Statement of Anti-Racist Support

In the words of James Baldwin, "Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."

Due to the current and ongoing events surrounding the tragic murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, the National Science Education Leadership Association (NSELA) and the National Science Teaching Association (NSTA) joined other organizations around the nation in speaking out against racism. As NCSLA members, we are sharing NSELA's statement with our membership.

As science educators and science leaders, we assume responsibility for the students, teachers and leaders that we serve throughout our state of North Carolina. These murders add importance to our responsibilities as educators and human beings to right wrongs and be an active participant to change. Real change. It is our charge as science educators and science leaders to confront the inequities in our nation by coming together and becoming the change agents needed to address the institutionalized inequities that fuel the disparities in our district(s), state and this country. These enduring and systemic inequities have a direct impact on science education and the students and teachers we are committed to serving.

Your NCSLA family firmly supports diversity and inclusion for all. We implore your school, your district, your informal science setting, your STEM education organizations to continually support equity and diversity through progressive actions. NSTA recently released a Social Justice and Science Education statement, and they have a committed action plan. If you are a member in search of resources to promote equitable science practices, our national partner organization, NSELA has additionally provided several resources in their position statement below that we choose to share with all of you. NCSLA will provide additional resources and actions in the near future as we plan forward for change. As an organization, we are dedicated to progressive actions, and not just in words, but in purpose. We charge our membership to use the resources to implement changes in their classrooms, their districts and their workplace, and keep moving forward when confronted with challenges and obstacles.

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., "If you can't fly, then run. If you can't run, then walk. If you can't walk, then crawl. but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward." 

 

Your Equity and Diversity Ad Hoc Committee,

Ryann Battle - Committee Member
Carla Billups - President Elect
Sebastian Byers - Committee Member
Michelle Ellis - NSTA Liason
Dennis Kubasko - President
Beverly Lyons - Past President
Christi Whitworth - Executive Director

 

NSELA Statement of Anti-Racist Support

Posted: June 4, 2020

Unfortunately racial unrest and injustice has once again arisen in our country and daily lives with the tragic passing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. As a result, our nation has expressed shame, guilt, pain, hope and found inspiration in the commitment to change from all races and age groups in America. NSELA stands in solidarity with disenfranchised populations in the rightful demand for justice and equality. We believe all educators have a responsibility to engage in teaching tolerance and making science available for all students. We must teach, lead and listen with empathy in an effort to fully support all students and educators in this challenging moment in our country’s history.

Our NSELA President, Larry Plank, has already made a commitment to ensure that our most vulnerable learners have access to science educational opportunities both in and out of school. We know that science leaders are essential to ensuring equity in science, early learning in science, and policy advancements in science at all levels. We recognize that our organizational leadership does not reflect the diversity of our educational stakeholders and strive to grow a more diverse leadership corps while providing professional learning and resources in support of district leaders. We envision a future where science education is accessible for all students and our leadership is connected not only by appreciation and excitement for science but also through lived experiences with learners

The NSELA Diversity Committee is working to enhance membership and leadership to reflect the diversity of the country and to support the needs of our diverse science education constituency, including teachers and students. If you have thoughts or ideas for this committee, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Our mission can be summarized by three words: Advocate, Collaborate, and Educate. We are unfortunately reminded of the need to rise above the fog of injustice in our country, and NSELA will fully leverage our resources to stand against racism in all forms. We will advocate for equitable access to science education, science leadership, and STEM careers. We will collaborate with organizations such as the Association for Multicultural Science Education and National Association for Bilingual Education to learn about successful strategies and approaches for social justice and equity in science education. We will educate our members about leading for change, especially when that change addresses barriers caused by existing privileges of one group over another.

-The Staff and Leadership of the National Science Education Leadership Association

NSELA RESOURCES

NSELA Conferences/Webinars promoting equitable science practices

The NSELA Virtual Leadership Summit (June 15th - 18th from 11am - 1:30 pm CST each day) includes a session on Thursday, June 18, where Phil Bell will address equity and inclusive practices for all students.  

Three past webinars have a specific focus on supporting equity and diversity in science teaching: 

  • "Reimagining the Possibilities" May 5, 2020 How can we reimagine science learning in a way that that makes sense during the pandemic? How can we help teachers and families keep learning going in a meaningful way? This webinar examines some tools that do just that. 
  • "Is Science Enough?" Oct. 29, 2019 Dr. Carolyn Landel, Managing Director, Charles A. Dana Center, University of Texas at Austin; Shelly LeDoux, Ed.D., Professional Learning Facilitator, K-12 Services, The University of Texas at Austin | Charles A. Dana Center and Nicole Martin discuss how districts around the country are desperately seeking high-quality instructional materials that translate the NGSS into a coherent set of learning experiences to support student learning of the content. 
  • "STEM For All Students" Feb. 14, 2019  NSELA and Okhee Lee are pleased to present STEM For All Students. This webinar focused on science instruction using the Framework and NGSS.

Statement on Virtual Learning

The North Carolina Science Leadership Association’s (NCSLA) mission is to provide opportunities for leaders in both formal and informal science education by offering a forum to exchange ideas and information, advancing quality STEM instruction, and influencing education policies and legislation. Our vision for science education in North Carolina is to engage in authentic networking, celebrate science educators, support emerging science education leaders and advocate innovative practice in North Carolina.

On March 14, 2020, Governor Cooper issued a stay-at-home order, which effectively led to the suspension of school for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year. Public schools moved to a remote learning environment. As expected, this was implemented to the best of the ability of each school and LEA. Sadly, an unfortunate unintended result was that this action significantly reduced incentives for learning for many students; learning was ended for far too many students as a result.

On March 27, the State Board of Education approved policy from DPI that seniors would receive a pass or withdrawal for each course based solely on their average on March 13.

On April 23, the State Board of Education approved further policy from DPI for K-11 students. Upon their direction, 9-11 students’ grades would also be based solely on students learning as of March 13. Based on the direction from the state board of education, student grades were “held harmless” due to remote learning. Grades no longer represented learning of the complete course. Multiple interpretations of the policy by districts emerged across the state. It has been our experience that the majority of public school students were now demotivated to complete further learning in each course.

Looking forward to the 2020-2021 school year and the challenges that will likely take place, we, as science teachers, would like to encourage and promote the academic interests of NC public school students by expressing the need for concerted leadership. We want to learn from this last quarter of remote learning and ensure quality science education for all NC public school students. Regardless of whether we continue with total off-campus learning environment or move to some blended model to accommodate distance learning, we call attention to science teaching and learning needs. 

  1. Guidance focused on learning.  Much of the guidance at the state level so far has focused on grades. As laboratory-based instruction is paramount for learning science, we need state level policies in directing schools to provide time and materials for laboratory activities and provide funds for implementing these activities in the new models. Schedules should consider how inquiry-based instruction and constructivist teaching practices can be structured for each class and how schools will facilitate teacher-student interactions in remote and blended environments.  
  2. Relevant Professional Development. Laboratory experiences in face-to-face classrooms will look different in virtual or blended classrooms. Virtual labs do not take the place of classroom-based labs, yet they do provide unique learning opportunities. Teachers have acquired skills in teaching face-to-face labs. Teachers need professional development in designing and facilitating laboratory experiences that will bridge gaps and take advantage of the unique environments in which their students will now learn. Funding for teachers to participate in professional development such as conferences and workshops is paramount to strengthening student learning, especially science teachers in their first five years of teaching.
  3. Support for professional competencies. Guidance counselors, social workers and nutrition officers have directives and training to accommodate inequalities. Let them identify and assist students with the resources needed on an individual level without holding the whole school or district hostage to progress. 
  4. Guidance with accessible resources and best practices. Because of the quick transition to remote learning, teachers were not trained in remote learning pedagogies. State resources should facilitate ways to disseminate best practices for engaging in science subjects. A clearinghouse of online resources could be provided without endorsing one company over another. 
  5. Partnerships in understanding and building on new norms. The quick transition to remote learning has brought different challenges to the classroom. Besides digital inequities, some students must now serve as caregivers, some students lack role models, while others are distracted by the lack of space to adequately work on academics.  Applicable research on engagement, motivation, AI, and technology-driven instruction should be shared with teachers as they make plans for the next school year.  
  6. Finally, ensure science teachers have a voice in policy decisions that will impact science teaching and learning. Most policy makers are not aware of the unique challenges of teaching science. The pandemic has hopefully heighted our appreciation of science education and the value of ensuring the next generation of scientists. Enlist science teacher input planning for the next school year by placing a variety of teachers on NCDPI boards that make legislative decisions.

Thank you for your time and attention to these issues. We look forward to working together in improving science education for all NC public school students. 

Your Advocacy Committee Members,

Carla Billups - President Elect
Dorothy Holley - NCSLA Fellow
Dennis Kubasko - President
Beverly Lyons - Past President
Glasher Robinson - Committee Member
Tom Savage - Committee Chair
Lindsay Smith - Committee Member
Christi Whitworth - Executive Director

North Carolina and the Next Generation Science Standards

The North Carolina Science Leadership Association (NCSLA) has a rich history of advocating quality science instruction for all students through public, private, and nonprofit partnerships. Our goal is to prepare students to compete for careers of the future. North Carolina’s leading efforts to adopt the Common Core Standards in 2010 demonstrated its commitment to developing clear and rigorous standards in reading and mathematics through its collaboration with other states. This forthright effort displayed our state’s strength in responding to the needs of students within the state and nation. In July 2011, the National Research Council (NRC) released A Framework for K-12 Science Standards: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. This framework outlined guiding principles for creating a scientifically literate populace and provided recommendations our nation is currently incorporating into the development of the Next Generation Science Standards.

NCSLA supports the national efforts devoted toward improving the rigor and clarity of science standard setting and testing. NCSLA puts forth the position that “North Carolina must align both the content of the Essential Science Standards and its implementation schedule with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) anticipated release in 2012” to prepare a scientifically literate citizenry and uphold our state’s history of leading education reform. As we adapt to rapid changes within our society, NCSLA reaffirms the importance of quality science education for ALL. To achieve this in North Carolina, NCSLA advocates the following:

Collaboration

The development of the NGSS has the benefit of expertise from the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Research Council, and Achieve, as well as input from advisory boards and representatives of each state. Our state would benefit significantly from North Carolina State Board of Education and North Carolina Department of Public Instruction partnering with these organizations to develop the state standards from the Next Generation Science Standards rather than mandating that the NC Essential Standards be taught and tested in 2012-2013, when the national standards are ready.

Fiscal Responsibility

New standards require money for teacher professional development, materials and assessment to ensure sound implementation. School districts with limited funding would be, in essence, required to financially support the implementation of both the Essential Standards in Science and the Next Generation Science Standards, provided these new national standards are integrated into the Common Core Curriculum with English Language Arts, and NGSS are available, the state and local school systems will save money and be positioned to acquire continual funding from the competitive Race To The Top (RTTP) grant initiatives (Reeves, 2010).

Sound Science Policy for the Future

North Carolina students continue to lag nationally behind more than half of the other states on the NAEP Science. Since American students lag behind other countries internationally, this places our students even further behind, making them less prepared for jobs now and in the future. The NGSS will be internationally benchmarked to help ensure that American students perform well on national and international tests and are prepared for the modern workforce. For North Carolina to proceed with its plan to release the Essential Standards in Science before the release of the national NGSS is contrary to its recent commitment to rigorous national standards in English/Language Arts and Mathematics.

In conclusion, NCSLA recommends that the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI) delay the implementation of the Essential Standards in Science until the release of the Next Generation of Science Standards anticipated in 2012. At that time, the Essential Standards can be aligned with the NGSS in order to take advantage of the national and international expertise that has been devoted to the development of the new NGSS. Science education in North Carolina would benefit tremendously through NCDPI’s alignment with this recommendation, which supports our state’s belief in collaboration, fiscal responsibility, and sound science education policy for all.

 Approved unanimously by the NCSLA Board on October 11, 2011

A Quantum Leap Required in NC Science Education

North Carolina must make science education a priority in a manner that is unprecedented in the state’s history. In 1957, with fear and wonder, Americans witnessed Sputnik, the first manmade (Russian) satellite.  This posed a serious military threat to the country and its status as the world’s leader in science. Subsequently, the National Defense Education Act was approved by Congress in 1958, leading to greatly enhanced science education nationally.  Now, more than 50 years later, the threat is an economic one and the future belongs to the world regions that possess the capacity for scientific innovation.  Innovation is a hallmark of American culture.  Woven with the tools of mathematics, language, and technology it remains, perhaps, our last economic advantage.  However, its essence is mercurial and will slip away without early, motivating science experiences leading to the rigorous engagement of all students beginning in elementary school. A quantum leap in science education requires attention to several key components.

 

  1. Accountability. Entire school communities must be rewarded according to the quality of their science program. This can only be accomplished if the same message resonates in the highest levels of North Carolina state government.  The past years have demonstrated that high stakes testing drives classroom function.  Unfortunately, this has transformed science into a fringe subject and, unwisely, distanced it from mathematics and language.
  2. Time. Good science education needs a lot of it and it is the single best method to improve performance.  Presently, instructional time for science is clearly inadequate.  At the K-5 level, it may be at a historic low. Four years of science are required at the 9-12 level. Even then we must query, “Can we compete globally with only five hours of science per week?”  Laboratory experiences are essential and additional innovative methodologies, such as project-based learning, science competitions, utilization of informal science facilities, and direct access to scientific research must find their way into common practice.
  3. Professional Development. Great science teachers possess considerable content knowledge, the very apparent desire to inquire and build that knowledge, and familiarity with the procedures of science that produce knowledge.  Good teachers can become great teachers when sufficient time and resources are provided for studying science content and developing the pedagogical practices that promote the learning of science. Pre-service education must also be targeted. A proposal put forth by the NC Science, Mathematics and Technology Education Center calls for five or more science content courses for prospective K-8 teachers; in concert with that would be a 5% - 10% beginning pay increase.
  4. Materials. Veteran science teachers know that materials procurement, preparation, and maintenance are challenging aspects of the profession.  North Carolina needs to support these efforts in a structured, aggressive fashion by providing adequate funding for the materials and facilities required to teach science in an authentic, investigative fashion that truly reflects the nature of scientific endeavor.

 

Daily, scientific problems and issues punctuate the media.  Innovators in health, environment, computers, nanotechnology and other fields will benefit from new economic drivers.  How serious are we in assuring that North Carolina students will be the innovators?  That is no longer a guarantee simply by their place of birth. In a “hot, flat and crowded” world they will need every advantage we can give them.  A world-class K-12 science program is the best means of ensuring economic success for North Carolina and its children.

 

 

Published Fall 2009