May/June 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 7

Next Generation Science Standards Update

Posted: Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

by Pete A’Hearn

The second public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards will be released on January 8, 2013.  I urge all who are interested in a better science education for our kids to attend a public review session or review on your own.  Click here for information on how to submit a review.

In speaking with science teachers, most have high enthusiasm and hope for the new standards. Enthusiasm and hope are good things, but what is really needed is for classroom practitioners to apply their vision and creativity to these standards. For example, as you review, consider the following: Is that the best practice to connect to that standard, or have you used one that is more effective? Will this standard be more appropriate for younger or older students?  Does the chosen cross-cutting concept really connect strongly to this concept?

I have young daughters and these will be their science standards.  Are these the standards our children deserve?

I have been to many meetings where either the NGSS or the Common Core Standards were introduced. Inevitably, classroom teachers ask what the assessment system will be and when they will get curriculum. Assessment seems to be the most strongly felt concern, and this makes sense.  Teachers have learned that the assessment system is the standard.

If an animal is hit with a stick, it will become wary of sticks, and so teachers have similarly become wary of assessments and the systems in which they are embedded.  Teachers understand that assessments and accountability are vital and potentially positive. But most teachers want assessments that give useful and timely feedback, involve more carrots than sticks, don’t narrow the curriculum to that which can be assessed by multiple guess, and don’t push science, art, and history out of the classroom.

In her opening keynote at the 2012 California Science Education Conference, Dr. Helen Quinn acknowledged the critical role of assessment by telling the audience that they need to be patient, that the writers of the NGSS understand the centrality of testing and would rather go slow than be quick get it wrong. That was good advice, but we already have some hints about what the assessments will be like.

Although we will have to wait to learn the grades in which they’ll be administered and how they’ll be weighted, there are some places to go to get a sense of what a well-designed science test for the NGSS might look like. One is the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

NEAP is otherwise known as “the Nation’s Report Card,” and in 2009 they pilot-tested some multi-step computer based science items and collected data on the results. The NGSS framework points to it in the section on assessment as an example of what computer based assessments are capable of doing. There are nine items requiring students to select data, draw conclusions based on it, and connect it to the body of science knowledge they have learned.

There are also sample items for the Smarter Balanced Assessment of the Common Core.  This site has examples of the types of items that will be found on the Common Core English and Math tests. It is a strong possibility the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium will also be involved in the science tests. The interesting thing to note for science teachers is how many of the English and math items require kids to do the NGSS science practices, especially in the multi-step performance tasks. Check out the math performance task on crickets at the high school level or the elementary English task on animal defenses for good examples of how to integrate science into English and Math.

There are many unanswered questions about the NGSS tests, but there is good reason to hope that they will honor real science teaching more that our current system does. Happy New Year!

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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

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CSTA Annual Conference Early Bird Rates End July 14

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Jessica Sawko

Teachers engaged in workshop activity

Teachers engaging in hands-on learning during a workshop at the 2016 CSTA conference.

Don’t miss your chance to register at the early bird rate for the 2017 CSTA Conference – the early-bird rate closes July 14. Need ideas on how to secure funding for your participation? Visit our website for suggestions, a budget planning tool, and downloadable justification letter to share with your admin. Want to take advantage of the early rate – but know your district will pay eventually? Register online today and CSTA will reimburse you when we receive payment from your district/employer. (For more information on how that works contact Zi Stair in the office for details – 916-979-7004 or zi@cascience.org.)

New Information Now Available On-line:

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.

Goodbye Outgoing and Welcome Incoming CSTA Board Members

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

Jill Grace

Jill Grace, CSTA President, 2017-2019

On July 1, 2017 five CSTA members concluded their service and four new board members joined the ranks of the CSTA Board of Directors. CSTA is so grateful for all the volunteer board of directors who contribute hours upon hours of time and energy to advance the work of the association. At the June 3 board meeting, CSTA was able to say goodbye to the outgoing board members and welcome the incoming members.

This new year also brings with it a new president for CSTA. As of July 1, 2017 Jill Grace is the president of the California Science Teachers Association. Jill is a graduate of California State University, Long Beach, a former middle school science teacher, and is currently a Regional Director with the K-12 Alliance @ WestEd where she works with California NGSS K-8 Early Implementation Initiative districts and charter networks in the San Diego area.

Outgoing Board Members

  • Laura Henriques (President-Elect: 2011 – 2013, President: 2013 – 2015, Past President: 2015 – 2017)
  • Valerie Joyner (Region 1 Director: 2009 – 2013, Primary Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Mary Whaley (Informal Science Education Director: 2013 – 2017)
  • Sue Campbell (Middle School/Jr. High Director: 2015 – 2017)
  • Marcus Tessier (2-Year College Director: 2015 – 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.

Finding My Student’s Motivation of Learning Through Engineering Tasks

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Huda Ali Gubary and Susheela Nath

It’s 8:02 and the bell rings. My students’ walk in and pick up an entry ticket based on yesterday’s lesson and homework. My countdown starts for students to begin…3, 2, 1. Ten students are on task and diligently completing the work, twenty are off task with behaviors ranging from talking up a storm with their neighbors to silently staring off into space. This was the start of my classes, more often than not. My students rarely showed the enthusiasm for a class that I had eagerly prepared for. I spent so much time searching for ways to get my students excited about the concepts they were learning. I wanted them to feel a connection to the lessons and come into my class motivated about what they were going to learn next. I would ask myself how I could make my class memorable where the kids were in the driver’s seat of learning. Incorporating engineering made this possible. 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 California NGSS k-8 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.

State Schools Chief Tom Torlakson Unveils Updated Recommended Literature List

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

SACRAMENTO—State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson unveiled an addition of 285 award-winning titles to the Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list.

“The books our students read help broaden their perspectives, enhance their knowledge, and fire their imaginations,” Torlakson said. “The addition of these award-winning titles represents the state’s continued commitment to the interests and engagement of California’s young readers.”

The Recommended Literature: Prekindergarten Through Grade Twelve list is a collection of more than 8,000 titles of recommended reading for children and adolescents. Reflecting contemporary and classic titles, including California authors, this online list provides an exciting range of literature that students should be reading at school and for pleasure. Works include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and drama to provide for a variety of tastes, interests, and abilities. Learn More…

Written by Guest Contributor

From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.

Teaching Science in the Time of Alternative Facts – Why NGSS Can Help (somewhat)

Posted: Wednesday, July 12th, 2017

by Peter A’Hearn

The father of one of my students gave me a book: In the Beginning: Compelling Evidence for Creation and the Flood by Walt Brown, Ph. D. He had heard that I was teaching Plate Tectonics and wanted me to consider another perspective. The book offered the idea that the evidence for plate tectonics could be better understood if we considered the idea that beneath the continent of Pangaea was a huge underground layer of water that suddenly burst forth from a rift between the now continents of Africa and South America. The waters shot up and the continents hydroplaned apart on the water layer to their current positions. The force of the movement pushed up great mountain ranges which are still settling to this day, resulting in earthquakes along the margins of continents. This had happened about 6,000 years ago and created a great worldwide flood. Learn More…

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Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

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