Archive for May, 2013

Support for science standards

Friday, May 31st, 2013

The Florida Association of Science Supervisors wrote a position statement advocating for Florida to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards.

The Florida Association of Science Supervisors fully supports research-based practices that will improve science education for all Florida students. The vehicle for ensuring our students are prepared for the changing technological world is the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards which includes the most current research-based practices including: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and learning progressions for K-12.

The Florida Department of Education recognizes the need for globally competitive students. The current strategic plan for 2012-2018 includes goals to increase student participation in accelerated courses, expand STEM-related educational opportunities in high-demand areas and improve college readiness. Florida science standards need to reflect the most current research so that they can be the vehicle to achieve these goals.

I was told that the Florida Department of Education will announce a public review period of the standards, which is supposed to start today and run through June 30. However, I haven’t seen that officially announced yet, at least not on the DoE website. UPDATE: Here is a link to a memo addressed to school superintendents (pdf document) about the standards.

UPDATE II: Here is where the public can review the standards in association with Florida’s potential adoption.

We need to be vigilant, folks!

Science in middle school

Sunday, May 26th, 2013

This sounds like good news for science education in Hillsborough County: USF gets millions to train new STEM teachers

The University of South Florida is focused on producing a new crop of STEM middle school teachers, thanks to the school’s largest ever gift from the Helios Education Foundation — $3.16 million.

More than 90 percent of middle school students in the U.S. are taught math or science by a teacher working outside a field of expertise, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

In young minds, research shows, that can have dire consequences. Math and science literacy for American 15-year-old students dropped steadily over a decade compared to students in other countries, according to an international assessment.

“It happens to be a time in school when students tend to disengage around math and sciences,” said Stacy Carlson, vice president and program director for Helios in Florida. “If you can affect the effectiveness of teachers in the classroom, you can improve student achievement.”

Biology EOC results?

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Help me out here, please. FCAT scores were released this week. Of course, they snagged the media spotlight. But buried in there were supposedly the results of the Biology End of Course exams. This article says:

Scores also were released Friday for the writing portion of the FCAT — taken by students in fourth, eighth and 10th grades — as well as third-grade math and the end-of-course biology exams.

In Escambia County, 47 percent of the fourth-graders, 41 percent of the eighth-graders and 54 percent of the 10th-graders are proficient on the writing portion.

Additionally, 55 percent of the Escambia third-graders tested are proficient in reading and 52 percent are proficient in math.

Seventy percent of the students who took the end-of-course biology exam passed. That number is up from 61 percent in 2012.

So, the scores were obviously released. However, I can’t find them on the FDOE website anywhere. The Biology results currently posted were from last year (here’s the FDOE EOC page). Am I missing something?

05.24.13 This & That

Friday, May 24th, 2013

—> Kentucky state senator doesn’t like evolution and climate change in new national Next Generation Science Standards. Science Standards Draw Fire From Ed. Leader in Kentucky Senate

It remains to be seen what influence Sen. Wilson will have with the state board of education in Kentucky. The board is expected to vote on provisional adoption of the standards in June.

And here’s his piece: Sen. Mike Wilson | Science standards include troubling assumptions

Another area of contention is evolution. The standards make it clear that evolution is fundamental to understanding the life sciences. Generally, the standards focus on changes in gene pools, genetic mutations and effects of the environment on changes within species. The controversy arises with the statement that “Students can evaluate evidence of the conditions that may result in new species and understand the role of genetic variation in natural selection.” This is supposition and implies that one species may evolve into a different species. There is no factual evidence that this has ever occurred and to suppose that it happens is counter to the beliefs of many Kentuckians.

—>Fur flies over cat dissections at Palm Beach schools:

[Parent Terri Cavanaugh] started an online petition against the practice [of dissecting cats] last school year when her son, then a freshman at Lake Worth High, refused to dissect a cat as part of the school’s medical program. So far, more than 5,000 have joined her crusade.

Con quote: “It teaches kids to be insensitive rather than teaching them to learn science and biology.”

Pro quote: “It’s hands on, you can look at an organ in a book, but until you see it in the flesh, that’s when it comes alive.”

—> Here’s the full story of what happened at Bartow High School when student Kiera Wilmot conducted an impromtu science experiment. It’s nice to have the details filled in, finally. But some of the comments readers left are just brutal! Kiera Wilmot on arrest: ‘I didn’t want anybody to get hurt’

Dr Eugenie C. Scott Retires

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Dr Eugenie C Scott has announced on May 6th that she plans to retire from her position as Executive Director of the National Centre for Science Education (NCSE), after more than 26 years in that position. Dr Scott was one of the driving forces who help form the Florida Citizens for Science and has remained a close friend to this organization for many years. In 2008 Dr Scott presented Florida Citizens for Science President Joe Wolf and Communications Director, Brandon Haught with the “Friends of Darwin Award.  One could write a book on her accomplishments in the public understanding of evolution and her tireless efforts to keep pseudo science from infiltrating the K/12 science classrooms throughout the United States. She will be sorely missed.

05.02.13 This & That

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013

Some interesting items of note happened recently:

Stifling Science: La. Legislators Vote To Retain Creationist Legislation.

In what must have been a surreal moment, Sen. Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas) told a story about how he found relief from an unspecified ailment, apparently by visiting some type of voodoo practitioner. Guillory said that experience makes him reluctant to “lock the door on being able to view ideas from many places, concepts from many cultures.”

According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, Guillory said, “Yet if I closed my mind when I saw this man – in the dust, throwing some bones on the ground, semi-clothed – if I had closed him off and just said, ‘That’s not science. I’m not going to see this doctor,’ I would have shut off a very good experience for myself.”

Florida School Responds to Criticism for Expelling Student Over Science Project: “There Are Consequences to Actions”

By all accounts, Kiera Wilmot’s science experiment gone wrong triggered just a tiny pop and a small amount of smoke at Bartow High School last week — but her tale is certifiably blowing up the Internet today. Thanks to Reddit and Reason, thousands of people have commented on Wilmot’s story, many asking the same question: How could an otherwise model student be expelled and charged with a felony over an experiment that didn’t hurt anyone?

New Science Standards Draw Some Criticism

“One doesn’t need to be a global-warming skeptic to be appalled by a new set of national K-12 science standards,” said Heather Mac Donald, who writes on a wide range of issues for the National Review Online, and is also a fellow at the Manhattan Institute. She argues that the standards “put the study of global warming and other ways that humans are destroying life as we know it at at the very core of science education. This is a political choice, not a scientific one. But the standards are equally troubling in their embrace of the nostrums of progressive pedagogy. … The standards drearily mimic progressive education’s enthusiasm for ‘critical-thinking skills.’ “