Alison Yin for EdSource

This year may prove to be a pivotal time for science education in California, as schools enter the final stages of introducing the Next Generation Science Standards — the new K-12 science standards — and prepare for the first fully operational standardized tests in early 2019. We asked science educators and leaders what they’d like to see happen in 2018 in the world of science education.

Jill Grace, president of the California Science Teachers Association:

Here are a few things we’ve been simmering on as a state with respect to science and the Next Generation Science Standards:

First, we need dedicated support (and funding) to support high-quality professional learning for teachers to help support their growth, understanding and ability to implement the full vision NGSS. This would include moving forward with processes for districts to review and pilot instructional materials. In line with that, we need materials that meet this vision. For all of this to be successful, administrators need support and training to be able to help their teachers and move implementation forward.

Education Trust — West, a nonprofit that advocates for educational equity:

Here’s our wish list for science education in 2018:

  • Assessments that allow all students (including English learners and students with disabilities) to show what they know.
  • Every school provides teachers high quality science curriculum and materials that are aligned with the Next Generation Science Standards.
  • High-quality training for teachers to implement the new science standards.
  • More instructional time for science at the elementary and middle school levels.
  • High-quality science teachers for every elementary, middle and high school statewide.
  • Every high school offers University of California and California State University approved science courses and every student is enrolled and supported.
  • Multilingual science resources and materials for students whose native language is not English.
  • Funding for partnerships with science institutions to provide high quality professional development for teachers to teach the new science standards.
  • After-school science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) programs for low-income students and students of color.

Vince Stewart, director of the STEM Network at Children Now:

I’d like to see California realize the vision outlined in Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s STEM Task Force Report from 2014 and answer its call to action to implement fully integrated, high-quality STEM teaching and learning for all kids. California’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and Next Generation Science Standards were significant steps forward, but they’re not nearly enough. We must do more, and invest more, to address the uneven and inequitable access to STEM education that contributes to the persistent achievement gap, especially among African-American and Latino students, and particularly in math and science proficiency.

And here’s my wish list in no particular order of priority:

  • Increase hours (per week) of science instruction to the equivalent of English language arts and math.
  • Require science courses be taught by fully credentialed teachers with bachelor’s degrees in science.
  • Provide additional compensation to science teachers, as well as teachers of other high-need and hard-to-staff subjects.
  • Add science to the list of state Academic Performance indicators on the California School Dashboard.
  • Implement science assessments before grade 5.
  • Provide teacher professional development in science that’s equivalent to English language arts and math.

Trish Williams, member of the State Board of Education and member of the board’s Next Generation Science Standards and computer science committees:

Strengthening California’s K-12 science and computer science is critical to the state’s economy and workforce, and is also an important equity and social mobility opportunity for our state’s students. Gov. Brown, the Legislature, the State Board of Education and Superintendent of Public Instruction have taken important initial steps to update California’s science standards and to create new, first-ever computer science standards. I’ve been honored to be a part of this important work.

But much more momentum and long-term support for teachers and students will be needed. Looking further ahead, my wish for 2018 is that candidates for Governor and for Superintendent of Public Instruction will declare that effective statewide implementation of Next Generation Science Standards and computer science standards — with a goal of making California tops nationally and internationally in both fields — will be among their highest K-12 education priorities for dedicated funding, leadership, and other resources.

Laurie Scheibner, elementary science teacher in Tahoe-Truckee Unified:

Here’s a start:

  • We, as a nation, need to focus on science as a priority from the federal level on down into every classroom. As teachers, we need to focus on integrating science whenever possible, and use it as a vehicle to teach other curriculum such as reading, math, technology and history.
  • Science needs to be taught in all grades K-12, and be taught as a matter of importance. There should be support for science curriculum, field trips, classroom teachers and science specialists to support all K-12 classrooms, but especially K-6.
  • Opportunities to attend trainings should be made more obvious to classroom teachers. There are many opportunities for teachers to attend summer workshops and STEM trainings — but very few people apply or attend even those which are fully funded.
  • It would be pretty wonderful — total wish list item — for teachers to be able to work on a master’s or a STEM certification at no additional cost to them. Just coming up with the time to pursue additional training is very difficult, but trying to do that and teach, raise a family, pay the bills — that’s really, really tough. (I, for one, still do not have a master’s degree, much as I would like to — and I am 31 years into this profession!)
  • And attached to that — what a dream it would be for teachers to get a PAID sabbatical to pursue a master’s or extra training in science.
  • FUNDING. Some districts can barely — or can’t adequately — fund a regular traditional science curriculum, let alone the labs, the elementary STEM science specialist teachers, the materials, etc.
  • Science internships not just for university students, but those in community college, high school, and even middle school.
  • Free science summer school. Our district offers a middle school STEM academy in the summer with a limited number of slots — and we could easily double that. If every district could provide that for as many students who were interested, and make it K-12 … Wow, the things those students could do after college!

Staff of the National Center for Science Education, a nonprofit that works to protect science education from ideological interference:

From Ann Reid, executive director:

I wish for all teachers to have access to the professional development they need to teach climate change confidently and accurately; our survey found that more than 67 percent of middle and high school science teachers want and would benefit from such professional development.

While I’m at it, I’d like science teachers to have the resources they need to provide state of the art inquiry-based learning, including laboratory equipment and supplies, data analysis tools, field trip expenses, and professional development, especially as they implement the Next Generation Science Standards.

From Brad Hoge, director of teacher support:

My two cents:

I would like to see more chemistry and physics teachers teach about climate change.

I would like to see more hands-on lessons using local data developed for place-based learning, especially around extreme weather events.

I would like to see more project-based learning used for science lessons in general, in response to the Next Generation Science Standards framework.

I would like to see more evolution topics taught in elementary and middle school.

And I would love to live in a world where teaching evolution and climate change is expected and welcomed!

Karen Cowe, chief executive of Ten Strands, an environmental education nonprofit:

I’d like to see environmental literacy plans that support Next Generation Science Standards implementation for the majority of California districts, so that every district has the capacity to:

  • Enable students to deeply explore their local environments, thus nurturing a profound understanding of the impact humans have on the natural world through relevant experiences.
  • Embrace science-rich educational institutions and partners so curriculum, campus and community needs are fully met and sustained over time.

Okay, maybe this won’t happen in 2018 but over time would be good!

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  1. Anne Swigard 5 years ago5 years ago

    I’ve noticed that with the endless testing that they’re required to do, teachers are struggling to just teach reading and writing to their students. In high Title I schools, Science often becomes a bit of an afterthought. This is not a judgment; it’s commentary based on my training and coaching over 18 years all over the country. Science, Social Studies, and Technology are what are interesting to kids if they’re brought to life. The teacher … Read More

    I’ve noticed that with the endless testing that they’re required to do, teachers are struggling to just teach reading and writing to their students. In high Title I schools, Science often becomes a bit of an afterthought. This is not a judgment; it’s commentary based on my training and coaching over 18 years all over the country. Science, Social Studies, and Technology are what are interesting to kids if they’re brought to life. The teacher professional development I’d like to see teachers receive most is how to integrate Science, Soc Studies, and Technology with Reading and Writing – and Math. Life doesn’t happen in isolation, so why should teaching and learning? Of course skills can be pulled out and worked on, then reinserted in the content to create context. I would love to work with a team to create a thorough, standards-based, integrated curriculum. More Project-Based Learning. More simulations. I’ve done it before at the district level and the kids loved learning and this, achieved. How could we achieve something like this in California?

  2. Ann 5 years ago5 years ago

    Gosh it all sounds so great but has everyone forgotten that we in California aren’t even teaching out kids to read by fourth grade?