Maine DOE’s new Science & Technology Specialist and a new Blog venue

It is a pleasure for me to introduce the Maine DOE’s new Science and Technology Specialist, Shari Templeton. Shari brings a passion for science education and student learning, not to mention 30 years of experience in four districts to her new state role. Until this month, Shari taught at Wiscasett High school and served  as the  district’s K-12 Science Coordinator.  We are fortunate that our conversations about science education will be watched over and supported by this talented teacher and committed professional.

The welcoming of our new State Science Specialist comes with another move.  Maine DOE is taking this opportunity to integrate regular posts related to science into the Commissioner’s Weekly Update.  Shari Templeton, will  share important information about science education standards along with information about education topics such as educator effectiveness and proficiency-based education.  To make this transition seamless all 370 members of the SciTech Framework community will be subscribed to the Commissioner’s Weekly Update this week.  We look forward to serving you with science news in this new format and we hope that you will continue to follow along in the Newsroom and the Professional Development calendar for the latest information and opportunities from the Department. It is important that individuals beyond the science education community know about the great work happening throughout the state in science education, and by integrating these updates in to the Department Newsroom and Update, we can be assured science ed news is getting many more eyes upon it and the attention it deserves.

Please put your hands together and join me in welcoming Shari Templeton to her new role!


MCCL considers NGSS

Educators in Maine regularly ask how the development of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) will connect with the work being done by the Maine Cohort for Customized Learning (MCCL). I attended the meeting of the MCCL Science group that met last week in Lewiston. What follows is my summary of the work that MCCL has done in science and the MCCL leadership’s picture of where the work is headed in the future.

Over the last two years, the MCCL science group has identified measurement topics for science.  The measurement topics are built from the Maine Learning Results.  In the spirit of plan, do, check and adjust, during the winter and spring of the 2012-2013 school year, the MCCL Science group is refining the current scopes and scales that support the identified measurement topics .

Karen Caprio, Lori Lodge and Linda Laughlin invited me to join their meeting and share information about the Next Generation Science Standards. The MCCL Science Group plans to reconvene this summer after the adoption of the NGSS.  The Cohort is committed to becoming “students” of the Framework and NGSS Science standards. Using this knowledge as a base they will plan for future revisions to the MCCL work to reflect the NGSS.

Science educators participating in the MCCL

Science educators participating in the MCCL

Science educators participating in the MCCL

Science educators participating in the MCCL

Support for proficiency-based science education

A Framework for K-12 Science Education (and soon, the Next Generation Science Standards) will lend strength to proficiency-based education efforts in Maine. The NGSS  will help to outline a clearer progression of student learning outcomes. This clarity will support the development of more effective instructional units and make it easier for districts to collaborate on professional development to increase educator content knowledge and pedagogical content knowledge.  We know that increases student learning are positively related to an educator’s understanding of the content they teach and their use of effective practices for teaching that content.  Through our MLTI program we can also add further supports for learning by using technology tools that enhance the student learning described in the Framework and NGSS.  This spring Phil Brookhouse and I will collaborate on a review of existing laptop resources.  This review will evaluate how well the tools align to and support the learning outcomes described in the Framework.

Recently Achieve, Inc. announced that they will release a draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for public review.  Achieve, Inc., which led the development of the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics, is currently collaborating with 26 Lead States on the development of the NGSS. Teachers and science education organizations should prepare now for the April release by learning more about the A Framework for K-12 Science Standards.  A one-hour webinar (with Tom Keller of the National Academies) and a six-page brief of the Framework are available to assist you in understanding the Framework which serves as the blueprint for the standards.  These resources will prepare you to better understand the Framework chapters on the core disciplinary ideas, crosscutting concepts, and practices. Achieve will be seeking feedback about the accuracy of their interpretation of the Framework and as well as the reasonableness and clarity with which they have integrated the practices of science and engineering with the disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts.  It is important to remember that Achieve and the Lead States have been charged to represent the ideas outlined in Framework. You can help to ensure that this happens.

During March, I will share more information about the public release of the NGSS.  Invite your colleagues to become followers of the SciTech Framework Blog ( and receive these updates. I expect that the NGSS window for review, like the comment periods for the Common Core State Standards, will be limited to a few weeks. Achieve has encouraged organizations within the states to consolidated their feedback. I am asking organizations within Maine to prepare now to make this happen. Preparing feeback as a group will strengthen our understanding of the NGSS. In addition, I will also work with the Maine Curriculum Leaders and Maine Principals Association to offer webinars specifically designed for curriculum leaders and principals. This is an opportunity to make Maine voices heard. Please join with me in making this happen.

The Framework and Career and Technical Education: a Perfect Pairing.

Sign at the entrance to Capital Area Career and Technical Education Center.

This week I am pleased to welcome guest blogger Scott Phair to the SciTech Framework Blog.  Scott’s experience as director of Capitol Area Career and Technical Education Center (CTE) and former high school principal give him a unique perspective on the implementation of A Framework for K-12 Science Education. Here are Scott’s thoughts….

Scott Phair, Director of the Capitol Area Technical Center.

I first heard about A Framework for K-12 Science Education during Anita’s presentation at the Maine Principal’s Association Conference in November.  I was immediately struck by the alignment between the ideas of the Framework and the goals of our CTE programs. 

The document,  A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas, (National Academy of Sciences, 2011) has three dimensions that describe the vision for student learning in science and engineering: 1.) Scientific and engineering practices, 2.) Crosscutting concepts and 3.) Core disciplinary ideas.  In my opinion, there is nowhere in public education where these concepts more applied and embraced than in Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs.

Students at Capitol Area Career and Technical Education Center.

Let us consider three CTE experiences, the Business Careers Academy, the Computer Assisted Drafting and Design class, and the Certified Nursing Assisting class as examples.  Students in the Business Careers Academy apply science and engineering practices.  They ask questions to diagnose mechanical problems, develop models for precision machining, and analyze and interpret data.  

Computer Assisted Design 3-D printer.

Students enrolled In the Computer Assisted Drafting & Design class must identify any and all parts of a mechanism (from the human brain to a wheel hub) render the part digitally with specific computer software, and then “print” the rendering on a 3D printer that casts the rendering in close to perfect scale and proportion using a plastic material. Crosscutting ideas like structure and function, and stability and change are elements that these CTE students explore daily. These ideas unify the study of science and engineering through their common application across fields. I also recently observed a Certified Nursing Assisting class on the care of elderly patients. Half the students in the class were required to simulate the behaviors and symptoms typical of elderly patients living in an assisted environment.  The other half of the class read medical charts, problem solved strategies for the barriers to successful feeding, and gained an appreciation of the many medical implications regarding food, medications, and physical disabilities. To provide high quality care for the elderly, our students (tomorrow’s caregivers) are expected to collect, evaluate, and communicate technical science information.  These skills are highlighted in the science and engineering practices of A Framework for K-12 Science Education.  

These are just a few examples of science and engineering applied across many fields. Successful students in CTE programs earn industry-standard portable credentials.  These credentials are recognized by businesses and industry as indicators that the students have solid entry-level skills. It’s satisfying for students.  Its the nature of working with real people, on real problems that have real rewards and consequences. 

This fall Commissioner of Education, Stephen Bowen, with support from the Coalition for Excellence in Education, gave every Superintendent of Schools and Career and Technical Education Director a copy of the book Inevitable: Mass Customized Learning. This book describes a vision for the schooling of the future. A Framework for K-12 Science Education provides a vision for the future of science education.  The promise of science, technology, engineering and math education simply cannot be realized in the present system of instruction in most U.S. schools. We must replace the complacency and slow pace of change in education with a sense of urgency and the iron will to construct schools and school programming designed to make students successful in the future. Tomorrow’s STEMers will be determined by the ideas we embrace today and choices we make right now.