Two-thirds of California’s students did not meet scientific standards

Two-thirds of California's students did not meet scientific standards
Written by Leon

Adults who took high school biology may remember a lecture on cell structure, then a test that asked to identify its parts, plus a task to build a cell, perhaps with paper mache and dry macaroni.

Today, California’s students will learn about science in a whole new way.

A teacher can begin the lesson by asking a question: How does a wound heal? Well, that means cell rendering. So to understand how a wound heals, the teacher might say, we must first learn how a cell works. The instructor may ask: What elements do you think a cell must have to help heal the wound? How about creating a model and discussing your hypotheses with each other?

This strategy aims to lead students, ideally, to the correct answer, with the teacher as guidance. The method is embedded in “Next Generation Science Standards,” which California adopted in 2013. Students were tested for the first time on the new standards last spring, though some districts have not yet introduced the new curricula.

The grades are for public school students in grades 5, 8 and 10-12 – and California’s students got far more answers wrong than right.

Less than a third of the students met standards

Across the state, 29.9% of students met or exceeded the new scientific standards on this first test, with grade-level fluctuations. High school students must take the test once between 10th and 12th grade.

It was a top in 11th grade points, with about 30% competence, but overall high school students made it worse than younger students.

Low-income students and black students had particularly low scores, a pattern that is also seen in the state’s math and English assessments. In the science test, only about 3% of English students and 8% of students with disabilities showed knowledge.

“The point shows that we continue to fail with students and that we fail with the same students we historically always have,” said Elisha Smith Arrillaga, executive director of Oakland-based research and advocate for non-profit education Trust-West. “What actually makes it more irrelevant is that we are in a state that is this bastion of technological development. … We do not connect the dots between the tech world and what we see in the classrooms. “

So why low points?

It is the first year of the test

Usually, the first year of a new standardized test does not yield star results. In 2015, the first year of new English and math tests in California, the score showed a total proficiency of 44% in English and 34% in math in grades 3 to 8 and 11. Points improved by three to four percentage points the following year and have continued go up, though with a smaller margin.

But five years into the same test, only half of the students met English standards and 40% met math standards. The so-called Smarter Balance Summative Assessments, based on common basic English and mathematical standards, are designed to measure how well students have met learning goals set by the state and create statistical snapshots of learning in their schools, their districts and California.

Students took scientific tests on computer programs that they may not have used before. The test requires students to read, understand and analyze questions, some of which are based on each other or require written explanations.

“I think these test results should be taken with a grain of salt,” said Bill Sandoval, a UCLA education professor who studies how children learn science and observed teachers who used the “heal a wound” method to teach students about cells.

Instead of “summative” assessments like this one, Sandoval said, it would be more productive to provide students with assessments throughout the school year that are more attuned to what they learn in each classroom and enable teachers to find out what students need . “It’s not that “What these test results say about how to improve or what to improve,” Sandoval said.

Although the standards are challenging, when implemented well, research suggests that the new approach can help students learn and retain concepts better than they would by rooting memorization, he said.

Yet, the real challenge lies in the educators’ ability to actually teach to the standards.

There are not enough teachers

There is a shortage of teachers in California, especially in math, science and special education.

New teachers can be long-term substitutes or work with emergency learning permits, and many veteran teachers are not well trained in the new standards, explained Education Board President Linda Darling-Hammond.

Convincing college students in STEM majors to learn science can be a tough sell as they can strive for much higher paying careers. It can also be expensive to earn a full diploma in a single subject, and many teachers who are prospective must complete hours without pay.

“About half of the people who come to science education are not fully prepared,” Darling-Hammond said. What California students need most when they teach science, she said, is “well-prepared teachers who have materials.”

But the new standards even encourage experienced science teachers to change their attitude and rely less on their own authority and more on scientific method and classroom engagement.

Govin Newsom’s proposed budget includes $ 900 million for teacher education and retention, including a large portion for STEM teacher development.

“When you take out the standards, you also have to develop the teachers’ ability to teach the standards,” Darling-Hammond said. “The standards don’t teach themselves.”

Memorization alone would not be enough to pass the test, which requires students to participate in assignments that include – in fifth grade practice examfor example – ordering the stages of a plant’s life cycle on a chart and explaining how a hare changes coat color protects it in winter.

Many schools do not even offer laboratory work

After the last recession, from about 2009 to 2014, “a lot of science programs were really decimated,” Darling-Hammond said. This is especially true in primary and lower secondary schools.

“The idea is to learn the scientific core concepts by doing scientific work – so to do versions of modeling and experimentation,” Sandoval explained. “If you do not really have the capacity in the classroom to do legitimate versions of scientific work, you will not meet these goals. It’s not going to happen. “

In an L.A. county college where Sandoval and colleagues helped a group of teachers implement the new science standards from 2015 to 2018, about 40 students crowded into a science class, and the tight space and lack of materials prevented them from conducting experiments. There were not enough computers for the students, so virtual labs were also out.

Sandoval could help secure a contribution for some materials, “but it doesn’t go that far,” he said.

He couldn’t name the school to maintain his integrity in his research, but it was in a majority low-income and Latino school district, he said.

Schools can look to the booming tech industry in California for help, says student advocates.

Smith Arrillaga said that such classroom scenarios “just should not be possible in such a diverse state and with so much science …. We as a state should be able to come across sectors and find some solutions.”

But school attendance should not end with a one-time donation of a 3D printer, she said. Technical industry leaders need to work with teachers and classrooms to better understand what students need to succeed in the workforce, stay invested in schools, and help fund teacher preparation programs, Smith-Arrillaga said.

Teachers need to better connect with black and Hispanic students

Another problem that can help create gaps is that teachers do not fully understand the communities in which they teach, said A.Dee Williams, assistant chair of the Department of Curriculum and Teaching at Cal State. LA Williams leads a teacher residency program for mathematics, special education and science teacher in Los Angeles.

The Cal State L.A. program requires teachers in education to learn about and acknowledge their prejudices and provide paid classroom accommodation where they are paired with mentoring teachers in L.A. and Pasadena schools. Encouraging teachers are encouraged to base their lessons on what is happening in society – linking climate change principles not only to polar ice caps, but for example students’ own water quality.

Ideally, Williams said, teachers would return to the communities where they grew up. He believes that teachers with roots in the place they work can have a stronger understanding of its history and be able to connect with students and relate lesson plans to society. This would also help the students who look like them – research suggests that children benefit from having a teacher of the same ethnicity.

Yet in California, it is far more likely that white students have that experience than black or Latino students. In 2018-19, 21% of California teachers were Latino compared to 55% of students, while 61% of teachers were white compared to 23% of students.

“Most of these people who teach, most of them have grown up in an environment of substance isolation and lack of foundation in communities,” Williams said. “They do these experiments in their labs … They’ve never had the resources to go out and do it in their communities.”

Many schools have not started teaching science in this way

The State Board of Education released its framework just a few years ago. Experts say this type of change takes time, and many schools have not even adopted the new curriculum yet.

Officials at L.A. Unified, which educates nearly 1 in 10 of the state’s public school students, will not be fully rolled out until the next school year.

“Much of the state is just beginning to implement its new science plan,” Darling-Hammond said.

School districts and teachers who look at this year’s test results should ask themselves: “What does this tell us about what resources we need to help teachers do better and to help children?” Sandoval said.

School leaders say they need more information from the state to answer that question.

“We are taking a closer look at the results with our colleagues from the local districts to try to get some understanding of the tasks and develop an action plan,” said Ayham Dahi, L.A. Secondary Science Coordinator. Unified instruction division. Dahi hopes the state will share more granular breakdowns of test results, so the district can see what areas students wandered into.

“I think the more divided the tasks are, the better we can provide better and more targeted support for teachers.”

Times staff reporter Iris Lee contributed to this report.

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