As I sat in the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) meeting on March 7th, my heart was pounding and there was a rather large lump in my throat. I was nervous because the results of this meeting were going to have a direct effect on the science students of Louisiana and in particularly MY young scientists. The meeting was in reference to adopting the newly proposed science standards. I expected controversy and push back from outside stakeholders but I wasn’t going to join the debate with a negative approach. I wanted to speak from my heart and keep the best interest of my students as my focal point.
When I was called to the front, my perspective was clear and concise. I made a suggestion to the esteemed members of the board to consider attaching the verbiage of the Science Education Act of 2008 along with the new updated science standards . There are so many strong points to the new standards with a personal favorite of mine – incorporating engineering practices. However, most science educators are not aware of the flexibility they are given by the law. I am hoping by having the documents applied as an addendum to the standards, teachers will become aware of said law and all that it entails in relationship to the most controversial issues when teaching science.
A motion was based by a board member and was voted 7-2. Joy filled my soul and this 7th grade Science teacher was smiling from ear to ear. I am so thankful that this teacher voice of mine was heard.
Science educators are no longer applying a mile wide, inch deep approach to teaching science. In fact, it is now just the opposite. I am pleased to tell you that under the new standards, there are fewer per grade level with more opportunities for students to dig deeper into the subject matter. For example, in 3rd grade science there are currently 62 grade level expectations (GLEs), also known as standards, however under the new and improved science standards there are now a total of 15 standards in 3rd grade science. Imagine the depth of knowledge that can be reached in science classrooms across our state.
The updated standards can be viewed and printed at Louisiana Student Standards Review. The most significant change can be seen at the middle school level, grades (6-8). Those respective grade levels will be using an ‘integrated approach’ so that the students learning is scaffold as they progress from grade level to grade level. According to research gathered by Kevin C. Costley, students reported that after being exposed to an integrated curriculum, they were able to make connections between content knowledge and real life experiences. Their way of thinking transformed, and they began linking knowledge from their lessons with their personal lives. The students also recognized that integrating the curriculum unified each discipline into a whole. It actively engages students in lessons and extends their critical thinking skills while diminishing achievement gaps.
The Louisiana Department of Education is already making efforts to provide teacher training to familiarize and facilitate science educators as they move into a transitional school year during 2017/2018. Other stakeholders such as A+pel, local school districts, LSU Cain Center and other universities are planning to provide trainings and webinars to better equip the science teachers of our state.
It’s an exciting time in education for the state of Louisiana and especially for science teachers and students. I commend the Science Standards Work groups for their tireless efforts in making sure that standards were rigorous yet attainable and that vertical alignment existed between all grade levels. As a state, we aim to ensure that all students are on a path for college and/or career readiness and the new science standards are doing just that.