On September 23rd, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) kicked off its Building a Presence for Science program in the District of Columbia. The goal of the program is to support District teachers in their efforts to improve science education for K-12 students. Building a Presence for Science emerged from the "vision" of the National Science Education Standards developed by the National Research Council (NRC) in collaboration with working groups of scientists, teachers and other education organizations from around the nation.
The science standards were released in 1996 and define what students should know and understand about science by the time they reach certain levels in school. The standards also provide guidelines for assessing students, policies, and strategies for providing high quality science education. The standards have four principles:
The program was started by the NSTA as a means of facilitating the implementation of the science standards such that it works with state standards and frameworks. Funding, amounting to $1.6 million thus far, from the Exxon Education Foundation has helped NSTA develop the program in 10 states and the District of Columbia. (Alabama, Alaska, Louisiana, Maryland, Montana, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia currently have programs.) The goal of the program is to have a point of contact in all schools by the year 2000. Points of contact are advocates for science that act as "agents" for implementing the science standards, bringing professional development activities and support materials to schools, and providing data and feedback about the impacts of the science standards on science teaching and learning. "It is an exciting time to be in science education," said Fred Johnson, President of NSTA. "The standards provide a vision of what science education should be."
According to Dr. Gerry Wheeler, Executive Director of the NSTA, Building a Presence for Science attempts to overcome three barriers science educators face. First, educators lack the time to "think" and "plan" how to effectively use the standards. Secondly, providing teachers with contacts and resources to facilitate science education may reduce the isolation many teachers feel. Finally, the program aims to breakdown the financial barrier surrounding professional development resources, training and support. Almetta Hall, President of the D.C. Science Educators Association, said that the association is committed to being an "active partner" in the program. She hoped the program would eliminate "missed opportunities" and provide resources so that every child would have the opportunity to become a "scientific literate citizen."
The Building a Presence for Science program will incorporate the goals of the D.C. Public Schools' Mathematics, Science and Technology Curriculum Framework and will support the efforts of D.C. teachers to ensure that all students "graduate with the science knowledge they need to make effective decisions in their everyday lives." NSTA will work with a coalition of DC educators in a "network of science educators" to promote the best science education teaching practices. General Julius Becton, chief executive officer of the DC Public Schools, thanked the Exxon Education Foundation for its support. He is enthusiastic and has high hopes for the program. "The key for its success lies with the teachers," said Becton and "Building a Presence for Science is a good example of a successful business-education partnership that has effectively combined its strengths and resources to support DC science teachers and make a positive impact on our youth."
Contributed by Catherine Runden, AGI Government Affairs Intern.
Last updated September 26, 1997