phenomena. Learn More…

Written by Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke

Elizabeth Cooke teaches TK-5 science at Markham Elementary in the Oakland Unified School District, is an NGSS Early Implementer, and is CSTA’s Secretary.

News and Happenings in CSTA’s Region 1 – Fall 2017

Posted: Tuesday, August 29th, 2017

by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Cal

This month I was fortunate enough to hear about some new topics to share with our entire region. Some of you may access the online or newsletter options, others may attend events in person that are nearer to you. Long time CSTA member and environmental science educator Mike Roa is well known to North Bay Area teachers for his volunteer work sharing events and resources. In this month’s Region 1 updates I am happy to make a few of the options Mike offers available to our region. Learn More…

Written by Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw

Marian Murphy-Shaw is the student services director at Siskiyou County Office of Education and is CSTA’s Region 1 Director and chair of CSTA’s Policy Committee.