Evidence Based Science Education

This blog will examine research and evidence as it relates to science education and science education issues. It is an attempt to bring together the science of education and the practice of education.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Race to the Top

I am sure most of you have heard about the Race to the Top. It is a competitive grant offered by the U.S. Department of Education to states and could be worth upwards of $400 million for Colorado for education.

Under the guidelines of the grant half the money would go to the districts and the other half would be used by the state. The Race to the top has four assurance areas: Standards and Assessment, data systems, teacher effectiveness, and low performing schools. In addition to these four assurance areas extra points will be awarded to applications that also have a STEM focus.

One of the stated goals of the Race to the Top is to take the pockets of excellence in public education and take those ideas or programs to scale across the state. Currently we are looking for the best ideas of what is happening in STEM education for inclusion in the Race to the Top application. Ideas are being submitted to http://groups.google.com/group/stem-affinity-group.

All submissions should include:
Point of Contact for this Recommendation;

Name of person or group that makes this recommendation (e.g. individual, sub-committee, committee or other);

A brief description the recommendation;

A description of what a participating district needs to do to implement the recommendation (e.g., implement an evaluation system, train teachers how to use data, or report certain data);

A description of what the state needs to do to implement the recommendation (e.g., implement new assessments, create program evaluation criteria, or develop a data system);

A description of what other stakeholders in the education system (e.g., early childhood educators, teacher preparers, community colleges, colleges and universities, the workforce system, etc), need to do to implement this recommendation;

A description of how funds from the R2T grant are to be used to support this recommendation;

An estimate of how much money from the R2T grant should be invested in this reform and what the on-going costs after theR2T grant funds expire will be and how they will be sustained;

A description of the evidence that this recommendation will improve student outcomes (e.g. research, evidence of best practice, examples of places where this reform has been implemented);

Does Colorado have any assets to support this reform (e.g. existing pilots of this reform in some schools/districts, laws or regulations supporting this reform, experts in this reform area, etc)?

Get your ideas in as soon as possible!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

National Science Standards?

As anyone who follows what is going on nationally in language arts and math education can tell you, an effort known as the Common Core State Standards Initiative is working to craft common academic standards across states. Colorado has signed a memorandum of understanding to help develop these common standards, but has not necessarily agreed to adopt them. With what we have seen of the language arts and math standards so far, Colorado’s draft state standards revisions align fairly closely with the proposed common core.

Of course we already have National Science Standards. These were written by the National Resource Council and have been informing science education for a decade. In addition to the National Science Standards AAAS produced it own set of science standards with a series of publications such as, Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the Atlas for Science Literacy. So what’s new?

Recent research from the National Academies, in Taking Science to School and other publications, has criticized the current national science standards for not being specific enough to be a practical guide to teachers in the classroom. In response to this and based on a call from its members, NSTA launched the Science Anchors project, to create a more streamlined set of standards for science it called anchors. This effort has been in partnership with Achieve and they hoped to bring in NRC, and AAAS to the effort.

It was under this backdrop that the common core effort by the National Governor’s Association (NGA) and the Council for Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) came on the scene. Now leaders from NSTA, NRC, AAAS, and others are having discussions with the folks from NGA/CCSSO about science. The desire is to merge the anchors effort with the common core. But first the common core folks want to make sure they get math and language arts well under way before taking on other subject areas. Current estimates around a common core in science put any substantial product from this effort about two years out.

Monday, October 12, 2009

21st Century Skills and Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

According to SB212 the revised Colorado Academic standards must reflect 21st century skills and Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness (PWR). After a tour to gather input from people all over Colorado, five 21st century skills were identified as critical for Colorado students. These are: Critical Thinking, Information Literacy, Collaboration, Self Direction, and Invention. One might rightfully ask “what is so 21st century about these skills?” These are skills that Aristotle and Socrates might recognize. The difference is now everyone needs these skills to be successful. In today’s society where we have universal suffrage for all citizens who want to vote and where increasingly important decisions about one’s life are left up to the individual instead of the government or someone’s employer these skills are critical. But many of these changes happened 30, 40, 50 or more years ago and still we did not emphasize these skills for all. What has changed in the 21st century is that these are also the skills that work force is demanding. Factory workers are now expected to problem solve and work collaboratively, retail store personnel must have self direction and invention. I highly recommend that everyone check out the books The World is Flat and The Global Achievement Gap as these give an excellent glimpse into the work place and world of today and the world we are preparing students for tomorrow.

In addition to 21st century skills a PWR definition was also crafted for Colorado by CDE in conjunction with CDHE based on a public input tour. They broke this into two parts, one content based and the other skill based. On the content side for science the definition is:
• Think scientifically and apply the scientific method to complex systems and phenomena
• Use empirical evidence to draw conclusions
• Recognize conclusions are subject to interpretation and can be challenged
• Understand the core scientific concepts, principles, laws, and vocabulary, and how scientific knowledge is extended, refined, and revised over time

As for skills PWR is defined by:
Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving
• Apply logical reasoning and analytical skills
• Evaluate the credibility and merit of information, ideas, and arguments
• Discern bias, pose questions, marshal evidence, and present solutions
Find and Use Information/Information Technology
• Assess the credibility and relevance of information
• Conduct research using acceptable research methods
• Apply different research paradigms, including the collection and analysis of both quantitative and qualitative data and research
• Select, integrate, and apply appropriate technology to expand information and knowledge
Creativity and Innovation
• Demonstrate intellectual curiosity
• Generate new ideas and novel approaches
• Develop new connections where none previously existed
Global and Cultural Awareness
• Appreciate the arts, culture, and humanities
• Interact effectively with and respect the diversity of different individuals, groups, and cultures
• Recognize the interdependent nature of our world
Civic Responsibility
• Practice civic responsibility and citizenship
• Balance personal freedom with the interests of a community
Work Ethic
• Set priorities and manage time
• Take initiative, and follow through
• Learn from instruction and criticism
• Take responsibility for actions and work
• Act with maturity, civility, and politeness
Personal Responsibility
• Act assertively
• Be a self-advocate
• Possess financial literacy and awareness of consumer economics
• Behave honestly and ethically
• Read, write, listen and speak effectively
• Construct clear, coherent, and persuasive arguments
• Be a team player
• Acknowledge authority and take direction
• Cooperate for a common purpose

As you can see there is a lot of overlap between the 21st century skills and PWR.

The future of education in Colorado is going to be shaped by these two definitions. Already the CDE is piloting PWR assessments and the next generation of CSAP will reflect these skills as well, since they will be part of the new standards.

How do you see these two impacting science education in Colorado?

How does science help students develop 21st century skills and PWR?

What support do you think you need to implement these in your district, school, or classroom?