NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

November 2013

Here are your science education resources and announcements for November 2013 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

National Academy Announces New Initiative to Increase K–12 Engineering Education

As engineering education has been getting increased attention at the K–12 level, the National Academy of Engineering has unveiled a new initiative to help teachers navigate the unfamiliar subject.

Thanks to a $1.5 million grant from Chevron U.S.A. Inc., the program will create a clearinghouse of curriculum materials and resources and connect engineering education experts with teachers, administrators, and other involved in providing engineering experiences to K-12 students.

Click here to learn more.

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NCTQ Releases Annual Report Assessing States’ Teacher-Evaluation Polices

The National Council on Teacher Quality recently released its Connecting the Dots: Using Evaluations of Teacher Effectiveness to Inform Policy and Practice report, which provides a comprehensive overview on state teacher evaluation policy in 2013.

The report found that there has been an unprecedented adoption of more rigorous teacher evaluation policies across the states, with 35 states and the District of Columbia Public Schools now requiring student achievement to be a significant criterion for rating teacher effectiveness. Most states, however, are lagging in efforts to use this new information about teacher performance to better inform policy and practice and improve student performance.

Key findings include:

  • In 2009, only 15 states required annual evaluations of all teachers, with some states permitting teachers to go five years or more between evaluations. In 2013, 27 states and the District of Columbia Public Schools (DCPS) now require annual evaluations for all teachers.
  • Only a few years ago, in 2009, a mere four states required evidence of student learning to be the most significant criterion for teacher evaluations. In 2013, 19 states and the District of Columbia. Public Schools require student growth and achievement to be the preponderant criterion, and another 16 states require it to count to a significant extent. At present, only Alabama, California, Idaho, Iowa, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Texas and Vermont lack formal policy requiring teacher evaluations to take some objective measures of student achievement into account in evaluating teacher effectiveness.
  • Across the 35 states and DCPS where student achievement is intended to be a significant or the most significant criterion for judging teacher performance, NCTQ found most states have yet to connect the dots, with little policy in place to use information about teacher performance in ways that can improve practice and ensure that all students have effective teachers. Eight states (Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Rhode Island and Tennessee) and DCPS are ahead of the curve in their development of a comprehensive set of teacher policies that are well informed by evaluations of teacher effectiveness.

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New Bayer Survey Results on the STEM Workforce Shortage Released

Sixty-seven percent of the respondents to the latest Bayer Facts of Science Education survey said that more new STEM jobs are being created than new non-STEM jobs today at U.S. Fortune 1000 companies.

Eighty-nine percent of the talent recruiters in this year’s survey report that competition is fierce to fill open STEM jobs with four-year STEM degree holders. In addition, new hires with two-year and four-year STEM degrees are “as” or “more in demand” for non-STEM jobs than new hires without STEM degrees who have traditionally filled those jobs, according to 79 percent and 89 percent of survey respondents, respectively.

Yet, very few—only 16 percent or less—of participating Fortune 1000 companies are seeing adequate numbers of qualified African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian two- and four-year STEM degree job candidates. And overall, just over half (55 percent) of these companies can find in a timely manner adequate numbers of qualified job candidates with two-year STEM degrees. Only half (50 percent) can find qualified four-year degree holders in a timely manner. Companies struggling to fill STEM positions overwhelmingly (at least 90 percent) believe it is due to a shortage of qualified STEM degree candidates with two-year or four-year degrees. In addition, unfilled positions are bad for business—talent recruiters from STEM and non-STEM companies alike believe that the unfilled positions cause lower productivity, set limits to business growth, and result in lower revenue.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Win a $20,000 Shell Science Lab Makeover for Your School

The deadline to submit applications for the 2013–2014 Shell Science Lab Challenge is fast approaching. Middle and high school science teachers (grades 6–12), who have found innovative ways to deliver quality lab experiences with limited school and laboratory resources and are located in the U.S. and Canada, are encouraged to apply. The deadline for entries is December 20, 2013.

Through the competition—now in its fourth year—science teachers compete to win much needed laboratory resources for their schools. In addition to the lab equipment provided by Ward’s Science, winners receive Shell cash grants, membership to the NSTA, and support to attend NSTA Conferences on Science Education. The grand prize winner and four national finalists will be honored at a special banquet and ceremony at NSTA’s National Conference on Science Education in Boston in April 2014.

For more information about the Challenge or to download an application, visit the competition website.

ING Unsung Heroes Grants

Are you an educator with a class project that is short on funding but long on potential? Do you know a teacher looking for grant dollars? ING Unsung Heroes® could help you turn great ideas into reality for students. Each year, 100 educators are selected to receive $2,000 to help fund their innovative class projects. Three of those are chosen to receive the top awards of an additional $5,000, $10,000, and $25,000. The application deadline is April 30, 2014.

Distinguished Fulbright Awards in Teaching Program

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs offers Fulbright grants for U.S. primary and secondary classroom teachers, guidance counselors, curriculum specialists, curriculum heads, Talented and Gifted coordinators, special education coordinators, and media specialists/librarians to participate in international exchanges for three to four months. By living and teaching or conducting research overseas, U.S. teachers gain new skills, learn new instruction and assessment methodologies, and share best practices with international colleagues and students. Teachers also have the opportunity to expand their understanding of other cultures and international education systems that will enrich their schools and local communities with global perspectives. Participants must

  • Be a U.S. citizen;
  • Be fluent in English;
  • Be employed full-time at an accredited school in the United States or a U.S. territory;
  • Either hold a master’s degree or be enrolled in a master’s program at the time of application;
  • Be in at least their fifth year of full-time teaching;
  • Demonstrate experience conducting professional development activities; and
  • Have received teaching awards or exemplary evaluations from a school administrator.

Opportunities for the 2014–2015 school year will take U.S. teachers to Chile, Finland, India, Israel, Mexico, Morocco, New Zealand, the Palestinian Territories, Singapore, South Korea, and the United Kingdom. Applications are due by 11:59 CST on the evening of December 15, 2013. For more information, click here.

2014 Gustav Ohaus Award for Science Educators

OHAUS Corporation is seeking applicants for the 2014 Gustav Ohaus Award. Established in 1969, the Gustav Ohaus Award recognizes educators who have positively impacted science teaching at the primary, secondary, or college levels. The award is presented annually to one deserving science teacher who has demonstrated excellence in science teaching in the form of curricula design, teaching strategies, administrative and/or organizational patterns, and laboratory utilization with an emphasis on measurement activities. The winner of the award will receive a $1,500 cash prize, a trip to the 2014 NSTA National Convention in Boston, Massachusetts, and a personalized award. The recipient’s school will receive $1,000 worth of OHAUS products as well as a plaque noting the winner’s achievement. Applications are due by December 15, 2013.

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Teacher Resources

IBN Online Science Fair

A new web platform from the science nonprofit Informed by Nature (IBN) allows students and teachers in grades 7–12 to upload, share, and store science fair projects online. To encourage participation and better reach underserved populations lacking access to local science-themed competitions, IBN will hold an annual virtual science fair competition with educational prizes for winners. In addition to sharing experiments, students can interact with peers through comments and by voting for favorite entries.


Check out the Educade website for lesson plans incorporating today’s technologies—apps, games, and other innovations—into instruction. The site offers hundreds of ready-to-use lesson plans in core subjects, each of which is aligned to Common Core State Standards for English language arts, math, and science. Science highlights include Classify Wildlife in Your Community With Project NOAH (elementary), Construct a School Wide Scale Solar System With Scale of the Universe (middle level), and Conservation of Momentum With Portal 2 (high school).


A new curriculum research project from the Harvard Graduate School of Education uses immersive virtual environments to teach middle level students about ecosystems and causal patterns. The two-week modules Ponds (Module 1) and Forests (Module 2) have the look and feel of a video game, and their multi-user virtual environments (MUVE) re-create authentic ecological settings within which students explore and collect information. Students work individually at computers and collaborate in teams within the virtual world.

Sesame Street STEM

Preschoolers (and the adults in their lives) have a new digital destination: Sesame Street STEM! Elmo and his Muppet friends help young scientists learn age-appropriate information about everyday science topics like Experiments, Sinking or Floating, Measurement, Properties of Matter, Engineering, and Force and Motion. The content is presented through short video clips and online games; an educators’ guide and a parent newsletter for each topic reinforce STEM learning in the classroom and at home.

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Student Competitions

Engineering For You Video Contest

Engineering for You (E4U) is a video competition open to students in middle school and up. The National Academy of Engineering is offering a $25,000 grand prize and $5,000 People’s Choice award as well as category prizes to the most inspiring one- to two-minute videos focused on how engineering serves human welfare and the needs of society. Contestants can choose any time period between 1964 and 2064 for their video. The contest will run from November  1, 2013, to March 31, 2014. Click here to learn more about the competition.

Google Code-In 2013 Contest Now Open

Google Code-in, a new global online contest for students (13–17 years old) who are interested in learning more about open source development, is now open. Students work on bite-sized tasks for real-world open source projects in a variety of categories. Prizes include certificates, t-shirts, and 20 grand prize winners will win a trip to Google headquarters in California next spring for themselves and a parent or legal guardian. To learn more about the competition, click here.

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What Is Science Matters?

Science Matters is an initiative by the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) to bring content, news, and information that supports quality science education to parents and teachers nationwide.

Science Matters, sponsored by the ExxonMobil Foundation and Shell Oil Company, builds on the success of the Building a Presence for Science program, first launched in 1997 as an e-networking initiative to assist teachers of science with professional development opportunities. Building a Presence for Science—now Science Matters—reaches readers in 34 states and the District of Columbia.

Why does Science Matter? Science is critical to understanding the world around us. Most Americans feel that they received a good education and that their children will as well.  Unfortunately, not many are aware that international tests show that American students are simply not performing well in science when compared to students in other countries. Many students (and their parents!) believe that science is irrelevant to their lives.

Innovation leads to new products and processes that sustain our economy, and this innovation depends on a solid knowledge base in science, math, and engineering. All jobs of the future will require a basic understanding of math and science. The most recent ten year employment projections by the U.S. Labor Department show that of the 20 fastest growing occupations projected for 2014, 15 of them require significant mathematics or science preparation to successfully compete for a job

This is why Science Matters. Quality learning experiences in the sciences—starting at an early age—are critical to science literacy and our future workforce. Feel free to publish this information in school newsletters and bulletins, and share it with other parents, teachers, and administrators.

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We Want to Hear from You

Do have a story idea or announcement that you think we should consider? Do you have a suggestion for how we can make this newsletter better? Let us know what you think. E-mail us your suggestions and feedback at sciencematters@nsta.org. We look forward to hearing from you!

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