Making the Case for Science Education Reform

Since the National Commission On Excellence In Education released its report, A Nation at Risk in 1983, there has been continued interest among researchers, policy makers, and educators at all level as to how to remedy the "rising tide of mediocrity" in our nation’s schools. The interest in educational reform did not begin with A Nation at Risk, but the report did serve as a catalyst for many interested in providing the best academic opportunities for American students.

In this section are research articles and commentaries which provide a rationale for moving our current science education efforts toward more rigorous expectations for students and teachers, deeper rather than broader coverage, collaborative practices among educators, and a focus on formative assessment as a means to drive changes in instructional practices.

In Opportunities to Learn in American Elementary Classrooms, Robert C. Pianta and his colleagues deliver a ‘multistate observational and longitudinal study’ of U.S. elementary classrooms. The study, published in 2007, echos the findings of A Nation at Risk, concluding that most instructional support for students is “mediocre” and that the “patterns of instruction” observed were inconsistent with “aims to add depth to students’ understanding, particularly in mathematics and science.” The report states that “students most in need of high quality instruction are unlikely to experience it consistently,” in our schools.

In The Gift of Bleak Research, Mike Schmoker and Richard Allington examine Pianta’s study and plead that we not squander the opportunity the study affords us. They identify three specific “ingredients” for us to embrace in our reform efforts: 1) be willing to establish clear expectations for instruction; 2) restructure the school environment to allow teachers to work collaboratively to meet and exceed expectations; and 3) monitor teaching to ensure its effectiveness.

Inside the Black Box, by Paul Black and Dylan William, looks at education from a systems engineering perspective. This study examines 250 educational articles or chapters and concludes that standards of achievement can be raised through ongoing formative assessment, in other words, using evidence to “adapt the teaching work to meet the needs” of students.

In Depth Versus Breadth, Marc S. Schwartz and his colleagues examine the relationship between the performance of 8,310 students in college level introductory science courses to the amount and rigor of the content covered in their high school science courses. They conclude that teachers should reduce the coverage in high school science courses and aim for mastery of fewer topics.


'Making the Case' - Presentation

Description: These PowerPoint Presentations provide viewers with a strong argument for reforming current practices in science education. There are two similar presentations, one using the topic of 'photosynthesis,' the other using the topic of 'vision,' to make the case for effective, high-quality instruction. Includes PowerPoint presentations for PD use with accompanying resources.

Purpose: 1) To understand the persistence of misconceptions and the need to change instructional practices. 2) To become familiar with resources to “Make the Case” for the need to change instructional practices in science.

Preparation Time: 90 min

Presentation Time: 90 min


Supporting Change

Description: This PowerPoint presentation and supporting documents provide an introduction to the Concerns-Based Adoption Model (C-BAM), for understanding and supporting change within educational institutions.

Purpose: This presentation provides individuals and groups guidance and support for four goals:

1) Understand the stages people move through as they face change.

2) Learn appropriate strategies to help people depending on their stage of concern.

3) Learn about the different types of “adopters.”

4) Understand resistors and learn strategies to work with them.

Preparation Time: 90 min

Presentation Time: 90 min