Legislative Update: Secretary DeVos and Ivanka Trump Team Up for STEM Ed

On Tuesday, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos and Adviser to the President Ivanka Trump teamed up for a STEM-related reading event at the National Museum of American History and later worked on some STEM-focused projects with the students. Read more here.

The following day, President Trump donated his second quarter salary to the Department of Education to help fund a STEM-focused camp for students. The donation, totaling $100,000, was accepted by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos at the daily White House Press briefing, more here

STEM Education Focus of Congressional Hearing

On Wednesday July 26, STEM Education Coalition Executive Director James Brown testified before the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology Subcommittee on Research and Technology at their hearing on “STEM and Computer Science Education:  Preparing the 21st Century Workforce.”

The hearing focused on the importance of STEM and computer science education to meeting a wide range of critical current and future workforce needs. In his written testimony, Brown covered three key issues: how states are incorporating STEM as they work to implement the Every Students Succeeds Act; the changing nature of STEM careers; and the emergence of informal STEM education.  View the hearing and read the testimony here, and learn more about the STEM Education Coalition here. (NSTA chairs the STEM Education Coalition.)

James Brown, Executive Director, STEM Education Coalition; Pat Yongpradit, Chief Academic Officer, Code.org; Representative Barbara Comstock (R-VA), Chair of the Research and Technology Subcommittee; A. Paul Alivisatos, Executive Vice Chancellor & Provost, Vice Chancellor for Research, and Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science & Engineering, University of California, Berkeley; and Dee Mooney, Executive Director, Micron Technology Foundation at the July 26 hearing on STEM Education.

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Total Solar Eclipse on Monday, August 21, 2017!

NASA downloadable map of 2017 solar eclipseIf you haven’t heard about what is known as the Great American Eclipse by now, it is not too late. This August 21, 2017 natural phenomena promises to be well worth “attending” or stepping outdoors for at least a few minutes approaching the moment when most of the Sun is covered by the Moon in your location. A partial solar eclipse can be seen by everyone in North America and parts of South America, Africa, and Europe so even if you are not within the  path of totality you can still experience and view this solar eclipse. If you have children in your care at the time, they will always remember the day the teacher did not follow the Daily Routine but took them outside to experience a darkening of the sunlight in daytime. They will remember the break from the ordinary and your excitement if nothing else.

A note about safety:

Indirect viewing may be the best way for young children to view images of the Sun during the eclipse. See the simple instructions for pinhole viewing from the American Astronomical Society. When talking about the Sun, I always tell children that we don’t look right at it because it will damage our eyes. Some children may be tempted to test their ability to look at the Sun to show how they can withstand pain. I tell children that even if it doesn’t hurt right now, the light will damage some of the insides of our eyes, making it harder to see, especially when we are older, so DON’T DO IT. Some suggest having people face the ground to put on the glasses before looking up at the Sun, to have time to make sure the glasses are on securely. The NASA website says this about safe viewing with special glasses:

Eclipse viewing glasses and handheld solar viewers should meet all the following criteria:

•    Have certification information with a designated ISO 12312-2 international standard

•    Have the manufacturer’s name and address printed somewhere on the product

•    Not be used if they are older than three years, or have scratched or wrinkled lenses

•    Not use homemade filters or be substituted for with ordinary sunglasses — not even very dark ones — because they are not safe for looking directly at the Sun

Our partner the American Astronomical Society has verified that these five manufacturers are making eclipse glasses and handheld solar viewers that meet the ISO 12312-2 international standard for such products: American Paper Optics, Baader Planetarium (AstroSolar Silver/Gold film only), Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks Optical, and TSE 17.

Here are government agency and organizations’ links to information that will guide you in viewing safely and understanding the science at developmentally appropriate levels. 

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) 2017 Solar Eclipse website answers the questions, Who? What? Where? When? and How?  and provides information on safety, science information about the players (Sun, Moon, Earth), and resources including downloadable maps, fact sheets and posters.

Search the National Science Teachers Association’s store for “eclipse” to find new (and older) resources about eclipses, including a free article, “Total Eclipse” by Dennis Schatz and Andrew Fraknoi in the March 2017 issue of Science Teacher. Their book, When The Sun Goes Dark, features a family re-creating eclipses in their living room and exploring safe ways to view a solar eclipse. A free viewing guide is available as part of these authors’ book on solar science for middle school, Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses, and More. 

American Astronomical Society has a useful glossary of eclipse related vocabulary among many other resources and information.

Webpage of the Astronomical Society of the PacificAstronomical Society of the Pacific also has information and resources.

GreatAmericanEclipse.com, published by Michael Zeiler and Polly White, is a fun site for eclipse maps and science facts.

I’m planning on making a special day of it with my family since I won’t be in school. Thanks to all the scientific community for making it possible for everyone to learn how to view the 2017 solar eclipse!

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How NGSS and CCSS for ELA/Literacy Address Argument

In the summer of 2015, I observed an elementary science teacher from an NGSS-adopted state who made a presentation to her cohort of close to 100 K–12 science teacher leaders and administrators from schools, districts, and the state. After presenting her instruction on a physical science unit with 2nd-grade students, she gave her students the following assignment: “Write your opinion on . . . (the science topic).”

As a science educator, I was struck by the presenter’s use of “opinion” in science instruction. In an effort to unpack my misgivings, I decided to take a quick look at what the new science standards had to say about “opinion” in relation to argument. First, I consulted the Framework (NRC 2012), which states, “[y]oung students can begin by constructing an argument” and “begin to distinguish evidence from opinion” (p. 73). For example, the performance expectation K-ESS2-2 in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) states: Construct an argument supported by evidence for how plants and animals (including humans) can change the environment to meet their needs.

I then turned my attention to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for ELA/literacy. To my surprise, I discovered that “evidence” is introduced for the first time and used only once in grade 3, while “claim” is introduced for the first time and used only once in grade 5. In addition, “reasons” is used throughout K–5 and “reasoning” is introduced for the first time in grade 6. Finally, in grades 6–12, “argument” is used along with evidence, claim, and reasons or reasoning. The CCSS Appendix A (NGA Center and CCSSO 2010), which provides the research base for the CCSS, states, “Although young children are not able to produce fully developed logical arguments . . . In grades K–5, the term ‘opinion’ is used to refer to this developing form of argument” (p. 23).

A key instructional shift in the CCSS for ELA/literacy and the NGSS involves making connections across subject areas, which more accurately represent the reality of teachers and students who are trying to make meaning of multiple subject areas that have traditionally been treated in silos. One disciplinary practice that is emphasized consistently across the CCSS for ELA/literacy and mathematics and the NGSS is argument. But to what extent do subject area educators have a common understanding of argument?

In preparing a recent research article for publication (Lee 2017), I attempted to address this question more systematically. As both the CCSS for ELA/literacy and the NGSS claim to be research-based, reviewers of the journal encouraged me to look into relevant literature in ELA/literacy and science education with the aim of identifying conceptual sources of convergences and discrepancies between these two sets of standards. Eventually, my analysis of the two bodies of research literature and the two sets of standards in ELA/literacy and science education focused on (1) what counts as argument (i.e., disciplinary norms) and (2) when children are capable of engaging in argument (i.e., developmental progressions). Key findings are summarized as follows:

  • Although the CCSS for ELA/literacy include many purposes of arguments, including persuasive arguments, they emphasize logical arguments in relation to college and career readiness.
  • The description of argument in science that appears in the CCSS for ELA/literacy is comparable to how the Framework (NRC 2012) and the NGSS describe argument.
  • The two sets of standards and relevant bodies of literature in ELA/literacy and science education acknowledge that what counts as argument or evidence differs across disciplines, but none offer explicit guidance on what these differences entail.
  • The two sets of standards and relevant bodies of literature in ELA/literacy and science education present differing perspectives on K-5 students’ ability to engage in argument, as described above.

I support the CCSS for ELA/literacy and the NGSS in their efforts to make connections across subject areas and to highlight synergy and shared responsibilities among subject area educators. While capitalizing on convergences, it is equally important to reconcile discrepancies between different sets of standards and between different bodies of research literature. As new content standards are being implemented, the education community should attend to discrepancies between and across subject areas and commit to addressing such discrepancies. As a point of departure, a convening of stakeholders to discuss and resolve the discrepancies involving argument is one possible step to take, which could lead to further research and policy initiatives.

With the adoption of the CCSS and the NGSS across states, the responsibility of implementing these new standards falls primarily on classroom teachers. They are faced with limited information about what counts as argument across ELA/literacy and science education. Furthermore, they must contend with discrepant information about when children are able to engage in argument. As the NGSS are aligned closely with the grade-by-grade standards in the CCSS, such discrepancies have practical implications for classroom instruction and assessment. I was relieved and delighted when two leaders involved in writing the CCSS for ELA/literacy deferred to “research in science indicating young children could form arguments” and suggested that “as states are revising standards, they should take into consideration new research that’s out there” (Zubrzycki, 2017). In a similar manner, teachers and school districts should expect K-5 students to engage in argument from evidence consistently across subject areas, including ELA/literacy.

References

Lee, O. 2017. Common Core State Standards for ELA/literacy and Next Generation Science Standards: Convergences and discrepancies using argument as an example. Educational Researcher, 46(2), 90-102.

National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) and Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO). 2010. Common Core State Standards for English language arts and literacy in history/social studies, science, and technical subjects. Appendix A: Research supporting key elements of the standards, glossary of key terms. Retrieved from http://www.corestandards.org/assets/Appendix_A.pdf

National Research Council (NRC). 2012. A framework for K-12 science education: Practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. Washington, DC: National Academies Press.

Zubrzycki, J. 2017. In elementary school science, what’s at stake when we call an ‘argument’ an ‘opinion’? Education Week, http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/curriculum/2017/04/science_standards_common_core.html

 


Okhee Lee

Okhee Lee is a professor in the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development at New York University. She was a member of the NGSS writing team and served as leader for the NGSS Diversity and Equity Team. She is currently developing NGSS-aligned instructional materials for students, especially English learners, in fifth grade.

 

 

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

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Using Claim, Evidence, and Reasoning (CER) Strategy to Improve Student Learning

This past school year, I used claim, evidence, reasoning (CER) statements to show three-dimensional learning in my classroom. Several tools are available for doing this, but the one my students like is the CER Graphic Organizer and Transition Words List developed by Sandra Yellenberg.

My students like how this graphic organizer helped them organize their thoughts before writing their CER paragraphs. The first few times, we went through the process together to co-develop CER paragraphs. Sometimes we would develop a whole paragraph or a sentence to help explain a phenomenon. Co-developing the statements helped students feel more comfortable using the tool later on.

As students continued to use the tool, their statements gained complexity. Anytime students were asked to explain what they found out, they always used this tool and accompanying transition word bank. In several biology activities, we used the organizer to defend claims based on genetic analysis. In chemistry, we used the organizer to explain what the best way for organizing elements on the periodic table was. In physical science, we used a modified version of the organizer to develop correlations among kinetic and potential energy, speed, and friction using PhET’s Skate Park basics simulation. I also used the organizer in environmental science after having students do the activity Earth’s Dynamically Changing Climate, to explain how the eight pieces of evidence they examine help justify the claim that Earth’s climate is changing.

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You Teach What? I’m So Sorry! Building a Better Body and Building Better Argumentation

I am always amazed at the looks on people’s faces when I tell them I teach middle school. They seem to pity me for having a position I chose and love! They inform me that middle school “tween-agers” are argumentative, stubborn, and at times, adamant about whatever they set their minds to. But I smile because I have the best job in the world!

The secret about my argumentative middle schoolers is that middle school is a prime time to teach students what argumentation really is and how it is used every day in decision-making processes. Middle schoolers make claims all the time, and if we can harness their passion to make statements, then we have implemented a very powerful tool indeed. When and how did I implement argumentation as an NGSS Science and Engineering Practice (SEP) in my classroom? I started slowly and used the progression of the SEPs to construct “articles of argumentation” to help guide our learning processes.

Article 1: Engage With Evidence, Embrace the Phenomena

The first unit I aligned with NGSS was formerly known as my Human Body unit. I struggled with how to teach body systems as an interconnected system without first having students examine each system individually. I did what many a teacher in my position would do: I googled MS-LS1-3  and started vetting the pages I found. I became inspired by a lesson from betterlesson.com, Human Body 2.0, from Mariana Garcia Serrato. I used her project as my template and centered my storyline around this guiding question: What if we could build a better body?

Gathering Evidence

To form a better body, or body system, students need to examine a perceived weakness in our current model/body. As students brainstormed all the ways our bodies could become better, they quickly realized they needed to investigate the current human body system to engineer a better one. To enhance their understandings, students were given several dissection opportunities, lecture videos, mini-labs that could be checked out, textbook pages and web resources. They had two weeks to construct written models (blogs using their G Suite for Education Glogster accounts) summarizing their understandings. Students then commented on one another’s blogs, asking questions about where they saw limitations. In their comments, students were tasked with evaluating understandings independent of their personal biases and practiced making qualitative/quantitative observations. This gave them an initial opportunity to practice strengthening statements by making them empirical.

Article 2: Stating Supported Claims

When students evaluated one another’s comments, they expressed interest in a specific body system, so I had them choose the body system they thought most needed improvements. Students were placed into body system groups of their choice (they ranked their interest in each body system and were assigned to groups based on ranking and availability), then they revised initial models and constructed a physical model for their “Human Body 2.0.” Students spent an additional week preparing prototypes to be shared with the class. On presentation day, students had to evaluate their models and argue effectiveness and feasibility. (See System Evaluation Sheet.)

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Article 3: Pairing the SEP and the CCC

One CCC (Crosscutting Concept) for this particular DCI (Disciplinary Core Idea) is systems and system models. Because the NGSS are interconnected, students are sense making through the combination of content, practices, and overarching crosscutting concepts. Encouraging students to make and revise their models as part of argumentation ensures that they not only understand the benefits of their system, but also its limitations. Argumentation is strengthened through modeling, as it uses a natural feedback loop and allows students to see that argumentation is not a “fight,” but a network of understanding based on evidence. It illustrates that the argumentation process is not linear, and keeps conversations, investigations, and—most importantly to me—wonder ongoing.

Ways I hope to improve this unit in the future

  • Implement an anchoring phenomenon before the guiding question;
  • Continue to become more familiar with NGSS Screener Tools and rubrics; and
  • Increase connectedness. I find students create a better model and argument when they know others will evaluate their model. (If you are interested in having our students evaluate your student’s blogs or vise versa, tweet me at @frizzlerichard.)

So when I am asked on the street, at the pool, or anywhere about my argumentative middle schoolers, I smile. My students know how to argue correctly, and as their science teacher, I couldn’t be more proud!


Meg Richard

Meg Richard is a seventh-grade science teacher at California Trail Middle School in Olathe, Kansas. She has been teaching science since 2010 and is a graduate of Central Methodist University and the University of Central Missouri. In addition to her teaching duties, Meg is excited to be a member of Teaching Channel’s Tch Next Gen Science Squad and to work with the Kansas Department of Education as a Science Trainer. She’s passionate about providing authentic, hands-on science experiences for her students, and she often can’t believe how lucky she is to get to do the best job in the world: Teach! Connect with Richard on Twitter: @frizzlerichard.

Visit NSTA’s NGSS@NSTA Hub for hundreds of vetted classroom resourcesprofessional learning opportunities, publicationsebooks and more; connect with your teacher colleagues on the NGSS listservs (members can sign up here); and join us for discussions around NGSS at an upcoming conference.

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

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2017 Fall Conferences

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NGSS Curriculum Integration—Off on a Tangent!

The creation of a school garden inspired this fourth-grade unit.  All students in the school were responsible for planning the garden, as well as for planting, weeding, and harvesting our crops of tomatoes, pumpkins, and carrots. The harvest was shared with the school cafeteria staff, who prepared salad and dessert bar selections for the students, and our fire department staff, who watered our garden in the summer, providing a community connection. All food scraps were composted, and many seeds were harvested, dried, and saved for use in future gardens.

Judy Hebert and 4th-grade students

The curriculum focus for each grade included the study of specific plant parts. Fourth graders explored how the structure and function of plant leaves would be important for optimum plant growth, a Disciplinary Core Idea focus at this grade level. During their research, students often encountered the term food factories. It was interesting to observe students wondering (on their own!) why that connection existed, then, without prompting, asking questions while they considered potential answers, reflecting NGSS practice.

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STEM Sims: Explosion Shield

Stem Sims: Explosion Shield

Introduction

STEM Sims provides over 100 simulations of laboratory experiments and engineering design products for applications in the STEM classroom. Explosion Shield, one of the many valuable simulations offered by STEM Sims, allows students to explore how an explosion can affect different types and shapes of materials. Moreover, students can discover which material combination can offer the best protection. This simulation asks participants to test explosives on different materials, which is a very safe and motivating mechanism to cover this interesting topic. STEM Sims: Explosion Shield is aligned with state standards and the following national (NGSS) standards:

• MS-PS3.C. – Relationship Between Energy and Forces
• MS-ETS1.C – Optimizing the Design Solution

The simulation makes available for students a brochure (see link below) with a pre-assessment quiz and introductory information about the history of explosives and shields. We found that the historical overview gave a nice foundation of content and helped students to learn of advances in technology have changed over time. Moreover, this simulation is a great fit for teachers who want cover learning objectives related to energy and force in a fun and interesting manner that is very safe. Moreover, the deductive reasoning skills that are incorporated will challenge the brightest students to make accurate observations and formulate high-level problem-solving solutions.

Brochure:
https://stemsims.com/simulations/explosion-shield/brochure/brochure.pdf?version=2017-01-10

Sample Assessment

To maximize learning and help teachers in lesson planning, STEM Sims provides two lesson plans for this simulation (see link below):

Lesson 1:

https://stemsims.com/simulations/explosion-shield/lessons/lesson-1.pdf?version=2017-01-10

Lesson 2:

https://stemsims.com/simulations/explosion-shield/lessons/lesson-2.pdf?version=2017-01-10

Conclusion

Explosion Shield is a nice tool for teaching students about how the dangers of energy and force manifested in explosions can be both safe and very interesting. Undoubtedly, the topics covered in this simulation would be too unsafe for actual experimentation. Therefore, by using this simulation, students will be able to explore an area that would otherwise be ignored and at best- speculated. Consider signing-up for a free trial and evaluate this simulation for your future lesson planning and course instruction.

For a free trial, visit:

https://stemsims.com/account/sign-up

Recommended System Qualifications:

• Operating system: Windows XP or Mac OS X 10.7
• Browser: Chrome 40, Firefox 35, Internet Explorer 11, or Safari 7
• Java 7, Flash Player 13

Single classroom subscription: $169 for a 365-day subscription and includes access for 30 students and 100 simulations.

Product Site:

https://stemsims.com/

Edwin P. Christmann is a professor and chairman of the secondary education department and graduate coordinator of the mathematics and science teaching program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania. Anthony Balos is a graduate student and a research assistant in the secondary education program at Slippery Rock University in Slippery Rock, Pennsylvania

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Learning from experience

My first year of teaching biology was challenging, but I made it! Do you have any suggestions for what I should do to improve for next year?  —C, Virginia

Congratulations for completing your first year! A good way to prepare for next year is to reflect on this one, learning from your experiences.

How did you know a lesson was successful? What did you do when things didn’t go as planned? Were your classroom management routines and procedures effective? How did you deal with disruptive students? How well were you able to access and use the technologies available in your school? Are there any strategies you would like to consider, in terms of instruction, classroom management, or communications?

Were you surprised by any misconceptions or lack of experience among your students? Should you change the amount of time or emphasis invested in some topics? Did you have an effective combination of content, processes and interdisciplinary connections? Do you have any gaps in your own knowledge base?

Were your lesson plans detailed enough to adapt or modify? How well did assignments and projects align to unit goals and lesson objectives? Did your lab activities go beyond cookbook demonstrations to help students develop their own areas of inquiry? Did you provide opportunities for students to reflect on their own learning (e.g., through a science notebook, comparing their work to the rubrics)?

Did your students seem to enjoy learning science? Did you enjoy teaching and learning with them?

Your reflections can be the basis for next year’s goals. It’s tempting to say, “I’ll think about this when school starts. But if you think, reflect, organize, and plan now, you’ll have more time in the fall for getting your second year off to a good start.

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New NSTA Book Shines Light on Solar Eclipses

When the Sun Goes DarkA solar eclipse is coming on Monday, August 21, 2017! What a rare and exciting treat for your students who will get to experience this magical phenomenon. Of course after this amazing event, they will have plenty of questions. They will want to know why, how, and when will it happen again.

When the Sun Goes Dark by Andrew Fraknoi and Dennis Schatz is the perfect resource to share with your students. The illustrated book tells the story of a 12-year-old’s experience of learning about solar eclipses from her grandparents.

“Grandma was telling us about the big event during their trip. First, the Sun looked like it had a little bite taken out of it. They had to use special glasses to be able to look at the Sun without hurting their eyes. Then that dark bite out of the Sun got bigger and bigger. When the Sun was almost covered, it looked like a diamond ring for a second. After that, not only the Sun but also the sky turned dark. The birds even stopped singing. The stars came out in the middle of the day. All of the people watching with my grandparents oohed and ahhed because there was a halo of light around the Sun that was very beautiful,” the narrator says.

This story, designed for readers in grades 5-8, explains the extraordinary science behind solar eclipses by using everyday objects such as a lamp, tennis ball, hula hoops, and ping pong balls.

Just as Grandma gives the narrator step-by-step instructions for creating an eclipse with a lamp’s light, teachers can illustrate the same lessons in the classroom. There are also many detailed illustrations showing the different phases of the moon; the constellations the Sun is in front of each month; and the paths of the Moon’s and the Sun’s orbits, for example.

“It turns out that the Sun and the Moon arrive at the crossing points together only twice a year. So we have a kind of ‘eclipse season’ roughly every six months when eclipses of the Sun and the Moon happen somewhere on Earth,” Grandpa explains.

The book discusses how astronomers can predict eclipses hundreds of years in advance and helps students to comprehend complicated astronomical concepts using vocabulary at their reading level.

When the Sun Goes Dark will answer students’ questions and stimulate their curiosity. The book comes with a glossary of terms and additional web resources that will help beginners to gain an in-depth understanding of both solar and lunar eclipses and inspire their interest in our magical solar system.

Fraknoi and Schatz are award-winning experts in astronomy and science education, and the authors of the NSTA book Solar Science: Exploring Sunspots, Seasons, Eclipses, and More.

Read a sample chapter here. This book is also available as an e-book.

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Ed News: The Role Of Science In Boosting Outcomes For English Learners

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This week in education news, students attending high-poverty schools have fewer opportunities than students attending low-poverty schools; K-12 school spending got caught up in budget standoffs this year; the number of girls taking AP computer-science exams more than doubled; writing improves all learning; and a South Dakota science teacher selected as a national ambassador.

The Role Of Science In Boosting Outcomes For English Learners

All too often, English learners (ELs) do not receive the same educational opportunities as their non-EL peers. This pattern manifests in a variety of ways, including the disparate levels of access that ELs have to high-quality science instruction. Indeed, a recent Education Trust-West study of California school districts found that ELs are significantly underrepresented in advanced science courses throughout the state. The report also notes that ELs consistently score lower than the rest of the population on statewide science assessments at all grade levels. Click here to read the article featured in New America.

‘STEM Deserts’ In The Poorest Schools: How Can We Fix Them?

Students attending high-poverty schools tend to have fewer science materials, fewer opportunities, and less access to the most rigorous mathematics classes, like calculus and physics, than students attending low-poverty schools, a new analysis points out. That means that they’re less likely to encounter real-world problem-solving that characterizes advanced work in those fields—as well as the most rigorous content that serves as a benchmark for beginning college majors or minors in those fields. Click here to read the article featured in Education Week.

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