Explaining Results of Science Experiments Proves Challenging for Students

When testing fourth-, eighth- and twelfth-grade students on their ability to conduct science experiments and thoughtfully explain the results, investigators made three key discoveries that policymakers say may be troubling for future workforce needs. The National Center for Education Statistics Science in Action report found that when using limited data sets, students could make straightforward observations on the data. However, most struggled to explain the results and were challenged by parts of investigations that contained more variables to manipulate or involved strategic decisionmaking.

Virginia Gov's Amendments Would Restore Funding for Research, Life Sciences

While touting broad support from lawmakers for his 2012 legislative agenda during the regular session, Gov. Bob McDonnell also expressed concern about several economic development and education initiatives left out of the 2012-14 biennial budget passed by lawmakers during a special session that ended last month. Just in time for the deadline, Gov. McDonnell submitted $43.9 million in budget amendments, which include restoring funds for research, life sciences and teacher recruitment.

Executives Want Education Policy Interventions to Help U.S. Competitiveness

Only 11 percent of business executives believe the U.S. educational system prepares workers for today’s economy according to a recent survey by ConvergeUSPreparing America’s 21st Century Workforce: the Business Sector Weighs in on Educational Gaps & Common Core State Standards. In the report, ConvergeUS surveyed almost 300 business executives on their attitudes regarding the current state of the U.S. workforce. The most significant trend was the overall lack of confidence by business executives in the U.S. education system, approximately 33 percent of business executive believe that the U.S. does a poor job of preparing workers.

WA Gov's $9.8M Workforce Plan Supports University Research, Engineering Grads

Gov. Chris Gregoire outlined a series of proposals to boost Washington's competitiveness in the aerospace sector, including support for university research and funding to expand high school workforce curriculum and enroll more university students in engineering fields. By investing in education, research, and expanding tax incentives, Gov. Gregoire hopes Boeing will select the state to build and manufacture its 737 MAX, which the governor calls a once-in-a-generation opportunity expected to support up to 20,000 jobs. The $9.8 million plan centers on enhancements to the state's education system to ensure a prepared and skilled workforce. Proposals include:

Arkansas Governor Announces $2.7 Million STEM Education Pilot Program

Arkansas Gov. Mike Beebe and the state's Workforce Cabinet announced a $2.7 million pilot program — STEM Works — focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education in high schools. STEM Works will be made up of two components. The first component will focus on overhauling the state's STEM curriculum at the high school level to better prepare high school graduates to pursue college degrees in STEM disciplines. The second component — UTeach — will attempt to attract qualified college graduates to become STEM educators.

New Report Outlines a Framework for K-12 Science Education

In a Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas, an 18-member committee comprised of experts in education and scientists proposes a foundation for new national K-12 science education standards. The report identifies core ideas in four areas that students should understand by the time they finish high school. The four areas include:

Tech Talkin' Govs, Part VI

The sixth installment of SSTI's Tech Talkin' Govs series includes excerpts from speeches delivered in Connecticut, Illinois, New Hampshire, New Jersey and North Carolina. The first five installments are available in the Jan. 5, Jan. 12, Jan. 19, Jan. 26 and Feb. 9 issues of the Digest.

Spending Plans in IA and MA Seek to Balance Cuts with Job Creation Efforts

Deep cuts to higher education and reorganizing economic development efforts are common themes in executive budget proposals across most of the country as governors seek to both reduce spending and create jobs. Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad recently introduced legislation to replace the state's existing economic development agency with a public-private partnership. Meanwhile, his budget eliminates the Iowa Power Fund, established by the legislature in 2007 to invest in private sector renewable and alternative energy industries. In Massachusetts, Gov. Deval Patrick recommends $10 million to continue state support for the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, but also plans to collect $25 million from the state's quasi-public agencies and defer $5 million in tax credits slated for life science companies to help fill a projected deficit totaling up to $2.5 billion.

University-Based Research Initiatives Face Severe Reductions in Georgia Budget

Funding for university-based research initiatives would be cut significantly under Gov. Nathan Deal's proposed FY12 budget as the governor aims to close a projected deficit of nearly $1 billion. The Georgia Research Alliance (GRA), a nationally recognized model for creating and sustaining tech-based economies, would receive $4.5 million in FY12, a 75 percent reduction from the current year. The governor's budget also would transfer GRA funds to the Department of Economic Development, a move that would align TBED with the state's more traditional economic development efforts.

Summer Camps Aren’t Just for Kids; Programs Engage Science Teachers in Research

Summer camps focusing on science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields are typically designed to spark youth interest and introduce students to career options in these critical areas. However, a vital component of these programs is exposure to scientific challenges that many classroom settings cannot provide. Recognizing this exposure as beneficial to both teachers and students, several programs are targeting educators with the goal of enhancing instructional methods in the classroom in order to increase student achievement in the STEM fields. The following are examples of professional development programs for science teachers from across the country offered over the summer months.
Middle school science teachers in Kansas are moving out of the classrooms and into University of Kansas (KU) laboratories this summer to participate in university-level research with the goal of enhancing their content backgrounds and ability to apply research-based instruction. The Middle School Science Academy Research Experiences program is a three-year, multi-phase initiative funded by the Kansas Board of Regents that targets two school districts with students considered to be high-risk.
Because so few middle school teachers have had actual experience with university-level research, the initiative engages the teachers in hands-on practice with KU science and engineering faculty.
The first phase of the program wrapped up last month with participation from 20 teachers. During the four-week program, the research groups worked on projects involving high-end biotechnology and engineering concepts, including a field reserve study on endangered milkweed.
Next year, the same teachers will return for instruction on translation of research and how to teach fundamental science to middle school students. Teachers will again meet with faculty mentors to discuss project-based learning models to engage students in science. The final year focuses on implementing the model with students. Teachers will practice the new concepts with a group of volunteer students and will then be able to evaluate and modify the content for use in their own classroom.
Program administrators estimate that as a result of the initiative, approximately 3,000 middle school students will receive enhanced science instruction. For their part, the teachers are granted nine credit hours of university-level science. A press release detailing the program is available at: http://www.news.ku.edu/2008/june/16/science.shtml
A collaborative partnership between three high-need school districts in northwest Ohio and Bowling Green State University, the Northwest Ohio Teachers Enhancing Achievement in Mathematics and Science is a summer institute program that provides enhanced science instruction and introduces teachers to community resources in order to make them leaders in science education.
Phase I of the program focuses on instruction, providing more than 100 hours of professional development training from university educators and scientists to approximately 100 teachers of grades 3-6. Participants are guided on how to teach specific areas of science and how to adopt teaching practices in their classrooms.
The second phase of the program exposes teachers to community resources, such as Fossil Park in northwest Ohio and the Toledo Zoo, and teaches educators how to best use these resources to enrich the content of their lesson plans. During the third phase, teachers return for a four-day follow-up and are guided through the execution of their instructional goals. 
Participating teachers receive stipends and are able to use science instructional kits in their classrooms for the following school year. Research findings from this program indicate statistically significant differences in fourth and sixth grade Ohio science proficiency scores for teachers who completed this program, according to the Ohio Department of Education.


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