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6-4-14 Education Issues in the News
Star Ledger - New science curriculum emphasizes hands-on approach to learning

NJ Spotlight - Agenda: Board Addresses Status of Takeovers, Teacher Evaluations ...Monthly meeting will include presentation on teacher goals, and votes on returning some controls to school districts in Paterson and Newark

Star Ledger - New science curriculum emphasizes hands-on approach to learning


By Peggy McGlone/The Star-Ledger The Star-Ledger
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on June 04, 2014 at 6:30 AM, updated June 04, 2014 at 6:58 AM

Children are born investigators.

And state education officials want to nurture their inquisitive minds with a new science curriculum that pushes practice and problem-solving over rote memorization.

The focus is no longer on the right answer, but how you got it, explained Vincent DeLucia, educator-in-residence at the New Jersey School Boards Association and a member of the state task force that developed the Next Generation Science Standards for New Jersey.

"If you understand a concept, you can apply it where itís appropriate," DeLucia said.

The new approach will mean drastic changes for teachers and students alike, experts say. Teachers will emphasize process, and link scientific concepts to other instruction areas, including math and language arts.

"Itís going to motivate kids, because kids want relevance and the only way to show relevance is to go deeper," DeLucia said. "Youíre exploring and doing it in a collaborative way. These are 21st century work skills."

The state Board of Education plans to hold three public hearings on the changes to the state core curriculum standards that form the basis of instruction in classrooms across the state. The board is required by law to review and re-adopt curriculum standards every five years.

The first hearing is today in Trenton. The other hearings are set for June 11 at Gloucester County Institute of Technology in Sewell and June 12 at the Somerset County Office in Somerville.

Department of Education officials have proposed no changes to the Common Core State Standards for language arts and math ó national standards that have come under fire in recent months ó and only minor tweaks to other areas, including health and physical education.

But science is getting a major overhaul.

Like the Common Core standards, the Next Generation Science Standards are a national initiative. They were created by 26 states, including New Jersey, and will include deep resources to help districts and teachers move from the framework to the curriculum.

"The Next Generation Science Standards will drive teachers to use the practices to push the content," Kim Feltre, K-12 science coordinator for Hillsborough public schools, said. "Youíre trying to use group student-centered work to understand the content."

Explaining the changes in the standards in a webinar on the state Department of Education website, the science coordinator, Michael Heinz, noted that in a biology lesson on cells, students would be charged with understanding the functions of the cell parts, rather than just their names. In a physics lesson on motion and force, students would be asked to "plan and conduct an investigation to provide evidence of the effects of balanced and unbalanced forces on the motion of an object."

New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association Executive Director Patricia Wright said the emphasis on engineering practices is critical.

The standards "really talk about not just knowing the content but understanding the science practices, and that gets more into science and engineering and thatís so important for students to succeed in the 21st century," Wright said. "The problem solving skills, the use of evidence, you see that across the core curriculum. The interdisciplinary connections are embedded in them, so they can be reinforced."

Feltre said students, too, will need to adjust to the new approach.

"Students are reluctant to ask questions or engage in the hard thinking weíre asking them to," she said. "They push back. Itís easier to sit and listen."

While teachers and administrators welcome the new standards, they warn of the cost of teaching science in this hands-on, investigative way. And they worry that the state will rush to introduce them into the classroom.

"I donít believe we are as good as we should be in planning the implementation of changes," DeLucia said. "And thatís the piece that becomes disconcerting. It comes down to professional development and the quality of it."

In a letter to the board, the New Jersey Science Teachers Association warns the state not to "rush to assess these new standards with consequential testing," noting that takes years to redesign curriculum and the tests associated with new lessons.

Feltre agrees, saying time is the most precious resource.

"I think we need three years," Feltre said. "We need time for teachers to get together and plan, and to give teachers the support to take risks and try new things."


NJ Spotlight - Agenda: Board Addresses Status of Takeovers, Teacher Evaluations

John Mooney | June 4, 2014

Monthly meeting will include presentation on teacher goals, and votes on returning some controls to school districts in Paterson and Newark


Date: Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Time: 10 a.m.

Related Links

June 4 Agenda

SGO Presentation

Newark Resolution

Paterson Resolution

Where: New Jersey Department of Education, 1st floor conference room, 100 River View Plaza, Trenton

What they are doing: After a break for a special meeting last month, the board is back on its regular schedule.

It will consider a host of administrative code changes and also hear some notable presentations and initiatives dealing with big policy issues.

Topping the list will be a presentation on how teachers are to be measured for student performance beyond just test results, and two resolutions that would cede some of the stateís controls in Newark and Paterson.

Student Growth Objectives: At the boardís request, assistant state commissioner Peter Shulman will give a presentation on one of the key -- but often overlooked -- measures being used in the stateís new teacher tenure and evaluation system.

Known as ďstudent growth objectives,Ē or SGOs, the measures are individual goals set out by teachers and their supervisors for their studentsí work in a given year, be it artistic accomplishment or behavior improvements. They are separate from the more controversial test score-driven measures known as ďstudent growth percentiles,Ē or SGPs.

The SGOs will account for 15 percent of every teacherís ratings, and Shulman will report on the progress made in setting and following those measures in the first year of the new system.

State control resolutions: The board will act on two separate resolutions that would cede some controls back to the local boards in the state-operated districts of Newark and Paterson.

In Newark, it will be fiscal controls, as ordered under a court agreement reached in 2012. In Paterson, it will be operational controls, mostly having to do with facilities. Both districts will remain under state control in the most important area -- the right to appoint their district superintendents.

Special education board: The board will make its annual appointments to the stateís special-education advisory board. Up for appointment are:

         Dr. Suzanne Buchanan, Autism New Jersey

         Susan Colacello, Special Olympics of NJ

         Deborah Lynam, Parent Community Engagement at Learning Ally

         Magaly Milton, MJM Consulting

         Dr. Margaret O'Reilly, Bloomfield College

         Leslie Rubenstein, Learning Disabilities Association of NJ

         Fred Tchang, Advanced Opportunities

         Lauren Agoratus, NJ Family Voices

         Myriam Alizo, Statewide Parent Advocacy Network

         Beth Kelly, Riverbank Charter School of Excellence

         Melanie McGacken, Family Support Center of NJ

New standards hearings: Separate from the board meeting, the department will hold the first of three public hearings tomorrow on new curriculum standards -- the Common Core State Standards, which have already been approved, as well as other new standards in science and other areas. The public hearing will be held at the same location from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The other hearings will held on these dates at these locations:

         June 11: Gloucester County Institute of Technology, Sewell

         June 12: Somerset County Office, Somerville

Other public hearings: The board will hold its regularly scheduled public testimony on new code proposals, starting at 2 p.m. The topics for discussion are new code pertaining to homeless students and those in state facilities, as well as code pertaining to state board rule-making.


Garden State Coalition of Schools
160 W. State Street, Trenton New Jersey 08608

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