September 2016 – Vol. 29 No. 1

President Obama Announces Plans for a New, National Corps to Recognize and Reward Leading Educators in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Posted: Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

WASHINGTON, DC — Today, the Obama Administration will announce the President’s plan for the creation of a new, national Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Master Teacher Corps comprised of some of the nation’s finest educators in STEM subjects. The STEM Master Teacher Corps will begin with 50 exceptional STEM teachers established in 50 sites and will be expanded over 4 years to reach 10,000 Master Teachers. These selected teachers will make a multi-year commitment to the Corps and, in exchange for their expertise, leadership and service, will receive an annual stipend of up to $20,000 on top of their base salary. The Administration will launch this Teacher Corps with the $1 billion from the President’s 2013 budget request currently before Congress.

President Obama said, “If America is going to compete for the jobs and industries of tomorrow, we need to make sure our children are getting the best education possible. Teachers matter, and great teachers deserve our support.”

Today, the Administration also announced that the President will immediately dedicate approximately $100 million of the existing Teacher Incentive Fund toward helping school districts implement high-quality plans to establish career ladders that identify, develop, and leverage highly effective STEM teachers. With an application deadline of July 27th, over 30 school districts across America have already signaled their interest in competing for funding to identify and compensate highly effective teachers who can model and mentor STEM instruction for their teaching peers, providing those teachers with additional compensation, recognition, and responsibilities in their schools.

These Administration plans build on a key recommendation of the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST), calling for a national STEM Master Teacher Corps to recognize and help retain America’s most talented STEM teachers, build a community of practice among them, raise the profile of the STEM teaching profession, and leverage excellent teachers to collaborate with their peers to strengthen STEM education in America’s public schools.

As part of the announcement, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, White House Domestic Policy Council Director Cecilia Muñoz, White House Office of Science and Technology Policy Director Dr. John Holdren, and PCAST Co-Chair Dr. Eric Lander will meet on Wednesday at the White House with outstanding math and science teachers to discuss efforts to strengthen teaching and learning in science, technology, engineering and mathematics and build up the STEM education profession.

Supporting Master Teachers through Recognition, Respect, and Rewards

Early in his Administration, President Obama called for a national effort to help move American students from the middle to the top of the pack in science and math achievement. The Obama Administration is committed to preparing young people both to learn deeply and think critically in STEM, and to equip them with the knowledge and skills necessary for jobs in the high-growth fields that fuel American innovation.

Improving STEM teaching is a key strategy to reaching this national goal. To meet this critical need, PCAST issued the Prepare and Inspire report, with a key recommendation calling for the creation of a new, national STEM Master Teacher Corps. Master Teachers are classroom-based educators who are highly effective in improving learning outcomes for their students, model outstanding teaching, and share their practices and strategies with their professional colleagues to lead and guide improvements across education. Master teachers know and are deeply interested in their subject, care about improving their craft, and inspire both their students and fellow teachers. PCAST recommended that the STEM Master Teacher Corps become a national resource – a networked community of outstanding public school teachers of STEM subjects who can serve as resources to each other and to other educators in schools and communities nationwide, and who would signal the value of STEM education to America’s future.

In order to ensure America’s students are prepared for success in an increasingly competitive global economy, we must do more to ensure that teaching is highly respected and supported as a profession, and that accomplished, effective teachers are guiding students’ learning in every classroom. The Obama Administration’s 2013 budget includes a new, $5 billion program – the RESPECT Project, which stands for Recognizing Educational Success, Professional Excellence, and Collaborative Teaching – that will boldly re-envision the teaching profession for the 21st Century. Today’s announcements build on the RESPECT project by supporting STEM master teachers as a key strategy to retain and reward our nation’s most accomplished STEM educators, and by enabling them to work in new ways to dramatically improve student achievement. Lifting up America’s teachers is critical to recruiting promising talent, retaining the best, and continuously improving outcomes for students.

A New, National STEM Master Teacher Corps

The President will dedicate $1 billion from his 2013 budget request currently before Congress to launch a new, national STEM Master Teacher Corps.

As part of the RESPECT project, the STEM Master Teacher Corps will be supported by the U.S. Department of Education, and established in collaboration with independent, non-profit organizations and local public-private partnerships between STEM-related businesses and industries and school districts. Key parts of the plan include:

• A rigorous selection of the best and brightest math and science teachers from across the country: The STEM Master Teacher Corps will be established in 100 sites – each with 50 exceptional STEM teachers – and will be expanded over 4 years to reach 10,000 Master Teachers. Accomplished teachers will be selected for the STEM Master Teacher Corps through a highly competitive process, based on demonstrated effectiveness in teaching one or more STEM subjects, their content knowledge, and their contributions to the continuous improvement of teaching and learning both within their schools and across the community of STEM teachers. The selection process will be administered locally or regionally, but aligned to a set of national benchmarks.

• National recognition and rewards, including compensation to keep Corps members in the profession: STEM Master Teacher Corps members will benefit from a professional compensation structure that will make their profession more competitive with alternative careers, keeping the best teachers in the classrooms where they are needed. STEM Master Teacher Corps members will make a multi-year commitment to the Corps and, in exchange for their expertise, leadership and service, will receive an annual stipend of up to $20,000 on top of their base salary. This recognition further raises the prestige of the Corps members, enabling America’s classrooms to attract and secure the best talent in the STEM education profession.

• Corps members as a national resource, for their schools and for other STEM educators: STEM Master Teacher Corps members will be called to serve their profession and the nation, through an ongoing commitment to professional learning. They will build a community of teaching practice where they live, helping students excel in math and science while taking on leadership and mentorship roles in their schools and communities. Corps members will lead ongoing professional meetings and teacher development activities; assist their schools and school districts in evaluating and providing feedback to other teachers; and validate and disseminate effective practices to improve STEM instruction. They will participate in regular convenings to engage in professional development and share best practices; deepen their subject matter expertise; consult with experts in teaching and learning; and improve their instructional leadership and pedagogical content skills.

These efforts will be complemented as well by private sector responses to the President’s call for “all hands on deck” approach to excellence in STEM education, including Google’s commitment to convene education leaders and innovators to develop ideas to recognize, connect, and raise the profile of these STEM master teachers.

Building on Success

Today’s announcements align with the President’s belief that excellent STEM teaching requires both deep content knowledge and strong teaching skills, and his strong leadership in working to improve STEM education:

The President has announced an ambitious goal of preparing 100,000 additional STEM teachers over the next decade, with growing philanthropic and private sector support. This program would provide competitive awards to create or expand high-quality pathways to teacher certification and other innovative approaches for recruiting, training, and placing talented recent college graduates and mid-career professionals in the STEM fields in high-need schools. With the president’s leadership, over 115 organizations, led by Carnegie Corporation of New York and Opportunity Equation, came together to form the coalition “100Kin10” to help reach the President’s goal. These efforts have yielded a $22 million investment from philanthropic and private sectors toward helping to meet the President’s goal.

• Since 1983, the National Science Foundation’s Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching (PAEMST) program has served as the nation’s highest honors for teachers of mathematics and science. Plans are underway to reconfigure PAEMST beyond its current scope to design new opportunities for PAEMST teachers to share their expertise and to continue to grow as professionals. Opportunities may include benefiting from NSF-sponsored international exchanges, collaborating with the research scientists and engineers funded by the NSF, and accessing scientific data and findings from NSF projects for use in their classrooms. These opportunities will allow PAEMST teachers to connect directly with NSF-funded science and education projects, so they can use the latest scientific findings, tools and data in their classrooms and with their colleagues, and even participate in frontier research. Additionally, NSF will help strengthen the cyber networks among the more than 4,000 PAEMST awardees over the past 29 years, and PAEMST awardees will have opportunities to serve as mentors and advisors to the next generation of STEM teachers. In the coming months, NSF will host a series of community forums for input in the design of these new components.

• The only competitive preference priority in the Race to the Top program was for states to develop a high quality plan to improve STEM education at the state level. All twelve awardees in the initial round of this $4 billion program earned points for this priority, and this emphasis was maintained through an additional $200M in funding to seven more states in Phase 3 of the Race to the Top competition.

• The Investing in Innovation (i3) program makes competitive awards to develop, validate, and scale up innovative programs, practices, and strategies that are effective in improving student outcomes. i3 has maintained a priority on promoting STEM education, to support innovative programs with evidence of impact from districts across the country. Next year, funds within i3 will also support the new Advanced Research Projects Agency for Education, which will foster breakthrough developments in educational technology and learning systems.

• In 2009, the President launched Educate to Innovate, a public-private partnership that brings together leading businesses, foundations, non-profits, and professional societies to improve STEM teaching and learning. As part of this effort, the President launched Change the Equation, a CEO-led effort to dramatically improve STEM education by mobilizing the business community to improve the quality of STEM education in the United States. This past February, Change the Equation announced that 24 member companies would expand five effective STEM programs in more than 130 new sites, benefiting nearly 40,000 students nationwide -over half of whom are in low-income schools.

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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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.