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Week of September 10, 2007

Table of Contents

Congressional Leaders Release Discussion Draft of No Child Left Behind

Late last week Congressional leaders released a discussion draft of the revised language under consideration for the reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act.

A number of substantive changes in this discussion draft are of interest to science and math educators. Title II authorizes new grants that would provide performance pay bonuses of up to $12,500 for teachers of math, science, special education, and other shortage subjects in high-needs schools; career ladder programs for teachers; teacher residency programs that would pair a new teacher with an experienced mentor teacher for one year; a study on the correlation between teacher certification and licensure and teacher effectiveness; and grants for teacher centers that would provide high-quality professional development. The draft also stipulates that Title II funding for a state would be contingent on whether that state was taking steps to assess whether poor and minority students are being disproportionately taught by inexperienced, unqualified, or out-of-field teachers, and to address this problem.

The draft language also includes changes to the Math and Science Partnership, most notably requiring that partnership activities be modeled after effective NSF programs with demonstrated success. The language also calls for increased coordination between NSF and the U.S. Department of Education, and for more assistance from NSF to state departments of education administering the grants.

New Math Success for All grants to local educational agencies would provide targeted help to low-income students in kindergarten through secondary school who are struggling with mathematics and whose achievement is significantly below grade level.

Congressional leaders are accepting comments on this NCLB discussion draft until September 14. In late August, Congressional leaders had released a draft discussion of NCLB’s Title I. Language that would amend NCLB to specifically include science assessment scores in each state's accountability system (Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP) was not included in this draft. The discussion draft does, however, include science proficiency as one of multiple measures of student achievement that schools can choose to be evaluated on. Read the Title I discussion draft (435 pages) and read the NSTA response to the proposed language.

House leaders are moving aggressively on this bill. They have tentatively planned a hearing on the proposed Title I language for September 10, and are planning to mark up (approve) the entire bill the last week of September. In the Senate, committee staff are also working to develop a draft bill, but no language has been released yet.

Please send any comments or questions to Jodi Peterson at jpeterson@nsta.org.

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Don't Miss the Detroit Earlybird Deadline: September 14!

Looking for an in-depth professional development experience to improve your content knowledge or pedagogical understanding? NSTA has just what you need in Detroit at our Area Conference on Science Education! Join us for discussions and courses on timely and engaging topics to advance your science learning and teaching.

Sample just a few of our offerings. Elementary school teachers can discover new hands-on activities integrating math, science, and literacy. Middle school teachers become expert on assessment. High school teachers can attend workshops in their disciplines, and college professors can learn about spectroscopy and supernovae remnants, perfect for Earth science and chemistry. Think of listening to keynote speaker Sally Ride talk about her space exploits. How about a workshop on force and motion fundamentals? Take part in a workshop to help you teach science to English language learners more successfully. And we have an exhibit hall chock-full of new products, lesson plans, and giveaways. NSTA’s conferences have something for everyone, and we want you to take it all back to the classroom. Remember, when you attend our Detroit conference as a member, not only do you save the most on registration, you get a whole year’s worth of benefits. Register by September 14 to save. See you in Detroit! Visit www.nsta.org/detroit.

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Join the NASA Engineering Design Challenge

As NASA plans to return to the Moon, plant growth will be an important part of space exploration. NASA scientists anticipate that astronauts may be able to grow plants on the Moon in specialized plant growth chambers. NASA invites schools to participate in this exciting initiative by building a lunar growth chamber in the NASA Engineering Design Challenge.

Through the NASA Engineering Design Challenge, elementary, middle, and high school students will

  • Design, build, and evaluate lunar plant growth chambers;
  • Receive cinnamon basil seeds flown on STS-118's space shuttle Endeavour;
  • Test lunar growth chambers by growing and comparing both space-flown and Earth-based control seeds.

Visit www.nasa.gov/education/plantchallenge to register and to receive more information about the NASA Engineering Design Challenge. You can also sign up for the NASA Express listserv to receive e-mail updates about the challenge and other NASA education activities.

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In Search of Exemplary Science Programs (ESP) That Illustrate Inquiry

As the year 2008 approaches, the NSTA National Advisory Board (NAB) invites your help in identifying 15 programs for the 2008 Exemplary Science Program (ESP) Monograph. The NAB now requests nominations for recognizing teachers and schools for the sixth monograph in the series. Inquiry has become a word that all respect and admire—almost religiously. Most teachers, textbook authors, curriculum developers, and most of the general public see it as important and purport to use it. In actual practice, however, inquiry often has a word like "guided," "completed," or even "directed" used with it as an adjective. But could scientists be so restrained?

The 2008 ESP monograph will focus on teachers and programs that illustrate full (or open) inquiry: inquiry that starts with student curiosities and questions, followed by student attempts to deal with their own curriculum and attempt to provide answers. Of course, the main ingredient for scientific inquiry is collecting evidence from others to evaluate and to establish validity to the ideas and solutions proposed. And these must be shared and used to resolve the issues. All of this requires contexts (situations) to promote inquiry—which is the stated major goal for science education as indicated in the National Science Education Standards. Specifically, the goal calls for producing students who "experience the richness and excitement of knowing about and understanding the natural world."

The NAB looks forward to reviewing nominations and working with at least 15 teacher teams who are involved with real inquiry with students in their classrooms. Nominations should be forwarded to Robert E. Yager, chair of NSTA's ESP efforts and editor of the ESP Monograph Series (Science Education Center, Room 450 VAN, The University of Iowa, Iowa City IA 52242; robert-yager@uiowa.edu; 319-335-1189).

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Science Educators: Dig Into NSTA With a Free Book PLUS $10 Off Dues!

When you make use of the information in NSTA Express, you’re just scratching the surface of the many ways that NSTA membership helps you be the best science educator you can be. Science education is changing, and you need to know how to teach to meet the new federal requirements and state standards and assessment practices. NSTA makes it easy for you to expand and enhance your knowledge and teaching skills, to make your voice heard on important state and national education issues, and to share your expertise with other members as part of a national community of committed educators.

Here’s our annual Back to School special. Join NSTA now through September 30, receive $10 off your individual regular* membership dues, and have your choice of a free book: Elementary Teachers get Picture Perfect Science Lessons; Middle School Teachers get Doing Good Science in Middle School; and High School Teachers get both the Student and Teacher editions of Watershed Dynamics!

Click here to join thousands of educators who find NSTA teachers’ resources unmatched. Take a look at what members enjoy.

*This offer valid only on new memberships. This offer cannot be combined with any other offer. This offer is only valid on individual, regular membership at the standard $74 rate and not for any other membership category, such as Student, New Teacher, or Retired.

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Team America Rocketry Challenge 2008 Registration is Open

Registration is now open for the Team America Rocketry Challenge 2008, a national model rocket competition for U.S. students in grades 7 through 12. Thousands of students compete each year in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, the world's largest model rocket contest. Cash prizes are awarded to the top finishers.

Teams of three to 15 students design, build, and fly a model rocket to carry two raw eggs for a precise flight duration of 45 seconds and to an exact altitude of 750 feet. The team whose rocket comes the closest to both, and brings the eggs back unbroken, wins.

To be eligible for the national fly-off, teams must fly a qualifying flight observed by an adult member of the National Association of Rocketry. The top-scoring 100 teams in the country will be invited to participate in the final fly-off to be held in May 2008.

Registration closes on Nov. 30, 2007, or when 750 teams have registered, whichever comes first. For more information, visit www.rocketcontest.org.

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And Don’t Forget…

Membership Means You Belong! Join NSTA for these essential benefits that will enhance your marketability in the teaching profession and build your professional knowledge. Being a member of NSTA means you’re part of an international community of practitioners dedicated to improving science education.

Visit the NSTA Science Store for an outstanding array of bestselling books and teaching resources. Receive 30% off of the September featured book, Doing Good Science in Middle School: A Practical Guide to Inquiry-Based Instruction .

Visit our member services web page to ensure that NSTA has your current contact information.

NSTA is offering more Web Seminars starting in October. Visit the website for more information about these upcoming professional development opportunities.

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Professional development courses in your future?
Online options give you a world of choice.
Take a look at these groups offering courses for science educators!

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