Grand Challenges in Education

April’s special issue of Science magazine focuses on the Grand Challenges in education.  This is Bruce Alberts’ last month as editor of Science Magazine and it was his choice to make a special issue devoted to science education.
Don’t miss reading this edition. You will need to register in order to access the full text of the articles. As Margo Murphy, a ninth grade science teacher at Camden Hills Regional High notes, “There are lots of ideas in this issue to ponder and add to your own thinking. Bruce Alberts is a true believer in public science education.”

Inspiring engagement in STEM – the NGSS vision takes form at King MS

This report on the expeditionary learning linking science and engineering reflects the vision of NGSS.  Teachers Gus Goodwin and Peter Hill (and their teammates) at King Middle School create a meaningful context for science and engineering.  I am inspired by the student learning capture in this video report. Take a few minutes to watch it.  I think you will agree, you can see the practices, crosscutting concepts, and core disciplinary ideas in this  expedition.

Achieve Releases NGSS!



The Standards are now live.  Achieve released the Next Generation Science Standards today and Maine is proud to have been among the 26 Lead States that participated in the development of these standards.

The timing for this release is PERFECT. Throughout the spring and summer Maine educators can begin to acquaint themselves with NGSS and revisit the Framework for K-12 Science Education. That process should continue throughout next year.  Implementing this vision is a multi-year collaborative effort.  No district will be able to comprehensively and effectively transition to the NGSS over a summer.

I am already looking forward to Fall 2013.  In October both the Maine Science Teachers Association and the Maine Curriculum Leaders will focus their conferences on the NGSS.

You can access the NGSS document at

MainePSP: a test bed for teaching practices aligned with A Framework for K-12 Science Education

Thank you to our friends at the University of Maine RiSE (Research in STEM Education) Center for this post to the SciTech Framework Blog. 



As readers of this blog already know, A Framework for K-12 Science Education describes an approach to science teaching that differs from traditional instruction. Traditional approaches focus primarily on students’ learning about science content. With a traditional approach students might also learn about scientific practices, but the tendency in many classrooms has been to treat scientific practices as a topic to learn in addition to the content.

The vision of the Framework promotes instruction where “students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each field’s disciplinary core ideas (p. 2).” The Framework requires that students demonstrate understanding of core ideas through engagement in practices and crosscutting concepts.

Teacher and students at Troy Middle School measuring.

Teacher and students at Troy Middle School measuring. – From Bangor Daily News files.

The Maine Physical Sciences Partnership (MainePSP) brings together rural Maine school districts, the University of Maine, the Maine Center for Research in STEM Education, the Maine Department of Education, and several education- focused nonprofit organizations to build a sustainable infrastructure that strengthens rural science education. Supported by a $12 million grant from the National Science Foundation, the key initiatives of the MainePSP include science teacher recruitment, retention and preparation, teaching and learning of physical science in the critical grade range of 6th-9th, and research informing future rural education initiatives. Some of the work now underway addresses aspects of the K-12 Framework.

Troy Howard student pouring water.  - From Bangor Daily News files

Troy Howard student pouring water. – From Bangor Daily News files.

One of the MainePSP project’s core innovations is the selection and collective implementation of research-based science curricular materials. The middle school partnership selected two different sets of materials: Issues and Earth Science from SEPUP (Science Education for Public Understanding Project) for grade 6 and PBIS (Project-Based Inquiry Science) for force and motion, energy and chemistry, typically in grade 7 or 8. Grade 9 teachers selected EarthCOMM (Earth System Science in the Community) as the set of foundational materials. Each set of materials contains elements that are aligned with aspects of the Framework.

The common instructional resources in the MainePSP provide a basis for shared experiences and rich conversations among teachers and University of Maine STEM and education faculty as they discover together how to strengthen science teaching and learning. The most important conversations reflect the Framework’s increased priority on the learning of scientific practices and on the integration of those practices with science content learning. With the collaborating teachers, the MainePSP faculty is studying and working through some of the issues that allteachers will face as they implement Next Generation Science Standards, built upon the ideas expressed in the Framework.

Many findings are emerging from the MainePSP study. One important finding suggests that there are three commonly held conceptions of learning progress that are potentially at odds with framework instruction. They are that learning should be Definite, Rapid, and Extensive:

• Definite – students should learn something once correctly, and  then and move on. They should have a visible gain in proficiency or knowledge over a short time period.

• Rapid – Students should have rapidly expanding experience and a rapid progress through the curriculum.

• Extensive – should have exposure to a large volume of content.

On the surface, these three conceptions of progress are attractive. Of course we all would like definite, rapid, and extensive progress that results in a lot of learning! Framework-aligned learning, particularly the learning of science practices and the critical thinking that the practices require, develops slowly over many repetitions; its progress is sometimes difficult to perceive, and it is, of course, not voluminous.

The MainePSP’s work with teachers across many different schools also provides evidence that it is not just the teachers who will need to develop new ways to think about student progress as science instruction aligns with the Framework. The teachers work in contexts that are shaped by expectations from building administrators, parents, school districts, state standards, and state assessments. The MainePSP sees the adoption and enactment of Framework-style instruction as a community-driven endeavor that will take place over a period of years.

The MainePSP, with its engagement from curriculum coordinators and whole school districts, provides a unique opportunity to encounter and work through the challenges of moving toward Framework-aligned instruction across the whole system of supports for science education in Maine school districts. It is our hope that lessons learned from this Partnership will inform the adoption and enactment of instruction congruent with the new Framework and the forthcoming Next Generation Science Standards.

Maine Selected As Lead State

Students will benefit from the state’s leadership role in national effort on education standards

ORONO – Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen announced today that Maine has been selected as one of the lead partners in a state-led, national, collaborative effort to improve science learning for all students through the development of more effective and rigorous science standards. He made the announcement at the University of Maine before approximately 80 K-12 and university science educators, curriculum coordinators, principals, professional development providers and others gathered for a conference reviewing the recently-released “Framework” for the coming science standards.

Education Commissioner Stephen Bowen discusses Maine’s lead role in developing the Next Generation Science Standards. Behind him are, from left, Dana Humphrey, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Maine, and Everett Deschenes, a manager at Old Town Fuel and Fiber.

As a lead state, Maine will have a key role in developing the Next Generation Science Standards, which will define the science content and concepts that students will need to learn in order to be successful in the workforce, economy, and society of the coming decades. The state will also benefit from significant technical assistance and support in developing an implementation plan for sharing the standards with educators statewide. The standards are expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

“It’s critical to have clear and rigorous standards,” Bowen said. “It’s just as important to successfully share them with teachers across the state and get them into classrooms. The implementation support is key.”

Bowen’s announcement came a week before Achieve, the national group managing the development of the Next Generation Science Standards for the states, is to name all of the lead states.

“That we’ve been asked to be a lead state is testimony to the great work that you and we are doing in Maine.” Bowen said. “It’s proof of your commitment to science education and to equal opportunities for all students to be challenged and to succeed.”

Maine is already engaged in significant work to bolster science technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning opportunities for students. The Department has worked with partner organizations throughout the state to build support for STEM education. Key among these efforts have been the continuation of the Governor’s Academy for Science and Mathematics Leadership and workshops focused on helping the community understand best practices in publications such as the National Academies of Science’s “Ready, Set, Science!” Resources like these will provide the backbone for the Next Generation Science Standards.

Recently, Gov. Paul LePage signed legislation to establish a STEM Council (, which comprises key people Page 1 of 5Maine selected to lead effort on new science standards | Maine DOE Newsroom 9/28/11 3:58 PM

from K-12 and higher education, business and industry, and the community, to promote STEM education, and to give Maine students and Maine’s economy a leg up by encouraging more students to enter STEM fields.

“The evidence cannot be clearer. Technology knowledge and skills are key to the future of Maine’s workforce and our economy,” LePage said in a statement. “STEM jobs are growing at nearly double the rate as non-STEM jobs. And 80 percent of jobs in the next decade will require technology skills. Maine’s economic security and the economic security of our students depends on more students going into STEM careers and in all students understanding science, technology, engineering, and math concepts and content.”

Everett Deschenes, a manager at Old Town Fuel and Fiber, spoke to that in his comments at the event.

“We need the best and the brightest,” Deschenes said. “We need people with a lot of technical skills, even in the traditional side of our business, not to even mention the biofuels. We need people with problem-solving skills.”

Laurette Darling, president of the Maine Science Teachers Association, a 2010 Presidential Awardee for Science and an elementary teacher at Albert S. Hall School in Waterville, spoke to the need for new standards and assessments, saying that science facts are not enough.

“These standards take us the next step down a path toward more effective science education,” she said. “They will lead us beyond the instruction of science facts to science instruction that actively engages students in the investigation and exploration of the world around them to learn core science concepts.”

Dana Humphrey, Dean of the College of Engineering at the University of Maine, spoke to the changing workforce needs in Maine. He cited examples of Maine companies that have had to turn away contracts because they couldn’t find enough engineers to hire.

“For Maine, it’s great to be in the driver’s seat for the development of these standards,” Humphrey said. “We at the university really look forward to being part of the effort.”

Laurette Darling, president of the Maine Science Teachers Association, a 2010 Presidential Awardee for Science and an elementary teacher at Albert S. Hall School in Waterville, speaks about Maine’s lead role in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards.

Bowen said as a small state, Maine will benefit greatly from the opportunities provided by developing and then sharing standards among many states.

“By the states working together and adopting these new standards, we will be able to share the work of the best minds, and share the best materials and teaching practices from all the participating states,” Bowen said. “We could never afford to create the kind of materials and professional development opportunities we’ll now be able to access.”

Bowen recognized the Department’s science specialist, Anita Bernhardt, for her leadership role in promoting STEM education and for writing Maine’s successful application to be a lead state in the standards development process.

Bernhardt said the announcement made the conference’s work of reviewing the Framework all the more important. Page 2 of 5

Maine selected to lead effort on new science standards | Maine DOE Newsroom 9/28/11 3:58 PM

“We have 12-15 months to learn about and embrace science education as envisioned in the Framework,” Bernhardt said. “It’s critical that we are prepared to implement the standards when they become available.”

The development of the Next Generation Science Standards is a two-step process. The first step was the building of a framework that identified the core ideas and practices in natural sciences and engineering that all students should be familiar with by the time they graduate. In July, the National Research Council released A Framework for K-12 Science Education, developed by a committee representing expertise in science, teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment and education policy.

The second step is the development of grade-by-grade science standards based on the framework. As a Lead State Partner, Maine will help guide the standards-writing process, gather and deliver feedback from state-level committees and come together to address common issues and challenges. The Lead State Partners also agree to commit staff time to the initiative and, upon completion, give serious consideration to adopting the Next Generation Science Standards. In order to be considered, states had to submit a letter with the signature of the Chief State School Officer and the chair of the State Board of Education.

In addition to those already mentioned, Commissioner Bowen was joined for the announcement by: Jeanne Crocker, assistant executive director of the Maine Principals’ Association; Chris Howell, president of the Maine Curriculum Leaders and principal of Windham High School in RSU 14; Sarah Kirn, vital signs director at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute; Joyce Tugel, K-12 science specialist with the Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance; and Michael Wittman, of the Research in STEM Education Center at the University of Maine.

Michael Cohen, president of Achieve, was not at the event but offered his kudos to Maine.

“The Lead State Partners will provide important leadership and guidance throughout the development of the Next Generation Science Standards and are to be congratulated for making a strong commitment to science education,” he said. “This will be a collaborative process that will lead to a set of standards that provide America’s students a strong foundation in science for the 21st century.”

David Connerty-Marin | Maine Department of Education | 207-624-6880 Some facts about STEM education in Maine and the U.S.

In the next decade, one in seven new Maine jobs will be in STEM-related areas. These jobs produce wages that are 58% higher than wages for other Maine jobs. 1

At the national level, the demand for employees in STEM-related jobs is expected to grow by 22% in the next four years. 2

80% of the jobs in the next decade will require technology skills.3 STEM occupations are growing at nearly double the rate of non-STEM – 17% compared to 9.8%4 Page 3 of 5

Maine selected to lead effort on new science standards | Maine DOE Newsroom 9/28/11 3:58 PM

About 34% of current 9th grade students in Maine are expected to graduate from a community college or university program, which is well below the national average. Maine ranks 28th nationally and the lowest in New England in the percentage of college graduates with bachelor’s degrees in STEM fields. 5

Student achievement scores in mathematics and science were flat in Maine between 2006 and 2009.6 The U.S. ranked 25th out of 30 in a 2006 international assessment of high schoolers’ performance in math. 7

About half of the students entering Maine’s community colleges and 25% of students entering the state’s universities have to enroll in at least one remedial course. The most common remedial courses are in math. 8


1Center for Workforce Research and Information, Maine Department of Labor. (2008). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) employment in Maine: A labor market and workforce assessment.

2Davulis, L. (2008). Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) employment in Maine: A labor market and workforces assessment. Augusta, Maine: Center for Workforce Research and Information: Maine Department of Labor.

3“Occupational employment projections to 2018;” U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; November 2009

4“STEM: Good Jobs Now and for the Future;” U.S. Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration; July 2011

5Richardson, N., Berns, B. & Marco, L (2010). Briefing Paper on STEM Education in Maine. Education Development Center; and interviews with the presidents of the University of Maine at Augusta and the Community College of Southern Maine. August 2010.

6Maine Department of Education. (2008). Revision to the Maine state plan for Carl. D. Perkins career and technical education for Year II and III.

7“PISA 2006: Science Competencies for Tomorrow’s World, OECD briefing note for the United States;” Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development; September 2007.

8“A Report on the Findings of and Recommendations for the Delivery of Remedial College Courses” (Feb. 2008) Presented to the Joint Standing Committee on Education and Culture Affairs of the Maine Legislature, from