04 June 2006

In Case You Missed It

Last week, federal legislation was introduced last week which would amend the No Child Left Behind Act (a/k/a "Elementary and Secondary Education Act") to include science as a measure of Adequate Yearly Progress, along with reading and math. Science testing at 3 grade levels was already required, however reporting the results was not. The amendment would require testing in science in grades 3 - 8 and at grade 10. These would be phased in by 2010.

When I think about what this will really mean, I don't know what kind of excitement to have: the kind like "Oh, boy! Finally science is getting attention!" or "Oh, crap! We're getting too much attention!" Love it or hate it, at least NCLB is going to make schools start paying attention to science. It won't be left behind (!) in favor of reading and math. I think that's a good thing. The idea that we're going to have to address equity issues in science is also good. (We have major issues with the achievement gap in science in my district.) The whole 2010 thing is a bit frightening. That's such a short time to be ready. My job has suddenly become a whole lot more important to the district.

Will "testing" mean another WASL for other grades...or some sort of classroom based assessment? What about the fact that our standards are not assigned to grades...but are in grade bands---how can we test each year? I'm sure the state must be peeing in its britches at the moment, considering the development and money involved.

Meanwhile, my k-5 science group meets again tomorrow to try to make some final recommendations about scope and sequence and kit selection. This new wrinkle will have to be taken into consideration...and we're going to have to sell it to the Boss Lady. She has alluded that we won't be allowed to purchase anything other than FOSS kits, but that curriculum doesn't work with our standards and is rather poor in comparison to other programs. I know that teachers may be uncomfortable making a bit of a change---but isn't our goal to help kids?


Anonymous said...

As a 4th grade teacher, I am always interested to hear what is going on in terms of testing in science. In NYS, 4th and 8th graders are required to take a two part test - performance and written - in science. I have heard rumblings that the state will also begin to start testing 3rd grades in 2007-08. The same dilemma will occur for us as our NYS Science curriculum is a K-4 document.

I will be interested in hearing what your K-5 science group recommends for kit selections. Unfortunately, teachers at my school do not have access to any science kits and we need to develop everything on our own. For many teachers who are not familiar or comfortable with inquiry-based teaching, science is often taught through textbooks, videos, and an occasional whole group, teacher led hands-on activity. I have great resources developed for 4th grade including a simulated oil spill for our ecology unit and a PBL unit on electricity. However, next year I am teaching 3rd grade and will need to reinvent the wheel. So... if you have any great resources for teaching simple machines, can you please pass them on?

By the way, what does WASL stand for?

HappyChyck said...

Knowing what I've been through with Reading, you might want to be saying, "Oh, crap!" I know that I have often longed to be any other kind of teacher than an English teacher since NCLB. Man! Those history teachers are just breezin' through life! Great stuff going in their classsrooms without the pressure.

Wow! Yes, 2010 is scary. Because schools have had to focus so much on reading and math, I'll bet anything science has taken a backseat in many schools. There will be major gaps to overcome. It's going to hurt.

The Science Goddess said...

Wendy, WASL stands for the "Washington Assessment of Student Learning." It's our state test. I actually like it, I'm just not sure I agree with how it gets used.

Simple machines, eh? See if you can get a copy of "Eureka!" They're short cartoons about simple machines---very very good. www.scilinks.org also recognizes some good sites, such as this one: http://www.galaxy.net/~k12/machines/index.shtml#exper You might also look at the TOPS cards on machines: http://topscience.org/machines.htm
Some of them might be above grade 3, but they use easily accessible materials.

"Ms. Cornelius" said...

Like you, I am ambivalent about NCLB ignoring my subject area, social studies. I have posted about this previously.

One wonders, though: how will testing science knowledge under NCLB affect the current trend to push the teaching of non-science (also known as Intelligent Design) in science classrooms? One can only hope that the effect will be salutory.....

And happychyck, I used to be an English teacher. I am now a high school history teacher who makes her students write in complete sentences, paragraphs, and essays. Just following my bliss. Need I say more? ;-)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the simple machine resources. I've just ordered the TOPS cards and the other site you mentioned has activities designed for 3rd grade. Perfect!

Stephen said...

Hmm. So minimally, my 3rd grader will have science tests in 7th and 8th grade. Given that it took four years to get him reading (for enjoyment, meaning all the time), there's barely enough time to get him going for his first test. I was going to start with the Kitchen Science experiments as described on the Naked Scientists podcasts:
The galaxy and tops refs above look like a great start.

Turning his math around took half a school year. In 2nd grade, he could add or subtract single digits with 30% reliability. I got him through it with the soroban, and more recently a version of it on fingers. He does three digit add/subtract with high reliability. I've started posting that process on:

Oddly, he could multiply and divide better than add and subtract. I could not get him to remember that 7 + 8 = 15. But he realizes that he just can't do 7 * 8 = 56 without memorizing it. His memory is great, so it's no big deal. I'd call him a CADET - Can't Add, Doesn't Even Try, but now we've gotten through it.