Annual Report Overviews
Service of Standards-Based Science Teaching Annual Report Overview 2000-01
Capital Region Science Education Partnership(CRSEP) LSC Project Assessment in the Service of Standards-Based Science Teaching Annual Report Overview 2000-01
Goals and Objectives of the CRSEP Initiative
Workshops topics have included:
The design, implementation and evaluation of these activities has been facilitated by the development of a planning form for professional development, extensive use of power point presentations, and reflection by the Professional Development and Materials Development Coordinators with Professional Development Specialists about the CRSEP Initiative philosophy and strategies for professional development and how these are different from those underlying the professional development experienced by the Professional Development Specialists.
Materials Development Activities-Education
Under the guidance of the University at Albany (UA) faculty and research assistants, the PDSs have been developing concept maps representing the science content contained in the Science and Technology for Children (STC) units. In the process of constructing concept maps, the PDSs have come to recognize gaps in their own knowledge of the science content contained in the units and have seen how certain key ideas in the units are conflated, leading to the possibility that students might develop misconceptions without skilled teachers who can help them make essential distinctions. Despite the fact that the development of concept maps has been difficult work and has challenged their science understanding, the PDSs have found that this activity has improved their content knowledge. Correlating the principles contained in their maps with the New York State Science standards has helped the PDSs identify science required by the Standards that is not contained in STC units. They will use this information to help teachers add the principles to STC Units at appropriate places.
The concept maps have been presented to Partnership district teachers, who have found them useful as representations of science content that they can use as references to the science content in the STC units. These teachers are excited at the prospect of receiving more concept maps from the Project. The teachers who have been introduced to the process of making concept maps to date see great potential in map development as a learning tool for their students.
Of special interest to teachers is the use of concept mapping as a tool for student writing. Constructed response items on the NYS 8th Grade Science Assessment have proved challenging to students, and teachers are most receptive to any and all strategies that will improve student writing.
High Stakes Testing Study
First, we have conducted a thorough review of the existing literature on high stakes testing. This will allow us to put the experiences in upstate New York school districts in the larger policy and practice context of the country. What we have found is that there is a great deal of literature which presents serious challenges to high stakes testing and much less evidence that HST has had a positive effect on schools and educational reform. Still though we find there remains a need for more empirical evidence of both broad and specific effects of high stakes testing. Also, this project will look at the broad array of testing demands especially in elementary schools that may well effect the attention teachers are able to pay to science education reform. We have found very little in the literature that addresses this systemic perspective but with the possibility of testing all children in grades 3 through 8 it will become even more salient.
Second, we have been searching documents that will allow us to tell the story of the testing policy context in New York State. These documents have been collected from the NYSED website, the NYS Library, the New York City Board of Education, the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) library, and newspaper accounts statewide. We are also undertaking a review of historical documents related to the creation of the New York State Regents Exams as they are the foundation for at least some of the current testing policy. We are still in the process of collecting and categorizing documents and so do not have any findings at this point. Additionally, we have been meeting with school district and building staff to plan for the fieldwork which will begin in the fall 2001. This has involved meetings with superintendents, CRSEP staff, and principals.
Additional High Stakes Testing Study Activities of High Stakes Testing Study include:
The activities for the Student Achievement Study have largely been focused on developing a study that meets NSF requirements, and one that will be approved by the districts and the University at Albany Institutional Research Board. The Study Achievement Study has thus far, been designed by the Project Director and is currently awaiting approval from the Institutional Review Board at the University at Albany. Each district has granted approval for participation in the Student Achievement Study. The initial preparation for the Study has been lengthy and time consuming. Approximately 77 project hours have been devoted to the university mandated training for CRSEP staff to certify each to conduct research for the University at Albany.
CRSEP initiative findings:
Collaboration across higher education and K-12 education is challenging. Contributing to the challenges are:
Experience suggest that:
Based on a survey of teacher perspective 445 surveys were sent to teachers, of which 44% responded. The top three responses for not attending scheduled workshops during the school day include the loss of teaching time, the lack of substitutes and not feeling a need for professional development in the area of science. The reasons for not attending a summer workshop include a lack of time, other professional development activities, the stipend for attending was not sufficient, the need for child care, in addition to not feeling a need for professional development in the area of science. However, the summer sessions proved to be more successful, although, they excluded those with summer employment, those who attended university classes or those with other commitments. The sustainability of this professional development requires release time for teachers to attend activities and time to collaborate with others, which has been an issue due to the lack of substitute teachers.
At the foundation of all of the design and implementation of professional development materials is the principle that teachers must be responsible for their own professional development. Consequently, the themes of reflection and responsibility pervades all the CRSEP workshop design and implementation strategies.
High Stakes Testing Study
We are just beginning the analysis of the data we have collected to portray the testing policy context and practices in New York. New York State has a long history of testing with the Regents Examinations and that has been an important element in the creation of current policies. In New York, as elsewhere in the country, policy makers see student testing as the key to providing advantage to those who have not received adequate educational services, the most powerful means to hold schools and their personnel accountable, and down play any technical issues or concerns with the testing, scoring, and reporting.
Student Achievement Study
Training and Development:
Without exception, CRSEP Initiative personnel are developing new understanding and abilities. Some personnel are coming to understand the programmatic and administrative expectations of the National Science Foundation. Others are developing enhanced understanding of ways of institutions of higher education and K-12 school districts and how differences enhance the project without compromising the values of either institutional type.
Professional Development Specialists are learning to function in a new role, that of a professional development provider, and which of their previous experiences in the classroom and with professional development apply in their new role.
We have learned that professional development materials and strategies must demonstrate to teachers that they are active partners in the design of their professional development. Conveying this notion is difficult when teachers experience is that professional development is something that is done to them.
Doctoral students are learning about standards-based reform not only from books but also by doing it. The project provides them the opportunity to apply the theories they have studied in advanced courses and evaluate those theories in light of their experience in schools. A faculty member, not associated with the CRSEP Initiative, reported that her seminar on reflection as a strategy for teacher development was enhanced by reports from the from the field by CRSEP project personnel about the engagement of Professional Development Specialists in the process of reflection.
The undergraduate and graduate students working on the High Stakes Testing Study have gained substantial research skills, have developed a more sophisticated understanding of the complexity of educational reform, and especially the use of high stakes testing as a tool of reform. In addition to students who are employed to work on this research project, one doctoral student is currently completing a research internship working with the project and there are several others planning to do so in the future.
A major contribution of the CRSEP project will be the availability of concept maps for the Science and Technology for Children (STC ) units. A part of our work has been the design of these maps and diagrams illustrating the relationships among concepts (principles) contained in the units of the STC Program.
The Relational Concept Maps and Diagrams contain relationships among all the scientific and technical concepts (terms) contained within the unit for which they were designed. In addition to the terms contained in the STC Units, scientific and technical concepts that are a part of the New York State Science Standards or that help a teacher develop a better overall understanding of the content are included in Relational Concept Maps and Diagrams. The maps and diagrams also provide detailed parallel examples. For example, in the Animal Studies Relational Concept Map and Diagram, the Dwarf African Frog is compared to the Fiddler Crab, promoting an understanding of the form and function of living things in meeting basic needs. The maps and diagrams are designed to summarize the big ideas of the units to elementary teachers in a non-threatening way. Knowing the big ideas (major principles) that the lessons and units are designed to teach is necessary for the design of formative and summative assessment.
The principles are stated in ways that are appropriate for the grade level for which the units are designed. Ultimately, the purpose of the maps and diagrams is to promote all students' learning of science, enabling them to meet New York State and National Standards.
High Stakes Testing Study:
The staff working on the supplemental research grant have contributed to the planning for the research components of the main project, especially with regard to the Student Performance Study. The Director of this project has also participated in numerous discussions about teacher development project issues at a general level and has leant substantial experience in evaluating such programs to the CRSEP staff.
The work to date on this project has been very helpful to the American Evaluation Association, its Public Affairs Committee and the Task Force on High Stakes Testing. The AEA Task Force is preparing a public statement and documentation on the effects of high stakes testing and the knowledge and experience of our research project has been a major influence on this activity. It is likely that AEA will join with other professional associations in an effort to raise awareness, encourage critical analyses, and promote best practices in student assessment and educational evaluation. There is every reason to believe this project will continue to provide evidence and materials in these efforts.