This is a post about the new things I have learned from my book study on NGSS For All Students, since the last time I double dipped on my homework and wrote about my assignment. I actually plan to keep posting about my thoughts and homework until I am completely done with the book and the study. I covered the first two chapters last month in my post NGSS For All Teachers. In that post I wrote about learning that the NGSS had an Equity and Diversity Team highly involved in the development process. I also highlighted in that post that I learned from this book study that the NGSS Equity and Diversity Team wanted to engage seven demographic groups which are,
- * economically disadvantaged students
- * students from major racial and ethnic groups
- * students with disabilities
- * English language learners
- * girls
- * students in alternative education
- * gifted and talented students.
To see more about this topic you can read a post by fellow PSESD Teacher Leader blogger Tom Hawthorn titled NGSS: Built for Equity and Diversity.
Since making that post I have read three new chapters of the book. What I have gleaned from the current assigned chapters is more about why there is the focus on equity and diversity and how the team went about writing standards that would meet their needs.
First off was the why. The book outlined for me that the standards had focussed on equity because of the reality of achievement gap data. It is simply undeniable that there is an achievement gap between many of these groups and the sub group of American students who were being best served by traditional science education. There is also a focus for America to continue to be a world power and in order to do that we must work to bolster our achievement in science and other STEM focus areas. We will not be able to do that relying on the minority of students who were being successfully lead down the path to these fields. The book also highlighted the growing number of students who were shifting into these demographic groups. Other areas of education were beginning to be cognizant of these changes however they “were often overlooked in science education.” This was a deprivation to both the world of scientific studies and the students that were being discluded.
I think that more important to my learning and lens however was chapter five. This chapter was about the conceptual framework the team used to create the case studies for the rest of the book. Particularly interesting to me was the idea that they wanted to complete “synthesis of effective classroom strategies across seven case studies.” Basically what that means is that the team wanted to look at strategies that could address the seven groups all at once. This seemed mind blowing and amazingly simple at the same time. It was the notion that there are classroom strategies that were so effective they could help to address the needs of any of these learners.
Here is the part where I think this book and these standards can help all teachers. The researchers found that the strategies fell into four categories; student engagement, classroom support strategies, school support systems, and home and community connections. When I read this it was sort of a ya, duh, moment. However when I stopped and thought about it I had to ask myself if the last time I had a group of students I had trouble reaching in my social studies courses did I stop and think along all four of these lines? Probably not. I am sure I did pieces of this. I know I would try to think of ways to engage them, I would check for support from other teachers or administrators in my building, or I would call home, but not systematically. I didn’t really stop and think about it directly or purposefully. When I read this I felt like I wanted to go back and make a sort of list of strategies and resources I had that would fall into each of the four groups and then employ them systematically to reach those students who needed this kind of thinking from me the most. I feel as though we can all be learning from the thoughtful structure of the NGSS and the way that the creators have thought about how to reach students in a way that allows teachers to get strong in instructional strategies that will reach multiple groups at once.
The remainder of the book is made up of vignettes about each of the seven demographic groups and how teachers used the standards and strategies to reach them. I am hoping as I read through the scenarios that highlight each demographic I can share how the strategies and outlook of the vignettes could be applied to students in any discipline. I am confident that there will be something to share each time that would benefit not only science teachers but all teachers of all students.