As noted in earlier chapters, the problems surrounding elementary and middle school science education in California are obvious and systemic, but many promising options exist to begin solving those problems. The question is how to make progress.
A CALIFORNIA SCIENCE EDUCATION COALITION
The approach that was discussed intensively at the convocation is the formation of a coalition dedicated to creating an outstanding science
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation 6 Rising to the Challenge Key Points A statewide coalition dedicated to creating an outstanding science education system could address the problems facing K-8 science education in California today. Each sector represented in the coalition could play a distinct role while contributing to the coalition’s overall goals. Professional development, the time devoted to science in K-8 classrooms, and the establishment of an infrastructure for ongoing educational improvement all require special emphasis. The time to act is now, while science education occupies a position of prominence on state and national agendas. As noted in earlier chapters, the problems surrounding elementary and middle school science education in California are obvious and systemic, but many promising options exist to begin solving those problems. The question is how to make progress. A CALIFORNIA SCIENCE EDUCATION COALITION The approach that was discussed intensively at the convocation is the formation of a coalition dedicated to creating an outstanding science
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation education system throughout California. The coalition would include all of the stakeholders involved in science education, including K-12 teachers and administrators, parents, education researchers and evaluators, colleges and universities, professional societies, government at all levels, research institutions, business and industry, informal science education organizations, and philanthropies. Such a coalition would provide an opportunity for all stakeholders to agree on a shared vision and common goals. The California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) and the California State University System (with California Polytechnic State University as the lead institution) have received a planning grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the S.D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation to produce a blueprint by the end of 2009 for an advocacy campaign on behalf of science education.1 According to CCST’s executive director Susan Hackwood, this ongoing activity has made it an ideal time to establish a science education coalition in California. The advocacy campaign will be “long-term, on target, with many people saying the same thing over and over.” It will involve well-known public figures, chief executive officers (CEOs), industry associations, and others who are in a position to make a difference. CCST is planning two levels of advocacy. The “grass roots” are the schools, districts, parents, and local industries that have a stake in science education. The “grass tops” are the prominent leaders who can work directly with government, industry, and foundations to foment change. “We’re going to rely on you for the content,” Hackwood said to the convocation participants. “But what comes out of this meeting will get traction within our organization, and within other organizations, too…. We can help build the campaign to make it happen.” Marilyn Edling of California Polytechnic State University said that she was putting together an advisory board for the campaign, which will include “people who are very powerful at a national level and a state level who can really take this campaign to Sacramento.” The California Teacher Advisory Council of the CCST also can offer guidance to the coalition. Each partner in the coalition would have a specific role to play. These roles were discussed throughout the convocation and particularly during a breakout session on the second day, when attendees separated into groups organized by sector. Rapporteurs for each group were asked to highlight up to three points that their sectors of the “village” could contribute to future efforts. The following section summarizes the discussions 1 PowerPoint slides from this presentation are available at http://www.nasonline.org/site/DocServer/Hackwood__CA_STEM_Innovation_Network.pdf?docID=54989. Additional information about the California STEM Innovation Initiative is available at http://ccst.us/publications/2009/2009STEM.pdf.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation from each of these sectors as they were reported to all participants in the convocation’s final session.2 Business and Industry Business can contribute in many ways to the establishment and functioning of a science education coalition in California. For example, it can provide project management specialists to facilitate the strategic planning process with other stakeholders. It can produce the foundational materials for a science education campaign. It can identify individuals in the state who are most likely to effect changes and send charismatic CEOs and sales-oriented people to promote the vision for changing K-8 science education. More broadly, business and industry can work with education communities in California to develop and articulate a vision of the state’s future that is founded in strong science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. According to Matthew Gardner from BayBio, which represents about 500 member companies in California, surveys of the organization’s CEOs show that “the number 1 issue … is science education.” Business leaders do not know the best way to solve the problem, he said, “but if you tell them, they will run with you.” Gardner also emphasized that the business and industry sector would use the ideas that emerge from this convocation and all subsequent activities to emphasize issues that are critical for elected leaders to consider, especially as they run for reelection in 2010. On behalf of his working group, Gardner emphasized the importance of articulating all such plans clearly and developing plans for action by January 2010, when state races for office begin in earnest. Higher Education There are 200,000 undergraduates in the University of California system, 400,000 undergraduates in the California State University system, and 2.5 million students in California community colleges. These students represent a tremendous opportunity to nurture future teachers and supporters of science education. If they could be engaged in inquiry, exploration, and discovery, they could experience the many benefits of authentic science. Representatives of higher education in California talked about several specific proposals. The higher education community could commit to developing a STEM fellowship program to work with K-8 teachers and 2 PowerPoint slides from this presentation are available at http://www.nasonline.org/site/DocServer/Final_reports_from_sectors_of_the_village.pdf?docID=55001.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation students. Fellows could include undergraduates, teacher candidates, graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, and STEM professionals. Colleges and universities also could develop STEM institutes and courses to provide preservice education and professional development for K-8 teachers and school administrators. In particular, they could develop master’s degree programs focused on K-8 STEM education to prepare education specialists in these areas for elementary and middle schools. The master’s degree program is especially important, according to Joan Bissell, director of teacher education and public school programs for the California State University system. “Today at the master’s level, STEM experts are trained for high school. We need people who can be STEM specialists in the elementary grades, who can train other elementary teachers, and who themselves can offer special periods where we start to think about elementary schools being organized differently.” Education Research and Evaluation Community The research and evaluation sector can gather and provide the evidence, along several dimensions, that will be required to make the case that K-8 science education is critically important. Science education at these levels provides a foundation for later learning and attitudes toward science. It also develops individual cognitive skills and capabilities that are vitally important to society. In addition, the research and evaluation sector can help illuminate the current status of K-8 science education and indicate whether quality education at these grade levels is happening or not. For example, it can determine whether opportunities to learn science at these grade levels are adequate. Finally, the research and evaluation sector can make the case that effective K-8 science education can happen. It can document successful programs across the country, produce videos demonstrating student learning and engagement, and provide evidence that successful science education can occur at the levels of individuals, schools, and states. Foundations The foundations that currently support STEM education are a small subset of those that fund K-12 education. Nevertheless, they occupy a pivotal position in strengthening science education. They have a unique convening role—for example, one idea developed at the convocation is that the foundations represented there could convene a broader group of foundations to elevate science education as a priority. They also can
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation provide assistance in many areas of policy. Many foundations combine leverage in local communities with an ability to take projects to scale. Foundations also have certain limits. They should be viewed as catalysts, not as systemic, long-term funders. They require specific proposals with clear outcomes, projected budgets (including the magnitude of projected costs), and time lines. Informal Science Education Institutions Informal institutions like science centers and museums can serve as neutral catalysts for innovation, assemble partnerships for increased resources, and act as hosts for regional science resource centers, which in turn can provide learning opportunities for teacher and students. Informal institutions also can leverage a large sphere of influence in a political campaign. In particular, the boards of directors and other stakeholders in informal science institutions can be extremely influential. National Organizations Federal agencies and national organizations can have a significant effect on K-8 science education in California—for better or worse. For example, Bruce Alberts pointed out that several federal agencies “produce curriculum materials for their own specialties, having no idea what an elementary teacher’s life is like and how impossible it is for them to deal with all these things. Many of those resources could be much better directed toward some common vision of more fundamental science for everyone.” Several representatives of national organizations expressed their eagerness to contribute to the coalition’s efforts. For example, Alan McCormack from San Diego State University, who recently has become president of the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA),3 was previously president of the Council for Elementary Science International,4 the affiliate of NSTA representing elementary science education. He said that he plans to increase the emphasis on elementary science education in the NSTA. “The theme of my presidency will be to promote elementary science,” he said. “I’ll do everything I can to make things better.” Dean Davis, a Boeing scientist and engineer and precollege deputy director for educational outreach for the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA),5 said that “the AIAA offers, in LA, for example, 3 Additional information is available at http://nsta.org. 4 Additional information is available at http://www.cesiscience.org/. 5 Additional information is available at http://aiaa.org/.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation 1,500 scientists and engineers that can come to your schools … and provide you with professionals who can describe how we use science in the real world.” AIAA also offers scholarships to educators and activities for students. Other Sectors The village envisioned at this convocation also involves other critical sectors, and these sectors were discussed throughout the convocation by a number of presenters and as part of the general discussions. Parents and other members of local communities can be both targets of and participants in a California science education coalition. They need to be convinced that learning science is important for their children, not just for children in general. First, science is an excellent preparation for a very wide variety of careers. As Susan Pritchard of the California Science Teachers Association6 said, “when parents think science, they think medical doctors, they think pharmacists, they think nursing or health care.” They do not think about the many jobs that require a technical background and may be closely tied to a student’s interests. “We need to let our students know at an early age what kinds of career opportunities are out there.” Science is the best way to teach children how to detect a bad claim—whether a political claim, a commercial claim, or a scientific claim—said Dennis Bartels of the Exploratorium. It is a message that resonates with parents. “If you go up to a kid’s parent and you say, ‘Listen, do you want your kid to be really easily lied to or manipulated or fooled?’ Most parents would say, ‘Hell no. Don’t let my kid do that.’ Well, then, that’s why they need to take science, not because they’re going to be an engineer. They may be and that’s great, but that’s not really the reason for every kid from K to 12 to learn science. It’s to equip them with the antidote to the next charlatan so that they can make good decisions.” Science is the best way to teach children how to detect a bad claim—whether a political claim, a commercial claim, or a scientific claim. —Dennis Bartels John McDonald of Stone’s Throw Communications emphasized the difficulty of making “people outside of this room care about these things.” An effective message has to be developed about why science education 6 For additional information, see http://www.cascience.org/csta/csta.asp.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation is important. “If you don’t find ways to make the public care, then the legislature is not going to care, and you’re not going to make the kind of progress you need.” Similarly, Mark St. John of Inverness Research emphasized the importance of building a public campaign to make the public aware of the problems and potential for science education. “Creating public demand may be a very important part of the strategy.” If you don’t find ways to make the public care, then the legislature is not going to care, and you’re not going to make the kind of progress you need. —John McDonald Several speakers also pointed to the importance of individuals or institutions that can act as champions for specific science education initiatives. “Most success stories, almost to the letter, have at least one champion of the project,” said Rena Dorph of the Lawrence Hall of Science.7 These champions can work on many levels. They may help teachers access materials and professional development, support inquiry, marshal external funding to support science, provide instructional leadership to teachers, or keep districts and schools focused on science. They are “the keepers of the passion,” said Dorph. “They spark, they incite, they create a buzz for continuing to do science in the face of these very constraining circumstances.” Bartels observed that many successful programs have a third-party institution that can sustain the program, whether a university, national laboratory, science museum, corporation, or some other institution. Representatives of these organizations can assure new leaders in a school district that they are attending to science. The response of leaders, Bartels said, is, “Great, I can worry about reading, or I can worry about something else.” Susan Neuen of the California Science Center8 observed that a coalition for science education in California will need a staff first for it to be established and then to be effective. “Until there are people who are actually working on the establishment of a coalition full time, it’s not going to happen,” she said. In addition, the coalition needs to be part of the National Alliance of State Science and Mathematics Coalitions (NASSMC),9 which is an umbrella organization for state coalitions of business, education, and public policy leaders united for systemic change in STEM education for all students. 7 For additional information, see http://www.lhs.berkeley.edu. 8 Additional information is available at http://www.californiasciencecenter.org. 9 Additional information is available at http://www.nassmc.org.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation ELEMENTS OF A COALITION AND POINTS OF EMPHASIS Dennis Bartels laid out a specific four-point agenda that could be pursued by the coalition: Create 12 regional science resource centers spread across the state funded at $2.5 million each. Every school in every part of the state would have access to these centers. They would help with professional development and curriculum implementation as well as provide materials to support inquiry-based science education. Devote $2,500 per teacher for staff development in science, with the funds going to the districts to support the use of the new curricula. This proposal has made some headway in the California legislature in the past, Bartels noted, but has run up against resource constraints. Establish several state leadership centers funded at several million dollars each focused on problems specific to science education. Such problems might include integrating science with language arts, science for English language learners, or science policy at the state level. Join with other groups in California and across the nation to work for common standards in science. The primary reason for such a change, according to Bartels, is that California “can’t afford to develop our own assessment system anymore. If we buy into a common set of standards, … the money goes to creating authentic performance assessments and other kinds of much more appropriate assessments behind those standards.”10 In 4 to 6 years, such a plan could make a huge difference, said Bartels. It could guide investments in California while coordinating with national efforts to improve science education. Bartels estimated that his proposal would cost $40 million a year, a very small fraction of the total expenditures on education in the state. POINTS OF EMPHASIS Many speakers at the convocation pointed to specific issues affecting K-8 science education that need to be pursued, both inside the coalition and outside it. 10 A month after the convocation, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers announced that 49 states and territories have joined an initiative to develop a set of core standards in English language arts and mathematics that states can voluntarily adopt. It is expected that common standards and assessments for science will follow the publication of standards in these other two subject areas. For additional information, see National Governors Association (2009) and http://nga.org.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation Professional Development Bartels observed that research has demonstrated the importance of the changes that occur in teaching after teachers receive at least 40 hours of professional development (Pasley, 2002; Simpson and Banilower, 2004). “When it goes from 40 to 80 or to 120 hours, suddenly you’re on a real steep part of the S-curve, especially when you’re working with really good curricular materials.” Professional development needs to be fashioned around the curriculum that teachers are expected to teach, especially at the elementary level, since teachers have to rely on the curriculum materials that are available to them. This level of professional development costs somewhere between $2,500 and $4,000 per teacher, Bartels estimated (Noyce, 2006). That money probably has to be managed at the school district and state levels, Bartels added, with school systems and teachers “voting with their feet” for the types of services and infrastructure that meet their needs. Jerry Valadez, director of the National Science Education Leadership Association,11 pointed out that many inquiry-based materials are unused because teachers have not received professional development in how to use them. In addition, many teachers are not supported or encouraged to lead the kinds of after-school and extracurricular activities that can interest students in science. As a result, fewer children are participating in activities like science fairs or science Olympiads. Bissell talked about the importance of creating a seamless boundary between preservice teacher education and inservice professional development. Some good programs along these lines have existed in the past, but the approach needs to become much more widespread.12 The preparation of middle school science teachers will undergo a major change in the next few years, she said, because of a new general science credential that recently took effect in California.13 This change represents a good opportunity to improve the teaching of science and prepare teachers to use science education to overcome some of the learning difficulties of students, according to Bissell. California’s colleges and universities will play a central role in this professional education, which emphasizes the importance of developing effective higher education teacher preparation and professional development programs. Anne Marie Bergen, the chair of the California Teacher Advisory Council,14 noted the need to blend pedagogy and content in 11 Additional information is available at http://www.nsela.org. 12 A report from the National Research Council (2000b) discusses in detail the concept of seamlessness between preservice and inservice education. 13 Additional information is available at http://www.cascience.org/csta/leg_credentialing.asp. 14 For additional information, see http://ccst.us/ccstinfo/caltac.php.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation teacher preparation, so that instructional strategies are woven into the content that future and current teachers are learning. “If I am the learner and I can see from the learner’s point of view, it is extremely beneficial for me.” Nancy Chung of the Tustin Unified School District pointed out how valuable ongoing professional development is for teachers. “It’s not just that you’re trained once and you’re done. Having newer training and learning new methods are also very important, so you’re not so outdated, since there are so many things coming up.” Legislative Initiatives In some cases, specific pieces of legislation or other mandates could lead to substantial improvements in science education. For example, several people at the convocation thought that minimum instructional times for science from kindergarten through eighth grade need to be mandated. One breakout group discussed a minimum of 90 minutes per week for grades K-3, a minimum of 120 minutes per week for grades 4-5, and a minimum of 225 minutes per week for grades 6-8. This amount of preparation would prepare all students to take the equivalent of at least four years of science in high school. Standardized testing in science can lead to greater time being devoted to the subject in K-8 education, but the scope of the testing can be critical. For example, California now tests its fifth graders in science, but the test covers just the fourth and fifth grade science standards. “If we had a test for all the elementary grade levels, what kind of impact would that have?” said Pritchard. “I think it would be very positive. We would have more materials, equipment, and teaching time in the younger grades.” Similarly, the eighth grade assessment in science does not cover the sixth and seventh grade standards, which has the effect of de-emphasizing science in those grades. In general, said Pritchard, greater balance among the large subject areas of the curriculum in both assessments and instruction could help boost the prominence of science in K-8 education. Legislation can address other issues as well. Bonnie Brunkhorst of California State University, San Bernardino, made the point that the Chinese government has legislated that teachers in China receive inquiry-based training. “They’re beginning to prepare their people with inquiry education in science. It’s time that we have some legislation to do the same here.” Legislative initiatives will require that science education have a greater visibility in the political process. John Kenny of PASCO Scientific noted that a science education coalition could increase the salience of the subject with legislators, especially if groups of people go to the capitol to lobby and speak with legislators and the governor. “My frustration has been
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation that when there is a science bill being considered at the Capitol, nobody shows up…. We have to … bring out 50 individuals to any hearing that ever happens at the Capitol. That’s the strength of a coalition.” Being in contact with the handful of people who exert disproportionate control over a particular issue is essential, according to Bartels. That observation reinforces the value of involving people who have good relations and connections with legislators and government officials. Science is a rare topic on which both political parties can agree, Bartels said. The challenge is to make science education a prominent issue among the many other problems facing the state. Along the same lines, said Gerald Solomon of the Samueli Foundation,15 it would be advisable to start working with the candidates running for governor of California before the 2010 election, so that the groundwork is laid for shaping policy after the election. Margaret Gaston, president of the Center for the Future of Teaching and Learning,16 noted that the positions advocated by the coalition need to be based on “sound and reliable data,” so that the coalition can give legislators sound advice. Dean Gilbert from the Los Angeles County Office of Education proposed that a clearinghouse be established that could draw links between proposed legislation and the effects on education. And Nancy Taylor of the San Diego County Office of Education said that a clearinghouse could include information about the history and successes of past programs. “We need to tell the California story so that we can build this cohesive coalition and move forward with these central ideas.” Legislators have an incentive to become involved in science education because of the way the issue permeates other issues. Susan Hackwood pointed out that virtually every study done by CCST calls for improvements in STEM education. “There’s not a single issue that comes across our table to work on that doesn’t involve STEM education,” she said. “STEM education is at the foundation of all the major ideas that are emerging that will drive our economy. I’m thinking of the energy and climate programs that we have on the state’s agenda, or the health care information technology, or the stem cell initiatives. They all involve knowledge of science.” STEM education is at the foundation of all the major ideas that are emerging that will drive our economy. —Susan Hackwood 15 Additional information is available at http://www.samueli.org. 16 Additional information is available at http://cftl.org.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation An Infrastructure for Improvement Mark St. John of Inverness Research17 emphasized the idea of establishing an infrastructure for educational improvements. Just as the Golden Gate Bridge has a crew of employees who work on maintaining the bridge full time, the improvement of schooling needs to be ongoing and continuous. “It’s not something that can be done episodically.” Three levels of funding are necessary, said St. John. The most immediate level is the funding needed to schools to operate, while the most distant is the funding that foundations and others can provide for short-term, catalytic innovations. What is missing is a middle level of funding for continual improvement. “Steady-state funding for ongoing improvement efforts is the crucial missing link,” he said. This improvement process, several speakers noted, includes meetings like this convocation that bring together the stakeholders in science education. Philip Smith of the Space Grant Education and Enterprise Institute18 urged the conveners of such meetings to “broaden the circle” as much as possible to bring in everyone interested in science education. Meetings provide an opportunity for stakeholders to settle on a unified vision of the future. And if a particular stakeholder is not included, the solutions they propose may not be what others might want. TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE CURRENT OPPORTUNITY Recognition of the importance of the elementary and middle school years has placed a new emphasis on science education in those grades. “K-8 education is the place where we sow the seeds,” said Jay Labov of the National Academy of Sciences. “This is where kids become interested, either to go on in careers in science, mathematics, engineering, or technology or to become the informed citizens that we will require for the workforce and for making the kinds of decisions that democracy requires.” The challenge is to prepare all of California’s children, “everybody,” said Labov, “regardless of where they live, regardless of their socioeconomic background, race, ethnicity, or gender. We need to be offering these opportunities to everybody, and it begins in K-8 education.” During his after-dinner talk at the convocation, Arthur Levine described the unprecedented opportunity that currently exists. “Science education is hot,” he said. Over the past-quarter century, many issues have moved to the top of the educational priority list, including curricula, class size, small schools, governance, charters, vouchers, school boards, 17 Additonal information is available at http://www.inverness-research.org/index.html. 18 Additional information is available at http://www.sgeei.org.
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Nurturing and Sustaining Effective Programs in Science Education for Grades K-8: Building a Village in California - Summary of a Convocation leadership, teachers, in-training development, preservice preparation, early childhood education, and so on. “This is the moment for science education. We’re at the top of the list right at this moment, and California is the place for it to occur given the wealth of intellectual resources and the extraordinary need for excellence in science education.” But the moment will pass quickly, Levine warned. During the 2000 presidential election, education was near the top of the concerns registered in public opinion polls. During the 2004 election, it was number 5. In the 2008 election, it did not make the list. The economy, war, terrorism, health care, and energy had all passed education in the public’s estimation. Demographics are working against a continued focus on education. Baby boomers wanted good schools for their children, but many of their children are now completing high school or older. Instead, baby boomers are focusing on quality health care for their parents, and soon for themselves. Maintaining momentum behind reform requires that science education be tied to national priorities, said Levine. The case needs to be made that education is important “because health care is important, because energy is important, because the economy is important, because defense is important.” “Not since Sputnik have the prospects for improving science education been more promising,” Levine concluded. “The leadership of this effort in California is sitting in this room right now…. The future of this state depends on you.”
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