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Table of Contents

NRC Report Makes Recommendations on State Science Assessments

With NCLB science-testing requirements quickly approaching, the National Research Council (NRC), a division of the National Academies, is releasing a report that provides guidance to states on science assessments. The report, “Systems for State Science Assessment,” explores ideas and tools that are needed to assess science learning at the state level. According to a July 13 article in Education Week, the report highlights the need for assessment questions to be aligned with standards and curriculum, and for teachers to be better trained in using the exams to improve student learning.

According to the article, “the authors say the tests should be built around ‘organizing principles’ or ‘big ideas’ of science, such as evolution and molecular theory, to give students a stronger sense of how different aspects of the discipline connect.” In addition, “states should consider using more than one test, with pieces of assessments written at the state and district levels….”

A draft of the report can be read online or pre-ordered at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11312. To read the Education Week article, go to http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2005/07/13/42science.h24.html (free registration required).

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Newest NSTA SciGuide is Online Resource for NASA Exploration of Moon, Mars, and Beyond for Grades 5-8

NASA Exploration: The Moon, Mars, & Beyond is now available as part of the growing list of SciGuide titles for science educators from NSTA. Since their launch in March, grade- and topic-specific SciGuide subscriptions have proven popular with teachers—delivering key science concepts, lesson plans, student work samples and vignettes using targeted web resources aligned to the National Science Education Standards. The newest SciGuide, developed under the sponsorship of NASA Explorer Schools, is the first of a planned schedule of new titles to be added to the core content list, and is for educators of grades 5–8. Explorer School team members tested the lessons and provided the student work samples.

The content of this newest SciGuide focuses on the history of NASA exploration on the Moon, the current push to return to the Moon and Mars, and—in the long term—exploration beyond Mars. NASA Exploration: The Moon, Mars, & Beyond features NASA education web resources, lessons, and activities.

For information on this and the entire SciGuide list of content topics available by grade-level, and for a free sample SciGuide on Organisms, visit http://sciguides.nsta.org.

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The Scopes Monkey Trial 80 Years Later

July 10 marked the 80th anniversary of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial in which John Scopes, a high school science teacher from Dayton, Tennessee, was convicted for teaching evolution, which was a violation of state law. Tennessee’s law at the time forbade teachers to teach “any theory that denies the story of the divine creation of man as taught in the Bible.” Presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan prosecuted Scopes, who was defended by lawyer Clarence Darrow. According to news reports, the jury found Scopes guilty after only nine minutes of deliberation. He was fined $100. The trial was the inspiration for the Broadway play and film, Inherit the Wind, as well as numerous books.

The media reported heavily on the anniversary of the trial and the ensuing challenges to the teaching of evolution. Visit http://science.nsta.org/nstaexpress/nstaexpress_2005_07_18_highlights.htm for highlights of some of the news coverage.

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Innovations in Science Education: The Funworks

Every few weeks in NSTA Express we feature a promising new (or not so new) idea, strategy, and/or innovative program in science and math education that we think merits the attention of more than 200,000 NSTA Express readers. This column is an interactive endeavor, so send your ideas of a large-scale, innovative program in science and math education to jodi_p@nsta.org.

Three hundred middle school students from around the country worked on the Funworks website, created by the Education Development Center to link students’ interests and hobbies to future careers in science, technology, engineering, and math. The site—chock full of graphics, photos, interactive games and more—can also be a wealth of information for guidance counselors, teachers, and parents. Learn more at http://www.thefunworks.org.

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Be an Earlybird Registrant for NSTA Fall Conventions; Save Maximum $$

September 16 is the earlybird deadline for maximum savings on registration for NSTA’s Hartford fall convention, October 20-22, but why wait ‘till the hectic early days of the new school year to register when you can do it online ahead of time? “Connections for Student Achievement” is the convention theme, with professional development content strands set for Managing Transitions: Effective Teaching Strategies and Assessment; Coastal and Wetland Environments; Next-Generation Technology: Will We Be Prepared?; Science + Technology = Achievement; and Elementary Science: Improving Student Performance. Go to http://www.nsta.org/conventions to browse full details of daily agendas, short courses, speakers, field trips, the Assessment Techniques for the Elementary Classroom professional development institute, and more. Then use the online Personal Scheduler to build and print out your own custom-tailored convention itinerary for new learning and use it as backup detail in your funding request. If Connecticut isn’t your neck of the woods, it’s not too early to be an earlybird registrant for Chicago, November 10-12, or Nashville, December 1-3.

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NAEP Trend Study Shows Gains for Young Students; High School Scores Flat Since 1999

Nine-year-old students have made considerable gains in the last five years in both reading and math, according to results from the 2004 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) long-term trend assessment released last week. The study looks at national trends in reading since 1971 and in mathematics since 1973.

In addition to the gains posted by 9-year-old students, 13-year-old students also showed improvement in math, but not in reading, and black and Hispanic student groups made progress in both subjects in comparison to the first assessment year. The scores for 17-years-olds on both reading and mathematics have remained flat since 1999. For full results on the NAEP long term study, visit http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard.

In other news the U. S. Department of Education has granted states more leeway under No Child Left Behind, part of Education Secretary Margaret Spellings claim to take a more “common sense” approach to implementing the law. To read more, go to the July 13 issue of Education Week at http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2005/07/13/42ayp.h24.html (free registration required).

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And Don't Forget... 

Now that you have time on your hands, take a look at NSTA's new topic-specific SciGuides for classroom internet use... check out the demo and download a free sample at http://www.nsta.org/main/SciGuides.

Blog with Science and Children Online and Explore PreK-2 Science Learning in "The Early Years" at http://science.nsta.org/earlyyearsblog.

Want more information about membership in NSTA? Complete the quick online Inquiry Form at http://ecommerce.nsta.org/sendmeinfo, and we’ll be in touch.

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