Spring 2017 Chair Message
I hope you had the chance to read my President’s message in the January-February STANYS Newsletter. I wrote about the New York State P-12 Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS) that were approved at the December, 2016 meeting of the Board of Regents with implementation to begin July 1, 2017. It was exciting to be at that meeting and share in helping the P-12 Education Committee get an understanding of the impact these new standards could have on our science students. Our new standards were guided by A Framework for K-12 Science Education (NRC,2012) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (2013). These documents are grounded in the most current research in science and scientific learning and reflect the importance of every student’s engagement with natural scientific phenomena.
So what does this mean for our current science courses and assessments? No worries. There is a Statewide Science Implementation Plan being developed to review the priority steps needed to be taken by NYSED, local districts and other stakeholders in the areas of Standards, Curriculum, Professional Development, Assessment, Materials and Resource Support, and Administrative and Community Support. New York has created our own modifications to the NGSS so there is need to provide support that goes beyond those resources available through NGSS. There are many pieces to address and those involved will do our best to ensure a thoughtful rollout. You might ask, “Why change?” Educators across the country are experiencing improved teaching and learning by following the three dimensional intent expressed in the Framework. Teachers are moving toward lessons driven by student questions about engaging phenomena. Teachers are spending more time facilitating student driven instruction. Many are finding this hard but a very rewarding shift.
What should we do now? Become aware of how the NYSSLS and the Framework are different from what you may be currently doing. Learn what is meant by three dimensional teaching, learning and assessing. Develop some of the skills associated with eliciting student driven questions and using modeling to assess student understanding. This is time for our elementary programs to consider shifting to the new standards so their students become familiar with learning science by doing Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs). Secondary programs could look for opportunities to change some lessons to phenomena based experiences that encourage students to learn by doing the practices (SEPs) and learn content through discovery and constructing understanding. Look for professional learning opportunities to get an understanding of the NYSSLS. It is interesting that we have new science standards but the assessments (Regents exams) will still be based on the Core Curriculum Guides and probably not change for a number of years. A reason is so there is opportunity to transition in a thoughtful manor. Don’t wait until the year the assessments change to begin this transition.
This is a very exciting time for science education in New York. View this as an opportunity to change what we have been doing and a chance to dig into what may be a different way of teaching.
Glen Cochrane, Suffolk STANYS Chair & STANYS President