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.
Posted: Monday, April 14th, 2014
The Educators Evaluating the Quality of Instructional Products (EQuIP) Rubric for Lessons & Units: Science was released April 11, 2014. The Rubric provides criteria by which to measure the alignment and overall quality of lessons and units with respect to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The purpose of the Rubric is to (1) provide constructive criterion-based feedback to developers; (2) review existing instructional materials to determine what revisions are needed; and (3) identify exemplars/models for teachers’ use within and across states.
This document was developed in response to the recognition among educators that while curriculum and instruction will need to shift with the adoption of the NGSS, there is currently a lack of high-quality, NGSS-aligned materials. The power of the rubric is in the feedback it provides curriculum developers and in the productive conversations educators can have while evaluating materials. Learn More…
Posted: Monday, April 14th, 2014
by Jessica Sawko
On Thursday, April 10, 2014 CDE Staff, friends, and colleagues of CSTA member Phil Lafontaine gathered to celebrate his incredible career as a science educator and state employee of the California Department of Education, and to wish him an enjoyable retirement. There were many CSTA members in attendance to celebrate Phil and his contributions to education, and science education in particular. Phil was presented with several retirement gifts, including a customized San Francisco Giants jersey, and a Senate Resolution honoring his career and service. Learn More…
Posted: Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
Updated April 8, 2014
K-12 Alliance/WestEd, California Science Project, California Science Teachers Association, Curriculum and Instruction Steering Committee, and the California Department of Education Presents: Next Generation Science Standards State Rollout Symposium #1.
Join science leaders at the first of a series of statewide professional learning symposia exploring the philosophy, design, and initial implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Learn More…
What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate: Evaluating Negotiation in an Elementary Science Classroom
Posted: Thursday, April 3rd, 2014
by Mason Kuhn
Engaging students in negotiation with their peers is considered a central motivation for recent national policy recommendations (National Research Council, 2011) and has been a focus of much scholarship in science education (e.g. Bergland and Reiser, 2009 & Hand, 2008). In the Next Generation Science Standards under the heading “Science and Engineering Practices,” the term “Engaging in Argument From Evidence” appears in almost every standard. However, most literature on negotiation focuses on theory, where little focuses on the topic of negotiation as related to science teaching and learning. Learn More…
Posted: Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014
by Laura Henriques
Updated April 8, 2014
This month’s issue of CCS focuses on biology and chemistry. Articles in this issue highlight some of the challenges around teaching these topics as we move towards Common Core and NGSS implementation. Jeanine Wulfenstein points out that the ideas are often abstract and difficult for students to grasp. These topics include a large number of vocabulary words that can get in the way of understanding, especially for English learners and students with special needs. Barbara Woods points out how discrepant events can be used to motivate and engage students by including the wow factor. Both articles provide us with teaching strategies that engage and support students while incorporating aspects of NGSS and Common Core.
I do not think any of us could teach chemistry (or other abstract topics) without using models (one of the NGSS science and engineering practices). A discrepant event or surprising moment causes us to ask questions (another of the science and engineering practices). These questions are followed by investigations, tentative explanations and more investigations as students and teachers try to make sense of natural phenomena (even more science and engineering practices!). This approach puts the student-developed models to the test. Adjustments need to be made and the model gets refined. As they explain relationships, cause and effect, and try to make sense of the science they are seeing, they are meeting Common Core standards and science standards. Learn More…