NSTA's Science Matters Newsletter

September 2014

Here are your science education resources and announcements for September 2014 provided by the Science Matters Network. Please forward them on to other science educators in your school and/or school district.

Table of Contents

Education Efficiency Index Gives U.S. Low Ranking

The U.S. ranks 19th out of 30 countries in the outcomes it gets from its investments in education, according to "The Efficiency Index: Which education systems deliver the best value for the money?," a report released earlier this month by GEMS Education Solutions, a London-based education consultancy.

Finland, Korea, and the Czech Republic were the most educationally efficient countries in the study, which is based on 15 years of data from members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Researchers used composite achievement results from the 2012 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) as the performance metric and weighed those scores against 63 factors that could influence educational outcomes, such as teaching materials and technology, the quality of school buildings, and teacher training.

Only two factors in the statistical model were found to have an impact on PISA results: changes in teachers' salaries and class size. The U.S. would have to reduce teacher salaries about five percent below their current average of $41,460 and increase class size by 10 percent—to nearly 17 students per teacher—to be optimally efficient, the researchers said.

Read the report here.

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New Poll: U.S. Public Thinks Teachers Need Better Preparation

Results of a PDK/Gallup poll released earlier this month show 60 percent believe entrance requirement in teacher preparation programs must be more rigorous, more than 80 percent believe would-be teachers should pass a national exam – like the bar exam lawyers must pass – in order to teach, and more than 70% say teachers should spend at least a year student teaching.

In addition to increasing the requirements of new teachers, Americans also indicated there should be more support during the process. Most surveyed said those training to become teachers should spend at least one year practicing teaching under the guidance of a certified teacher. Forty-four percent said those training to become teachers should spend one year in such a role, while another 27 percent said the practice period should last two years.

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NCES Releases Results From the 2012-13 Teacher Follow-up Survey

Half of teachers leaving the profession report better working conditions in their new jobs, according to a new study released this month on teacher retention and mobility. The data comes from a national follow-up survey that was given to a subsample of teachers who participated in the NCES’ Schools and Staffing Survey in 2011–12.

The data found that of the 3.4 million public school educators teaching that year, 84 percent stayed at their schools, eight percent went to a different school, and eight percent left the profession during the following year. Among those that left, 51 percent said they had a more manageable workload, and 52 percent reported better working conditions in their current positions.

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Teacher Education, Professional Development, and Grant and Award Opportunities

Applications for the 2015 Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy close October 31!

By visiting www.sendmyteacher.com, third-, fourth- and fifth-grade teachers can apply to attend a week-long, all-expense paid professional development program that equips them with new ways to inspire their students in math and science. Join the more than 4,000 teachers nationwide who have attended since 2005. You can nominate a teacher at www.sendmyteacher.com, or encourage them to visit the site themselves and apply. Don’t let this opportunity slip away! Please share it with the teachers in your school today.

NSTA NGSS Virtual Conference—NGSS Practices in Action—November 15

Prominent educators, professors, and curriculum specialists will lead you in immersive sessions to help you to better understand and to apply key principles from the Next Generation Science Standards with K–12 students.

Not an NGSS State? You’ll still want to attend to learn more about the NGSS and the NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education best practices that are making their way into classrooms nationwide this fall. Learn more here. Download the virtual conference flyer here.

The National Teacher Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award

This award is for career U.S. educators who may or may not qualify for consideration as an inductee and will provide recognition for individuals involved directly or indirectly with education for their significant contributions in support of PreK–12 teachers and the teaching profession.

Generally, selection will be based on contributions made over a career or an extended period. Occasionally, however, the selection may be based upon a single incident or activity. Nominations for the award may be made by any person. The Award is an etched crystal optical tower and will normally be presented in Emporia during Hall of Fame Weekend or in Washington, D.C., during Hall of Fame ceremonies there. Learn more here.


Science teachers and the U.S. Army Educational Outreach Program are on a mission to increase student interest in STEM education through the eCYBERMISSION program. Administered by NSTA, eCYBERMISSION is an online learning competition for students in grades six through nine. The competition challenges students to think about real-world applications of STEM by working in teams to identify a problem in their community and using scientific practices or the engineering design process to find a solution. Students can win on a state, regional, and national level, with national winning teams receiving up to $9,000 in U.S. EE Savings Bonds, valued at maturity.

Registration is now open for the 2014–2015 program year. Students registered by November 5 will receive a FREE STEM Research Kit, which includes a notebook, flash drive, and pencil. For more information, contact eCYBERMISSION Mission Control at 1-866-GO-CYBER (462-9237) or via e-mail at missioncontrol@ecybermission.com.

Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellowship

The fellowships are available to current K–12 STEM educators with a demonstrated excellence in teaching and leadership. The program aims to provide an opportunity for teachers to inform national policy and improve communication between the K–12 STEM education community and national leaders. Applicants must be U.S. citizens, must be currently employed full time in a public or private elementary or secondary school or school district, and must have been teaching in one or more STEM fields full time in a public or private elementary or secondary school for at least five of the last seven years.

Fellows spend 11 months in Washington, D.C., sharing their expertise with STEM program directors or policy makers. Einstein Fellows may serve in a Congressional office or in one of several government agencies such as the Department of Energy (DOE), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), or the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Fellows receive a monthly stipend and an allowance for professional travel and relocation.

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Teacher Resources

NGSS Q&A for Parents

NSTA has developed a resource for parents to help them better understand the importance of standards and the role they play in education. Science teachers, principals, and other administrators are encouraged to download the Q&A to distribute (and discuss) with parents. Download the parent Q&A here, or find it with other great resources at the NGSS@NSTA Hub.

NIH 3D Print Exchange

The NIH 3D Print Exchange enables users to share, download, and edit 3D print files related to health and science. NIH uses 3D printing, or the creation of a physical object from a digital model, to study viruses, repair and enhance lab apparatus, and help plan medical procedures. The 3D Print Exchange makes these files freely available, along with video tutorials for new users and a discussion forum. The site also features tools that convert scientific and clinical data into ready-to-print 3D files. In the classroom, 3D files could be used, for example, to print models of bacteria and human anatomy. 3D files offer high school and college science educators another tool for enhancing students’ science understanding using models.

Discover MyPlate

Teach kindergarten students to make healthy food and lifestyle choices with USDA’s inquiry-based nutrition education program, Discover MyPlate. The standards-based curriculum presents six interactive lessons that develop children’s food “smarts” through science, reading, and writing activities. Titles include Meet the Five Food Group Friends, Discover MyPlate!, Eat Your Colors!, Planting the Seeds for Healthier Eating, Starting Our Day With MyPlate, and Let’s Play, Let’s Party! The lessons incorporate the use of supplemental materials that can make learning about nutrition fun, such as nutrition-themed books for emergent readers, a Five Food Groups poster, profile cards of Food Group Friends, and recipe cards for kid-friendly meals. Handouts for parents in English and Spanish are also available.

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Student Competitions and Grant Opportunities

HQ's Ordinary Object Redesign Student Contest

HQ, a company that designs user experience and user interfaces for web and mobile, is offering a $1,000 scholarship to the winner of its Ordinary Object Redesign contest. High school seniors or college students are invited to submit a redesign of an ordinary object in PDF form as well as a one- to two-paragraph description of their project. The description will address the participant’s design process, the general elements of good design, and how good design can make something better or more effective.

The competition has no GPA requirement. Those submitting entries must be legal residents of the United States. The deadline is December 31, 2014. Visit the website for more details and official rules.

Verizon Innovative App Challenge

Eligible middle school and high school students in the United States will work with a faculty adviser in teams of 5–7 and develop an original concept for a mobile app that incorporates STEM principles and content and addresses  a societal or community problem. No app building experience is necessary to enter. Eight "Best in Nation" winners will be awarded a $20,000 cash grant for their school, and students on the winning teams will receive Samsung Galaxy Tabs and be invited to present their developed apps in person at the 2015 National Technology Student Association Conference in Dallas, Texas, in June 2015. More information about the competition can be found 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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