Legislative Update: Congress Agrees to Final FY18 Spending Package

This week both the House and Senate have <finally> passed legislation on federal funding for fiscal year 2018, and President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law, ending the threat of  another government shutdown.

The news is good for federal education programs. 

In the spending package the U.S. Department of Education department would be funded at $70.9 billion in FY2018 which is a 6 percent increase over fiscal year 2017.

Congress provided $1.1 billion in FY18 funding for the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) Title IVA grants, known as the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program. This is a $700 million increase over last year’s level of $400 million and should allow the program to operate as a formula grant program, as Congress mandated in the law. Title IVA grants will now go to all districts/schools where they will decide how to spend the funding to support well-rounded education learning opportunities, including science and STEM ed programs, and programs that support safe and healthy students and education technology.

The bill maintains $2.1 billion in funding for ESSA Title II grants which provide funds for teacher professional learning and class-size reduction efforts.

The FY2018 package also includes a $20 million boost for the ESSA 21st Century Community Learning Centers program, which provides funding for after-school programs, many which include STEM programs. Total funding for this program is $1.2 billion.

As you will recall, the Administration proposed eliminating ESSA Title IV, Title II and the 21st Century programs, saying the programs were unnecessary, duplicative or ineffective.

Key highlights:

  • ESSA Title IVA — $1.1 billion for FY2018, up from $400 million
  • ESSA Title II, flat-funded at roughly $2.1 billion
  • 21st Century Community Learning Centers up $20 million up to $1.2 billion
  • Title I: 300 million for Title I-A grants, bringing the total funding for the program to $15.8 billion
  • Special Education: $299 million for Special Education state grants, bringing the program total to $13.1 billion
  • Charter Schools: a $58 million boost bringing the total funding to $400 million. Note that no other school choice plan floated by the Administration was funded by Congress
  • Career and technical education programs — a $75 million increase bringing the total funding for career and technical education state grants to $1.2 billion
  • National Science Foundation: NSF funded at $7.8 billion; the NSF Education and Human Resources would receive $902 million

The bill also includes a $50 million increase to the Education Innovation and Research program for evidence-based STEM education programs, including in computer science education. 

The STOP School Violence Act was also included in the spending package.  This bill funds training and other initiatives intended to enhance school safety including paying for physical improvements such as metal detectors, stronger locks and emergency notification technologies.

As you will recall from previous issues of the NSTA Legislative Update this budget is based on an earlier agreement to raise budget caps by $80 billion for defense programs and $63 billion for nondefense programs for fiscal year 2018.

Read more here.

The Title IV-A Coalition, comprised of more than 30 educational organizations (NSTA is a member of the Steering Committee), sent out this statement shortly after the bill was filed: The Title IVA Coalition is thrilled that Congress has provided $1.1 billion in FY18 funding for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant program. This figure represents a 250% funding increase over last year’s inadequate level of $400 million and should allow the program to operate as a formula grant program, as Congress mandated in the law. Most importantly, this level of funding will allow school districts to have true flexibility in determining how to meaningfully invest in and support programs that support safe and healthy students, a well-rounded academic curriculum, and an effective educational technology program. Due to last year’s low funding level, districts were stripped of this flexibility, and many did not have access to Title IV-A funds. We are extremely grateful for the recognition that this program needed more funds to operate successfully and look forward to continued appropriations at or above this level.

Stay tuned, and watch for more updates in future issues of NSTA Express.

Jodi Peterson is the Assistant Executive Director of Communication, Legislative & Public Affairs for the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and Chair of the STEM Education Coalition. Reach her via e-mail at jpeterson@nsta.org or via Twitter at @stemedadvocate.

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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folder icon  Safety

Safer Breakerspaces


Breakerspaces are areas where students demolish, repurpose, fix, or disassemble appliances, electronics, toys, and other devices to learn how they work, what components were used to create them, and how they were designed. Like any type of construction or demolition work, safety preparation is absolutely critical. When preparing a breakerspace activity, teachers should consider the following safety guidelines.

Personal protective equipment

Be aware of personal protective equipment (PPE) requirements and appropriate use of them (e.g., safety glasses or goggles for the eyes and work gloves to protect the hands). Always do a hazard analysis and risk assessment and take appropriate safety action before starting a hands-on activity. If the breakerspace activity requires the use of a screw driver, for example, a hazard could be that the end of the hand tool is sharp. The risk is the potential for cutting or puncturing the skin or eyes. The appropriate safety action would be the use of safety glasses or goggles and work gloves when using a screw driver.

Working with hand tools

When using hand tools,

• inspect tools before using them (e.g., check for cracked handles on hammers and screwdrivers);
• use the right tool for the right job;
• ensure materials are secure so they don’t slip (e.g., use clamps or a vise when appropriate);
• use caution when handling tools to help prevent injuries (e.g., cuts, impalement);
• store and secure tools under lock and key after using them; and
• remove any flammable substances when working with iron or steel hand tools.

Assess hazards and determine risks of materials and equipment

When working with equipment and materials, teachers should be mindful of the following safety considerations.

• Remove the plug or batteries after using electrical equipment.
• Electronic equipment could cause electrical shock. Any electrical device with an AC>DC switch mode (e.g., computers, power supplies) stores about 200 V on its input capacitors and can retain high voltage for a length of time. If the device hasn’t been plugged in for at least several weeks, it should be safer to use. But always use a multimeter to test the voltage on the high-voltage capacitors to be certain.
• Do not work with wet hands or clothing.
• Do not work on electronic devices with any metallic jewelry on your hands.
• Do not use metal and plastic toys and electronic equipment containing lead, cadmium, mercury, arsenic, bromine, and PVC plastic.
• Be aware of sharp objects, choking hazards, and projectiles.
• Materials and equipment with sharp metal or glass edges can cause cuts and infections.
• Springs and elastics can become airborne and cause injuries.
• Materials and equipment with sharp points or prongs (e.g., wires and nails) can cause cut or stab wounds.
• Hot glue guns and soldering irons can burn the skin.
• Batteries contain hazardous corrosive chemicals.
• Toys or appliances containing screens contain chemicals that hazardous and should not be used.
• Properly dispose of or store materials upon completing the activity.
• Prohibit students form eating food when working in a breakerspace.
• Everyone in the lab should wash their hands to reduce risk of cross contamination.
• Always wash hands with soap and water upon completing the activities.

Safety training

Students need to have training on all of the safety issues discussed in this article and successfully complete a safety assessment before partaking in breakerspace activities.


Under “duty or standard of care,” teachers need to continually supervise students engaged in breakerspace activities. This is to ensure that behavioral expectations are being followed and allows teachers to be prepared for safety issues.


Breakerspaces require special attention to safety preparation on the part of both teachers and students. Ongoing teacher review of safety and direct supervision of student behavior are necessary for a safer breakerspace experience.

Submit questions regarding safety in K–12 to Ken Roy at safesci@sbcglobal.net or leave him a comment below. Follow Ken Roy on Twitter: @drroysafersci.

NSTA resources and safety issue papers
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Ed News: Want More Girls In Science Fields? Check The Images On Your Classroom Walls

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This week in education news, new study finds the older students get, the more their image of a “scientist” comes into line with that stereotypical view; new federal appropriation bill pours money into school safety program and early childhood education; ASEE releases statement in support of STEM diversity research; and new study finds that only certain financial incentives make a difference in recruiting more diverse teachers to the profession.

Beyond ABCs: Can School Give Kids A Lifelong Love Of Learning?

The third- and fourth-graders at Elm City College Prep, clad in protective goggles and facemasks, studied their preserved frogs with the seriousness of med students facing their first cadaver. They had practiced the dissecting procedure in an online interactive, and now they were ready to raise real scalpels and get a look at the frogs’ insides. Read the article featured in The Hechinger Report.

Want More Girls In Science Fields? Check The Images On Your Classroom Walls

Pop “scientist” into an image search and you’re likely to see people in goggles and white coats, swirling liquids in Erlenmyer flasks or peering into microscopes. A new study finds the older students get, the more their image of a “scientist” comes into line with that stereotypical view. Read the article featured in Education Week.

Continue reading …

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The Vernier Go Direct Radiation Monitor: Well Worth the 90-Year Wait

Stephen Hawking died recently marking 2018 as another date in science history from which events will be measured. Isaac Newton was born in 1642, the same year Galileo died. And it is that 1642 date that is often used as a convenient moment in time to label as the birth of modern science. Three hundred years later in 1942 Stephen Hawking was born.

Stephen Hawking

Stephen Hawking (1942-2018)

During Dr. Hawking’s academic life, he worked at the University of Cambridge in England, the same university, and in fact the same faculty position as Isaac Newton. On the ground of Cambridge University in the Department of Physics is the Cavendish Laboratory. And in the Cavendish Lab back in 1908, a fellow named Hans Geiger invented something that ultimately led to the creation of the Geiger–Müller tube in 1928. The Geiger–Müller tube is still used today in an instrument we all know and love called the Geiger Counter.

While the design of the Geiger–Müller tube or GM Tube has remained fairly consistent over the decades, the housing and electronics running the show have changed considerably. Early designs were crude but elegant in their simplicity, while the most popular expression of a Geiger Counter is the yellow box version with silver-tube handle commonly known as a Civil Defense Geiger Counter or CD Counter for short. Distributed widely during the Cold War years of the 1950s and 60s, the CD Counters are still found in high school physics classrooms, and were even passed out for free at NSTA conferences at the end of a presentation on how to use it.

Vernier Go Direct Radiation Monitor

Today, however, there have been some remarkable advances in the design and electronics supporting the Geiger–Müller tube. In addition to a small lightweight housing, a rechargeable lithium battery weighing just a few grams can power the counter for hours compared to the five D-cell batteries used in the yellow box version. And since the function of the Geiger–Müller tube is to detect and share information on the number of ionizing radiation particles counted over time, the heavy duty analysis and data visualization can be outsourced to myriad of devices including smartphones (Grammar Girl says I can use ‘myriad’ that way). All that’s needed is a connection from the powered Geiger–Müller tube to the computing device. Continue reading …

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Ed News: How P-16 Education Can Increase Women In STEM Fields

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This week in education news, the majority of the nation’s seniors will graduate having never taken physics; report finds teacher shortage and lack of supplies delay rollout of the new science standards in California; new study shows women dominate the education workforce, but still earn less than men; California science teachers wins $20,000 science lab makeover; and the House Education Committee voted to introduce a concurrent resolution repeating its earlier call for deleting portions of Idaho’s proposed new school science standards.

One Reason Students Aren’t Prepared For STEM Careers? No Physics In High School

Nationwide, ninth-graders don’t usually take physics. In fact, the majority of the nation’s seniors will graduate having never taken physics at all. And Sarita’s students, Spanish-speaking Latinos attending a high-poverty school, are an even unlikelier bunch to catch in a physics lab. Physics is widely considered to be a building block for a range of STEM disciplines— science, technology, engineering and math — and taking the course in high school is strongly correlated with getting a degree in a STEM field. Read the article featured in The Hechinger Report.

When Teachers Have A Fear Of Math, Their Pupils Can Absorb The Wrong Lesson

Often said in jest, the phrase “I’m not a math person” can provoke more than just laughter, particularly if said around students. To Erin Maloney, it can send the message that there are some people gifted in arithmetic skills and those that will never be — and that’s the wrong note to ever send to a child. Read the article featured in Education DIVE.

Continue reading …

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Making Connections @ NSTA 18

It is day 2 of the NSTA National Conference! One of my favorite ways to start the day is the Elementary Extravaganza—it’s a great event with lots of hands-on activities and demonstrations specifically for elementary educators. While walking through the extravaganza, I could not help noticing all the fun education and science themed shirts—one teacher said her team invites students to design a T-shirt each year and they select a winning design to print on their shirts.

I’m always impressed with the connections attendees make at the conference—and even some surprise reunions! I overhead two people greet each other in surprise: The woman exclaimed she was so happy to see a former student at the conference and discover he’d become a teacher, too!

Meet Me in the Middle—which obviously focuses on middle level educators—is later today and the high school share-a-thon is scheduled for tomorrow.

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#NSTA18 Atlanta: Day 1

Sketch notes from day one of the 2018 National Conference on Science Education

What a day! If your shoulders are not throbbing, bags not over-flowing, and brain not racing… you may have not been at the same conference as I was. I teach middle school Earth & Space Science and Environmental Science at an Independent school in Miami, Florida–Gulliver Schools. I still consider myself a newbie at NSTA “conferencing,” but having attended the NSTA STEM Forum & Expo this past summer in Orlando, my expectations are rightfully through the roof. Back in the summer I walked away from the STEM Forum with my passion ignited, with projects I am currently using to infuse my class with the type of lessons that may have other teachers asking me to “CLOSE MY DOOR” like Ron Clark mentioned this morning in his keynote. But that was exactly the type of makeover my classes needed. I’m here this week because I got a taste of NSTA and was hooked!!

Needless to say, Day 1 did not disappoint. I walked into the Georgia World Congress Center this morning with heart open to absorb all that was about to come at me. It began with Rob Clark’s keynote!

My Top Takeaways

  • Take time to genuinely check-in with people in your communities, schools, and classrooms.
  • If you feel it in your heart, DO IT!
  • Thank the RUNNERS in our lives who drive the “bus” forward, pulling and inspiring us in their wake.
  • And be willing to take different paths.

His session left me energized for my own presentation with my SEEC Crew from Space Center Houston. Continue reading …

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Ron Clark’s Opening Session: “We need to inspire the next generation!”

Ms. Valeria (@GA_ScienceRodva) captured the essence of Ron Clark’s dynamic presentation to thousands of science teachers first thing Thursday morning with her sketchnotes.

More About the 2018 National Conference on Science Education

cover of the program preview for the 2018 national conference on science educationBrowse the program preview, or check out more sessions and other events with the Atlanta Session Browser/Personal Scheduler. Follow all our conference tweets using #NSTA18, and if you tweet, please feel free to tag us @NSTA so we see it!

The mission of NSTA is to promote excellence and innovation in science teaching and learning for all.

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#NSTA18 Atlanta: Tweet All About It!

The 2018 NSTA National Conference started with selfies,
and quickly evolved into group shots!



Continue reading …

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Online community on learning science through play

Play may mean many things, but in early childhood education it can include learning science concepts. Looking for resources on “Learning Science Concepts Through Play“? Check the The NSTA Learning Center Early Childhood Forum, a community that includes early childhood educators in all roles in the profession and is free to all with registration. 

Screen shot of NSTA Learning Center online page

Looking for resources on “Kindergarten Activities“? Check the LC EC forum. “Teaching Science to Kindergarten in a Short Time Frame“? Check the LC EC forum!

Experienced educators share their ideas on how to choose science experiences and activities  (see “Pinterest” in the Elementary forum) and preservice teachers share the resources and ideas they find most useful in their beginning practice. One of the experienced educators I look for is Maureen Stover. See her questions for identifying worthy lesson plans online:

I do quite a bit of my lesson planning by searching for ideas and activities on the internet. Like all resources on the internet, you do need to be cautious of information and ideas you find online to ensure they are legitimate and valid. Here’s my mental checklist that I run through when I’m evaluating an internet resource:
1. Is this an activity/resource that meets my lesson objective/goal?
2. Is this activity on grade level (or can I easily modify it)?
3. Is this activity reasonable to complete in my classroom?
4. Is this activity safe?
5. Is this activity affordable?
6. Will this activity engage my students?
Also, whenever I am downloading a resource or looking up content knowledge, I try to validate the information from several sources to ensure the information is accurate.

What are your favorite Learning Center topics?

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