January 2015 – Vol. 27 No. 5

Science Under Siege

Posted: Thursday, March 1st, 2012

by Rick Pomeroy

Just when we thought that there was a glimmer of hope for a new set of standards that would engage students in authentic and relevant inquiry based science, we must contend with three significant threats to science education. Due to be released for the first public comment on March 30, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), based on the Conceptual Framework for Science Education, promise a new and exciting view of science education. “The Framework is designed to help realize a vision for education in the sciences and engineering in which students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of the core ideas in these fields.” (Conceptual Framework, 2010). If the NGSS come anywhere close to this vision, it will be a significant step towards more science instruction that focuses on college and career readiness through critical thinking, problem solving, and active engagement. Given that the current standards, first published in 1998, focus primarily on content with little requirement for problem solving and critical thinking, adoption of the NGSS will change the landscape of science instruction. To accomplish such a paradigm shift will require significant effort and time. Teachers will have to rethink their approach to the curriculum, teacher preparation programs will need to retool to prepare teachers equipped to teach the new standards, new instructional materials will need to be created, and finally, new and different assessments and assessment methodologies will have to be created to insure full implementation of the NGSS.

Unfortunately, there are two pending legislative actions that could greatly inhibit the success of the implementation of any new standards. First, in his proposed budget for 2012-13, Governor Brown calls for the elimination of the mandate requiring a second year of science for high school graduation. Currently underfunded by $200 million, eliminating the mandate for the second year of science for graduation would be a step back to 1986 when the second year of science was added to the graduation requirements. Elimination of the mandate could be seen by low performing schools as permission to drop science classes and replace them with classes designed to boost standardized test performance.  The second attack, at the federal level, involves current proposals for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA). The proposed legislation that includes No Child Left Behind, calls for the elimination of all testing in science and the exclusion of science from AYP calculations. Though the current administration has promised to veto any proposals with this language, the message it sends, that science is not a key component of an educated child, speaks loud and clear.  (Please note, this is a fluid process and one that changes often – CSTA is working closely with NSTA on this issue.)

The third threat, though more subtle, may be the most real of all. The recent Fordham Report, giving California Standards a grade of A, may give some decision-makers an opportunity to delay or avoid adoption of new standards all together. During difficult budgetary times, arguments could be made that if our standards are of A+ quality, there is no reason to make any changes. This attitude would leave California with standards that were authored in 1998, which do not adequately prepare students to enter colleges or careers in 2012.

Now more than ever, science teachers must be aware of the policies and politics that control the science content they teach. It is critically important that teachers make their voices heard. On March 30, the first public draft of the NGSS will be released. This will be a chance for every science teacher to review and comment on the standards that will form the foundation of the future of science education in California. At the same time, it is critically important that science teachers’ voices be heard both in Sacramento and Washington DC on policies that will impact science education far into the future. CSTA continues to represent science teachers whenever it can. Your participation and membership in your professional association can only strengthen the message that CSTA carries on your behalf.

Stay tuned to California Classroom Science for updates on all of these issues and more. I enc0urage you become familiar with the Conceptual Framework for Science Education, click here to get started.

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 past president of CSTA.

7 Responses

  1. It is a shame that mathematics and language arts, which, although VERY important tools, have taken center stage, especially in the elementary grades, thus dramatically reducing the focus on science. How much better it would be if they were taught in the context of science and social studies. I am hoping that the new science framework and the Common Core standards help to see this realized. I was actually shocked to see that our governor, for whom I voted, has so little insight into the importance of being scientifically literate.

  2. Rick is right about keeping an eye on progress. . Some of the same forces, politely called “mischief makers” back in the development days of The California Science Standards, 1998, appear to be in play today. Many national and state scientific society leaders considered and reported our 1998 California Science Standards to be a disaster for developing our childrens’ science literacy and volunteered to reviseit for free. Their offer was rejected.

    The recent Fordham report’s accolades appear to be influenced by some familiar 1998 behind the scenes people. Sometimes it’s important to know history so as not to repeat it. We need now to have the high quality of science learning promised to our children by the New Generation Science Standards.

  3. Rick and Bonnie are right. Watch and pay close attention. The 1998 Science Content Standards might have looked very different from the version that was finally adopted, and I (along with a few others) attribute much of the mischief that transformed education … first in California and then later in the rest of the country … to seemingly small power plays, some out in the open, but others just under the radar. A little history lesson might be of use. I can help if anyone wants to take the lead.

  4. Scott – Christine Bertrand wrote a standards history piece back in 2009, you can access it here: http://www.cascience.org/csta/pdf/standards%20history.pdf.Might be a good place for folks to start…

  5. Christine wrote a nice P.C. history. The mischief however was sometimes intense, and unfortunately sometimes successful. Much more lies between the lines of the 2009 CSTA article. Similar attempts are bound to be made this time.

    “Sunshine” should be P.C. this time. We sometimes hesitate to report until the deck is stacked. Intimidation is sometimes experienced. CSTA and our friends in the scientific community can help keep the development of the NGSS in the best interests of our California kids.

  6. Susan, Bonnie, and Scott,

    Thank you so much for your comments about this article. I wish I could have reported today that the reauthorization of ESEA had included an amendment that would leave science testing as it was (at least this was not a loss) but alas, the amendment was withdrawn this morning and the bill is moving forward without science. There was a good account of this in the NSTA Express which can be found at the following URL
    http://science.nsta.org/nstaexpress/nstaexpress_2012_03_05_legupdate.htm

    As we move forward I am committed to doing everything I can to facilitate a wide spread review of the NGSS, by stake holders in California, to insure that our input is included . Unfortunately, the previous Standards adoption was heavily impacted by a small group of people. If we mobilize as many of our constituency as possible, I hope that it will be impossible to approve standards that are different than those supported by people who have seen and support the NGSS.

    We look forward to working with you and any of our members to develop as rich an understanding of the NGSS and the Conceptual Framework as possible.

  7. […] Science Under Siege […]

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

Inspire One of Your Colleagues in the New Year!

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Lisa Hegdahl

Is it really 2015 already? Where did the time go? It seems like only yesterday I was planning my trip to the Long Beach NSTA Conference, in collaboration with CSTA, and just like that, it is over. But not so fast – when one conference ends, the planning for another begins. Arrangements for the 2015 California Science Education Conference in Sacramento are well underway. If you came away from the Long Beach conference with something incredible, consider how you can pay that forward by being an inspiration to someone else next year. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Lisa Hegdahl

Lisa Hegdahl is an 8th grade science teacher at McCaffrey Middle School in Galt, CA and is president-elect of CSTA.

The NGSS Crosscutting Concepts Make Science Learning 3D!

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Peter A’Hearn

The idea that structure relates to function is pretty abstract for 1st graders. To get them thinking about structure and function in living things we started by having them draw a picture of what they thought a fish looks like. I have found that people have preconceived, cartoon versions of what things look like in their heads that can interfere with their ability to make objective observations of the real thing; it is helpful to give them a chance to draw that cartoon before having them observe the real thing and compare it to their drawing. (See How People Learn [1] for more about prior knowledge and also more about fish).  Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District, Co-Chair of the 2013 Conference Committee, and a member of CSTA.

Next Generation Science Standards: Jump Right In

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Jennifer McGranahan

In the midst of all that is new this year – implementing Common Core for Language Arts and Mathematics, the new ELA/ELD Framework and our district’s Personalized Learning Plans – we are also hearing more about the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS). As a 6th grade classroom teacher, when I heard the acronym “NGSS,” I quickly put it out of my mind. My brain couldn’t face one more new expectation. However, I had majored in biology in college and had decided I wanted to focus on improving my teaching in science, and NGSS kept creeping back into my thoughts no matter how hard I tried to ignore it. Before I knew it, I was part of a team of teachers in my district selected to be part of the California K-8 NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. With the honor of being an Early Implementer came trainings during the summer and regular school year, and hours crafting and planning “beautiful” NGSS lessons that include 3-dimensional learning that I am not familiar with. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Actually, it is!!  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.

What’s Your 2015 Resolution?

Posted: Tuesday, January 6th, 2015

by Laura Henriques

I heard a story on the radio about New Year’s Resolutions. It seems that about 44% of people make resolutions each year with 42% of them self-reporting that they’ve kept the resolution all year. That means about 18% of us make and keep a resolution each year. While the success rate isn’t all that high, the researcher being interviewed seemed to think that action of making a resolution is still a good thing. It helps us be intentional about our goals and actions, or at least our intended goals and actions! She seemed to think that simply stating your resolution and trying to keep it helped us move in our desired direction.

With that in mind, what is your professional resolution for 2015? Will you read an article related to teaching science each month? Support a colleague? Be a Master Teacher for a student teacher? Serve on a committee at school or the district? Share your expertise with others by presenting a workshop at the CSTA conference in Sacramento or writing an article for California Classroom Science (CCS)? Get better connected to other science education professionals? Try something new to help you transition to NGSS? Apply to serve on the CSTA Board of Directors?

Whatever your science education resolution is for 2015, CSTA can help.  Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.