2011 Science Education E-Books from the Art of Teaching Science

This blog was begun in 2005 with the publication of the first edition of The Art of Teaching Science.  Six hundred or so posts later, we find ourselves in at the end of 2011.

This year, we published four eBooks based on blog posts made during 2011.  More eBooks will be published in 2012.  The eBooks that were published are free, and available by simply clicking on the links of the titles shown below.  All are in PDF format, except the Enigma of High Stakes Testing, which is in Word.

I have become increasingly concerned about the effects of the corporate reform movement not only on science education, but the whole of our public schools as we know them.  The teaching profession is weathering and eroding in the midst of the detached and impersonal reform efforts primarily being led by a group of corporate billionaires, and their minions.  For profit schools, and the fraudulent assumption that a market based solution to school choice will result in better education, higher test scores, and a robust economy is hogwash.  The high-stakes mania has driven teachers and administrators in schools throughout the country to cheat, and for state departments of education to fall into step with the corporate commanders.  There is little criticism of the present state of reform, and when teachers do raise questions, they are usually ignored, or reminded that they are simply union works looking for more.  None of this is true.

In science education, we are faced with the onset to a New Generation of Science Standards.  Last summer, the National Research Council (NRC) released A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas.  The Framework is being used by Achieve, Inc., to develop the Next Generation of Science Standards for American schools.  It will be published sometime in 2012.  According to the developers, many states have joined the effort to develop the standards, and also working with Achieve is NSTA and AAAS.  There is a Website that you can visit to find out about the Next Generation Standards, but I am suspicious of all of the fanfare being given to announcements about this state and that state “joining” the effort.  Only 41 teachers have been selected to write the standards and it is not clear how this is being done.

The rationale for the new standards is based on the belief that American science education is inferior to science education in many other countries.  Too much attention is given to test scores comparing one country to another, especially when there is little basis for such comparisons.  We have been stuck in the mud with an inferiority complex which does not connect with science in American society.  We are one of the most progressive in innovation and development of new ideas, and scientists in the U.S. publish more papers than their peers from other countries.  How can our schools be so bad as to end up with a result like this?

I’ve written many blog posts on these ideas, and have put them together into four different E-Books that I hope you will download for your use.  The eBooks are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike license, so you are free to use, change, and distribute them in any manner you choose.

Here are links to download the eBooks, and brief descriptions of each.

Why Do We Teach Science?

In the new science education documents that I have referenced above, there is no discussion of the question Why do we teach science?  There is a wealth of information about what to teach, and how to teach.  But little investigation into why we teach science.  In this eBook, based on philosophical work by R. Steven Turner, and Robin Millar, four arguments are used to try and find out why we teach science.  These arguments include: The Economic Argument, The Democratic Argument, The Skills Argument, and The Cultural Argument.

Extreme Earth: The Importance of the Geosciences in Science Teaching.

Extreme Earth raises questions about the nature of science, especially as it relates to climate change and plate tectonics. Global warming has been in thepublic eye for years now, as scientific panels and independent scientific research studies have suggested that the changes in earth’s weather and climate  might, to some degree, be due to human activity, especially fossil fuel extraction and the burning of fuels resulting in a 25 – 30% increase in CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere. Unfortunately the science of climate change has become politicized, and resulted in the what some say is a “head in the sand” approach to doing something about the changes going on all around us.

Extreme Earth is also about natural disasters, but because of the spread of human habitats into paths of hurricanes, and along well-known fault zones, millions of people experience horrendous disasters, as we have witnessed in the recent past.

Extreme Earth explores these issues, raises questions for science teachers, and points to ways to involve students in these tumultuous events.

Achieving a New Generation of Common Science Standards.

In this eBook, we will explore the science standard’s movement by presenting posts on these topics:

• The Race to the Top
• Frameworks and Standards
• Using Tests to Assess Performance
• Reform

Questions are raised about why common standards, and misconceptions surrounding the use of international and high-stakes tests continue to be connected with the reform education in the United States.

We will look at the Framework for K-12 Science Education, and discuss the underlying purpose of using common standards in American schools. We will also examine the results of international tests such as PISA and TIMSS and question the interpretation of critics that these results show that the “sky is falling” or that we have on our hands another “Sputnik moment.”

Finally, in a letter to the President, I integrate the President’s personal views of education with the humanistic science paradigm as a way to reform education.

The Enigma of High-Stakes Testing in Science

The content of this eBook is based on the position that high-­stakes testing, which are used to make life-­changing decisions about students, teachers, and schools, should be banned from use in making life-changing decisions affecting students, teachers, or schools.

Research evidence is provided in 21 articles that are presented here,

and organized into five parts. The intent is to provide information that others can use to raise questions about why we continue this practice of bringing such pressure to bear on the entire education system, the collateral effects on science teaching.  As I show in the pages that follow, there is little evidence that continuing to use high-­?stakes testing will improve student achievement, or improve America’s economy.

The Enigma of High-Stakes Testing in Science: A New eBook

The Art of Teaching Science has just published a new eBook entitled The Enigma of High-Stakes Testing in Science.

Cover page of the eBook "The Enigma of High-Stakes Testing in Science

The Enigma of High-Stakes Testing in Science is a new eBook published by the Art of Teaching Science Weblog, and made available free. This eBook is based on blog posts that were written over the past few months. The content of this eBook is based on the position that high-­stakes tests, which are used to make life-­changing decisions about students, teachers, and schools, should be banned from use as further research is carried out to design alternate systems that are humanistic and student-centered.

Research evidence is provided in 21 articles that are presented here, and organized into five parts. The intent is to provide information that others can use to raise questions about why we continue this practice of bringing such pressure to bear on the entire education system, and the collateral effects on science teaching.  As I show in the pages in eBook, there is little evidence that continuing to use high-­stakes testing will improve student achievement, or improve America’s economy.

The content is organized into the following parts:

Part 1. Is High-­Stakes Testing an Enigma?

Part 2. Are We Racing to Nowhere?

Part 3. Why Are We Centralizing Standards and Testing in America?

Part 4. What Are The Misconceptions About Achievement Testing?

Part 5. Who and What Was Responsible for the High-­Stakes Cheating Scandal in Atlanta?

Icon - Free Red

Click on the cover of this new eBook
or here to find out more details and how you can obtain a copy of the book for free. 

Achieving a New Generation of Science Standards Published!

The latest in a series of science teaching eBooks was published today and is available from The Art of Teaching Science blog.

You can download a free copy of Achieving a New Generation of Science Standards here.

New eBook: Achieving a New Generation of Common Science Standards

This week, The Art of Teaching Science will publish its third eBook on science education topics based on blog posts at this site.  The new eBook is entitled Achieving a New Generation of Common Science Standards.  The eBook will be published tomorrow, and will be free to all who visit this blog.

The following text is from the Preface of the new eBook.

Why is it that the perception of science education in the U.S. (and other countries as well) is
driven by rankings of students on international test score comparisons? The perception is that
U.S. students are not competitive in the global market place, and critics use the results on international tests to support their position.

At the same time, there has been a movement to create a common core curriculum in the United States, and to use these standards to develop national assessments to test the performance of students, and use these achievement results to evaluate the performance of teachers, administrators and schools.  Under the rubric of the Common Core State Standards, a single organization is developing the standards that will be used in the states as the basis for their curriculum.  Thus far, common standards have been developed in mathematics, and reading/language arts.

Based on The Framework for K-12 Science Education published by the National Research Council, a new generation of science standards is under development and will be published next year.  The new science standards will become part of the trend of common core standards, and it is expected that new science assessments will follow.

Twenty states will collaborate with Achieve, a standards writing organization that uses donated funds from large corporations and foundations to carry out its tasks. There is a lot of excitement, especially for the twenty state departments of education that will be selected to participate.

These two trends, comparing U.S. students’ test scores to students in other countries, and the race
to develop common core standards, followed by common academic assessments are dominant forces affecting education in 2011.

In this eBook, we will explore these trends by presenting posts on these topics:

• The Race to the Top
• Frameworks and Standards
• Using Tests to Assess Performance
• Reform

Questions will be raised about why common standards, and misconceptions surrounding the use of international and high-stakes tests continue to be connected with the reform education in the United
States.

We will look at the Framework for K-12 Science Education, and discuss some of the issues
surrounding the underlying purpose of using common standards in American schools.  We will also examine the results of international tests such as PISA and TIMSS and question the interpretation of critics that these results show that the “sky is falling” or that we have on our hands another “Sputnik moment.”

Finally, in a letter to the President, I integrate the President’s personal views of education with the humanistic science paradigm as a way to reform education.

Extreme Earth: A new science teaching eBook

The second in a series of science teaching eBooks was published today on the Art of Teaching Science Website.  Entitled Extreme Earth, this eBook explores questions such as:

Are the extremes of weather related phenomena such as flooding, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought and fires, as well as major and great earthquakes in heavily populated areas the new norm, or are these events part of nature’s cycles?

Based on blog posts on climate change, global warming, hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanoes, Extreme Earth highlights the importance of the geosciences in science teaching.

The topics that are explored to our students in that they all relate to students’ lived experiences.  Helping students understand the nature of the Earth’s extreme weather around the planet is important to their science education, and to their life as citizens.  Not knowing the basis for these extremes puts our students and their families at risk.  Recent research in the geosciences suggests that these extremes in the weather—hot summers, drought, wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, extreme tornadoes—may be the norm, at least for a while.

Over the past decade, earthquakes and volcanoes have caused havoc for many nations.  The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami was caused by a great undersea earthquake measuring 9.1 on the Richter Scale.  The resulting tsunami killed more than 230,000 people.  The 2010 7.0 Haiti earthquake, the 8.8 Chile earthquake, and great Japan 8.9 earthquake and tsunami devastated these regions of the world.  The tsunami in Northern Japan caused meltdowns to three nuclear power plants on Fukushima Prefecture.  Why did the powerful earthquakes and tsunami’s occur in these locations?  Could these earthquakes have been predicted?  We explore these and other questions to help students understand the nature of plate tectonics theory, and an understanding the dynamic nature of the earth, especially along the edges of tectonic plates.  Although not all earthquakes occur at the boundaries of tectonic plates (recall the Virginia earthquake of August 2011), the theory of plate tectonics is a unifying geological theory, and important in understanding geological phenomena.

Extreme Earth explores these ideas.