September 2016 – Vol. 29 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.

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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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California Science Assessment Update

Posted: Wednesday, October 12th, 2016

by Jessica Sawko

In June 2016 California submitted a waiver application to discontinue using the old CST (based on 1998 standards) and conduct two years of pilot and field tests (in spring 2017 and 2018, respectively) of the new science assessment designed to support our state’s current science standards (California Next Generation Science Standards (CA-NGSS) adopted in 2013). The waiver was requested because no student scores will be provided as a part of the pilot and field tests. The CDE received a response from the U.S. Department of Education (ED) on September 30, 2016, which provides the CDE the opportunity to resubmit a revised waiver request within 60 days. The CDE will be revising the waiver request and resubmitting as ED suggested.

At its October 2016 North/South Assessment meetings CDE confirmed that there will be no administration of the old CST in the spring of 2017. (An archive of the meeting is available at 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.

Some ways to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service in your classroom

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

by Carol Peterson

1) To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service, Google has put together a collection of virtual tours combining 360-degree video, panoramic photos and expert narration. It’s called “The Hidden Worlds of the National Parks” and is accessible right from the browser. You can choose from one of five different locales, including the Kenai Fjords in Alaska and Bryce Canyon in Utah, and get a guided “tour” from a local park ranger. Each one has a few virtual vistas to explore, with documentary-style voiceovers and extra media hidden behind clickable thumbnails. Ideas are included for use in classrooms. 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.

2016 Award Recipients – Join CSTA in Honoring Their Accomplishments

Posted: Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

CSTA is pleased to announce the winners of the 2016 CSTA Awards for Distinguished Contributions, Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award, 2014 and 2015 PAEMST-Science recipients from California, and the 2016 California PAEMST Finalists. The following individuals and organizations will be honored during the 2016 California Science Education Conference  on October 21- 23 in Palm Springs. This year’s group of awardees are truly outstanding. Please join us in congratulating them!

Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award

John Keller

John Keller

The Margaret Nicholson Distinguished Service Award honors an individual who has made a significant contribution to science education in the state and who, through years of leadership and service, has truly made a positive impact on the quality of science teaching. This year’s recipient is John Keller, Ph.D. Dr. Keller is Associate Professor, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and Co-Director, Center for Engineering, Science, and Mathematics Education, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. In her letter of recommendation, SDSU science education faculty and former CSTA board member Donna Ross wrote: “He brings people together who share the desire to make a difference in the development and implementation of programs for science teaching. Examples of these projects include the Math and Science Teaching Initiative (MSTI), Noyce Scholars Program, Western Regional Noyce Initiative, and the Science Teacher and Researcher (STAR) program.” Through his work, he has had a dramatic impact on science teacher education, both preservice and in-service, in California, the region, and the country. He developed and implemented the STEM Teacher and Researcher Program which aims to produce excellent K-12 STEM teachers by providing aspiring teachers with opportunities to do authentic research while helping them translate their research experience into classroom practice. SFSU faculty member Larry Horvath said it best in his letter:“John Keller exemplifies the best aspects of a scientist, science educator, and mentor. His contributions to science education in the state of California are varied, significant, and I am sure will continue well into the future.” 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.

NGSS: Making Your Life Easier

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Peter A’hearn

Wait… What?

NGSS is a big shift. Teachers need to learn new content, figure out how this whole engineering thing relates to science, and develop new unit and lesson plans. How could NGSS possibly make life easier?

The idea that NGSS could make our lives easier came to me during the California State NGSS Rollout #1 Classroom Example lesson on chromatography. I have since done this lesson with high school chemistry students and it made me think back to having my own students do chromatography. I spent lots of time preparing to make sure the experiment went well and achieved the “correct” result. I pre-prepared the solutions and organized and prepped the materials. I re-wrote and re-wrote again the procedure so there was no way a kid could get it wrong. I spent 20 minutes before the lab modeling all of the steps in class, so there was no way to do it wrong. Except that it turns out there were many. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

Celestial Highlights, September 2016

Posted: Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

by Robert C. Victor. Twilight sky maps by Robert D. Miller. Graph of evening planet setting times by Dr. Jeffrey L. Hunt 

Our evening twilight chart for September, depicting the sky about 40 minutes after sunset from SoCal, shows brilliant Venus remaining low, creeping from W to WSW and gaining a little altitude as the month progresses. Its close encounter within 2.5° N of Spica on Sept. 18 is best seen with binoculars to catch the star low in bright twilight. The brightest stars in the evening sky are golden Arcturus descending in the west, and blue-white Vega passing just north of overhead. Look for Altair and Deneb completing the Summer Triangle with Vega. The triangle of Mars-Saturn-Antares expands as Mars seems to hold nearly stationary in SSW as the month progresses, while Saturn and Antares slink off to the SW. 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.