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Sunday, November 17, 2013




GAME CHANGER
 
 
When studying the history of the Ottoman Empire on the European continent, my son explained to me that the revulsion and exclusion of science education pervaded throughout this Muslim society at this time in history and was one of the major influences catalyzing the empire’s downfall, dwindling dominance and final collapse in the 1900’s. Western powers such as Germany and France embracing scientific reasoning seized the moment in history and became the dominant forces in Europe.
It can be argued that as United States public school districts double-down on their efforts to reach Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP), through standardized curriculums and summative testing, it begins to reek of the same disillusionment experienced by the educationally blinded Ottomans.  Even with the Common Core Standards now in place complimented with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), the rest of the world is moving toward the relevance and the rigor of Project-Based Models of Learning in the science classroom.  The new standards cannot be laced into traditional content-based curriculum with a test-heavy reliance on assessment.
The new standards require that innovation in the classroom to be the hallmark of Project-Based Learning.  Inquiry-based approaches to learning and problem solving require deeper reflection by teachers on student skills, abilities and understanding.  Assessment becomes performance-based and it is on a continuum reflecting growth. Denmark, Singapore and China have embraced this new reality of science education and other nations will follow suite.  To keep pace with the changing educational dynamics it is up to progressive leadership on educational reforms to help our school districts rise to this challenge.
It does not take a stretch of the imagination to perceive the gap forming between nations in knowledge, understanding and ability to cope intelligently with the complexities of problems facing society in the 21st century.  The traditional content-based approach to learning science fails to address the skills, aptitudes and abilities needed to be successful in the new world economy. Project-Based Models of Learning will be the “game changer in the world of science education.  Real-world problems solved along with adherence to growth-oriented assessment, in the form of digital portfolio dossiers for example, will become the mainstay of learning in the science classroom.
Lessons learned by studying history can in some ways provide guidance for progressive thinking today.  It will be a test of our commitment, as a nation, to maintain our dominance in science and technology by now addressing these needed reforms in science education.  Project-Based Learning is the means through which public schools can meet these new challenges in science education in the 21st century.


Sunday, November 03, 2013



A LETTER TO THE PRINCIPAL

 
SEIZE THE MOMENT!
 
Dr. Lozier, 
From further research into the information provided last week showing such large declines in test scores for science literacy at Streamwood High School, it is obvious the problem is not based on how we teach or due to an influx of students lacking skills and abilities, but in changes implemented, at the state level, with respect to how these tests were assessed.
Look at some of the quotes posted from a recent article published by the Daily Herald on October 31st, 2013.
“The decline is largely due to a change in the way the state board grades standardized tests
“Educators stress that lower scores don't mean more students are failing.”
“It doesn't mean that a student has any different knowledge,” said Suzanne Colombe, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning at Elgin Area School District U-46, which saw between 20 and 32 percentage-point decreases in ISAT reading and math scores.
“Colombe said the drop in scores is nothing to be alarmed about, and district officials have been preparing parents for the change since new cut scores were put in place.”
“With the old ISAT cut scores, you could actually meet state standards being in the 30th percentile. Now you have to be at the 55th percentile,” Colombe said.”
“While U-46 administrators are reviewing how to better adapt curriculum and instruction to meet the new standards, individual schools are refining their own internal measurements, she added.”
“Teachers are really going to focus on formative assessments that are ongoing. The report card gives us trend data in subjects and areas”, Colombe said. “This is just one measure of student achievement. We don't want to take one measure and use that to change curriculum.”
 
With that being stated I do see the public heightening of this issue as another opportunity  for educators to “seize the moment” and implement science curriculum initiatives that are in the same venue as the Gold Seal Lesson Plans.  Learning models, in science, based upon doing projects provide the means to meet these common core standards and the expected adoption of new science standards coming from the state.  Science projects, embedded within the curriculum, provide both increased rigor and relevance, while at the same time lend to the development of personal attributes such as critical thinking skills, effective means to communicate ideas and solutions and the willingness to share results with a global audience of peers, experts and the general populous.  Project-Based Learning strengthens the foundation by which we educate our students.  An example of this is expressed by Dr. Tim Kubik as he shares his experience in working with ACE Leadership and Health Leadership High Schools in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which organizes authentic learning experiences around work in the construction and health industries.
 They changed, and began to do quality work, not because their teachers held them to rigorous expectations day in and day out until they learned to deliver what was expected. They changed because their teachers designed learning experiences for them that the students could actually see as learning opportunities, rather than mere “assignments.” If we had this kind of “design rigor” in more schools around the country, I’m quite certain we could stop talking about rigor in our schools, and start celebrating more results.”