MnSTA Position Statements
- Position on Teaching of Global Climate Change Science
- Position Statement on Elementary School Science
- Position Statement on Science Laboratory Safety
- Position Statement of the Board of Directors regarding Minnesota’s High School Assessment in Science
- Position on Science Teacher Licenses by Praxis Testing with particular reference to HF 2689, SF 3326 and the House Omnibus Education Bill
- Position of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association on the MINNESOTA DRAFT STANDARDS FOR SCIENCE
- MnSTA/MAEE Joint Statement on the Minnesota Science Standards
- Statement by the SciMathMN Board of Directors supporting the Minnesota Academic Standards developed by the full Science Standards Committee
- Position of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association's Minnesota Earth Science Teachers Association on Earth Science in Minnesota Schools
NSTA has several position statements. Please explore them on NSTA's website.
MnSTA Position Statement on Teaching of Global Climate Change Science PDF version
Adopted by the MnSTA Board of Directors, April 2018
The mission of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association is to stimulate, coordinate and improve science teaching and learning for all. Climate change is one of the great scientific challenges this generation of students and teachers will face. With this in mind, the Minnesota Science Teachers Association takes the following position regarding climate change and teaching about climate change:
Climate Change Science
The Earth's global climate is not static but changes over geologic time scales in response to natural causes, or forcings, such as volcanic activity or sun luminosity. Over the past decades, scientific research has provided clear evidence that the Earth’s climate is currently warming due to anthropogenic causes. According to thousands of peer-reviewed studies, including the National Research Council (2001), Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2013) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (Melillo et al., 2014) the Earth’s global climate has warmed in response to increasing concentrations of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. The concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been for many thousands of years. There is a 97% consensus among climate scientists, that human activities (mainly greenhouse gas emissions) are the dominant cause of the rapid warming since the middle 1900s (IPCC, 2013). If the upward trend in greenhouse-gas concentrations continues, the projected global climate change by the end of the twenty-first century will result in significant impacts on humans and other species. These impacts are already being observed and documented in Minnesota, disproportionately affecting youth, low-income communities, and communities of color. Impacts in Minnesota include having one of the fastest warming winters in the nation, an increase in extreme rainfall events, and an increase in invasive species and disease-spreading insects. (Climate Central, 2017; Hansen, Soto & Ruedy, 2012)
Climate Science Literacy is a Part of Science Literacy
“Science, mathematics, and technology have a profound impact on our individual lives and our culture. They play a role in almost all human endeavors, and they affect how we relate to one another and the world around us. Science Literacy enables us to make sense of real-world phenomena, informs our personal and social decisions, and serves as a foundation for a lifetime of learning” (AAAS, 2013). As professional science educators we recognize that we have a responsibility to help K-12 students understand 1) the evidence, impacts, and possible solutions of climate change and 2) become climate-literate persons who:
- Understand the essential principles of the Earth's climate system
- Know how to assess scientifically credible information about climate
- Communicate about climate and climate change in a meaningful way
- Are able to make informed and responsible decisions with regard to actions that may affect climate
Teaching Climate Change and Resources
In teaching about climate change, it is important to focus instruction on the science concepts and evidence behind climate change to help avoid political debate. Debates over what should be done to alleviate the consequences of climate change are appropriate and can encourage students to be innovative and solutions focused. Suggestions and resources for teaching about climate change include:
- Make it relevant: provide evidence of local changes using information from the Minnesota climatology office and include opportunities for students to gather authentic data. Highlight local solutions focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation, and ask students to innovate their own solutions. Examples may include school-wide composting, rain gardens, school-wide energy efficiency audits and plans, recycling, conservation, and making a proposal to the school or district to invest in alternative energy.
- Build historical links: Show the historical development of the science behind climate change and the people involved (Alley, 2011; Hansen, Sato & Ruedy, 2012; Keeling, et al., 1976; Solomon, et. al, 2010).
- Build awareness as how we all contribute to climate change: Build an understanding with students about how our actions as individuals contribute to climate change.
- Develop an interdisciplinary lens: Science literacy in global climate change does not just lie in earth science and weather/climate or historical geology. Climate change concepts and challenges may be integrated within biology, chemistry, physics, environmental science, informal education and the humanities.
- Make it hopeful: Integrate the science understanding with solutions. Highlight progress that has been achieved such as recycling, conservation, and alternative energy. (Adapted from National Center for Science Education: Teaching Climate Change: Best Practices: https://ncse.com/library-resource/teaching-climate-change-best-practices )
Climate Central: Researching and reporting the science and impacts of climate change: An independent organization of leading scientists and journalists about our changing climate and its impact on the public. http://www.climatecentral.org/
Climate Generation Climate Change and Energy Curricula: Includes curriculum links & information about professional development opportunities. https://www.climategen.org/what-we-do/education/climate-change-and-energy-curricula/
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: Includes information regarding climate change in Minnesota. http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/climate/climate_change_info/index.html
National Center for Science Education: A national organization devoted to defending the teaching of climate change in public schools. Their website lists resources for teachers looking for information on climate change and suggestions for how to address challenges to climate change. https://ncse.com/climate
National Climate Assessment: Climate Change Impacts in the United States: Summarizes the impacts of climate change on the United States, now and in the future from a team of more than 300 experts, which was extensively reviewed by the public and experts, including a panel of the National Academy of Sciences. https://nca2014.globalchange.gov/
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Essential Principles of Climate Literacy: Information deemed important to understand about Earth’s climate, impacts of climate change, and approaches to adaptation or mitigation. https://www.climate.gov/teaching/essential-principles-climate-literacy/essential-principles-climate-literacy
National Science Teachers Association Climate Science Resources: NSTA position statement, NGSS connections to climate change, books available and links to other organizations to learn more. http://www.nsta.org/climate/
NOAA Toolbox for Teaching Climate and Energy: Provides supporting resources and programs for those who want to teach climate and energy science, including a pathway teachers can follow to educate students about climate and energy science, develop the skills to take action. https://www.climate.gov/teaching/toolbox-teaching-climate-energy
The Teacher-Friendly Guide to Climate Change: Paleontological Research Institution. This book provides both the basics of climate change science and perspectives on teaching about climate change, mostly from the secondary teacher perspective. It is available as a free download at http://www.priweb.org/index.php/pubs-special/pubs-spec-5813-detail
Alley, R. B. (2011). Earth: The Operators' Manual. WW Norton & Company.
American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). (2013). Atlas of science, Volumes 1 and 2. Mapping K-12 science learning. Washington, DC: Author.
Climate Central. (2017, November 29). Here’s where winters are warming the most. Retrieved: https://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/hansen_17/
Hansen, J., Sato, M., & Ruedy, R. (2012). Public perception of climate change and the new climate dice. Retrieved from: https://www.giss.nasa.gov/research/briefs/hansen_17/
IPCC. (2013). Climate Change 2013: the Physical Science Basis. Contributions of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. (Stocker, T. F., Qin,D., Plattner, G.-K.., Tignor, M., Allen, S.K., Boschung, J., Nauels, A., Xia, Y., Bex, V., & Midgley, P. M. (eds). Cambridge U.K.: Cambridge University Press.
Keeling, C. D., Bacastow, R. B., Bainbridge, A. E., Ekdahl Jr, C. A., Guenther, P. R., Waterman, L. S., & Chin, J. F. (1976). Atmospheric carbon dioxide variations at Mauna Loa Observatory, Hawaii. Tellus, 28(6), 538-551.
Melillo, J. M. (2014). Climate change impacts in the United States: the third national climate assessment. Government Printing Office.
National Research Council. (2001). Climate change science: An analysis of some key questions. National Academies Press.
Solomon, S., Daniel, J. S., Sanford, T. J., Murphy, D. M., Plattner, G. K., Knutti, R., & Friedlingstein, P. (2010). Persistence of climate changes due to a range of greenhouse gases. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(43), 18354-18359
MnSTA Position Statement on Elementary School Science PDF version
Adopted by the MnSTA Board of Directors, January 2017
The Minnesota Science Teachers Association strongly supports the concept that science must be a basic component in the daily curriculum of every elementary school student at every grade level. In the last decade, numerous reports have been published calling for reform in education. Each report has highlighted the importance of early experiences in science to allow students to develop lifelong curiosity for the natural world and problem-solving skills that empower them to participate in an increasingly scientific and technological world.
Science experiences for elementary students have become less common in many Minnesota schools due to a variety of reasons, including: the testing emphasis in reading, writing and math; diminished confidence of some teachers in approaching science content; limited participation in science-focused professional development at the elementary level; and the need for teacher professional development in the integration of science with reading, writing, social studies and math. Survey data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (R.Blank, 2012), indicates that Minnesota 4th grade students get an average of 2.4 hours of science instruction per week, compared to a national average of 2.8 hours per week. MnSTA recommends that every elementary student in Minnesota should receive the equivalent of at least 3 hours of science instruction per week. This recommendation supports and encourages science instruction through an integrated approach. "Research has indicated that high-quality, center-based preschool programs can increase school readiness and narrow early learning gaps for children from low-income families and children of color, including in math and science” (Mueller, 2014). The report recommends that minority elementary students would benefit from a boost in time spent on science in school. Minnesota lags behind in this effort. The elementary science program must provide opportunities for students to develop understandings and skills necessary to function productively as problem-solvers in a scientific and technological world.
The elementary science program must provide opportunities for students to develop understandings and skills necessary to function productively as problem-solvers in a scientific and technological world.
- Elementary school students learn science best when—
- they experience the practices of science and engineering through hands-on exploration and investigations where students ask questions, test possible explanations, and construct their own understanding of phenomena.
- instruction builds directly on the student's conceptual framework and daily experiences
- content is organized on the basis of broad conceptual themes or crosscutting concepts common to all science disciplines.
- mathematics and communication skills are an integral part of the science instruction.
- science is taught and assessed as a process to seek an understanding of the nature world rather than a collection of facts.
- The learning environment for elementary science must foster positive attitudes towards self and society, as well as science. Elementary school students value science best when—
- a variety of instructional strategies aligned with best practices in science education are used to facilitate learning, and students are given opportunities to interact and share ideas with their peers.
- the scientific contributions of individuals from all ethnic origins are recognized and valued.
- other subject areas are infused into science.
- inquiry skills and positive attitudes are modeled by the teacher and others involved in the education process.
- Teacher preparation and professional development must enable the teacher to implement science as a basic component of the elementary school curriculum. Teacher preparation and professional development must provide for—
- experiences that will enable teachers to use hands-on activities to promote skill development, selecting content and methods appropriate for their students, and for design of classroom environments that promote positive attitudes toward science and technology.
- continuing science inservice programs based on current educational research that encompass content, skills, techniques, opportunities to share their expertise, time to plan for classroom implementation, and useful materials.
- participation in workshops, conferences, and meetings sponsored by local, state, and national agencies.
- The school administrators must be advocates for elementary science. Administrators must provide instructional leadership and support by—
- building consensus for an elementary science program that reflects state and national standards.
- implementing and monitoring the progress of the science program.
- supplying appropriate materials, equipment, and space.
- maintaining smaller class sizes to maximum student engagement and safety during science investigations.
- recognizing exemplary elementary science teaching.
- encouraging and supporting special science events.
- The instructional implementation and support system for elementary school science must include the combined efforts of the community and advocate for elementary school science by—
- participating in ongoing planning, assessment, and funding of elementary science programs.
- promoting informal science learning experiences.
- Ongoing formative and summative assessments must be an essential component of an elementary science program. Assessment must be aligned with—
- what is of value, i.e., the problem-solving model of instruction: concept application, inquiry, and science and engineering practices.
- the curricular objectives and instructional mode.
- the purpose for which it was intended: grading, diagnosis, student and/or parent feedback, or program evaluation.
- Elementary school science instruction must reflect the application and implementation of educational research. Elementary school science programs are improved when—
- teachers keep abreast of appropriate science education research.
- educational research becomes the premise for change or innovation in elementary school science, and teachers participate in action research in elementary science
NSTA Position Statement on Elementary School Science, 2002.
Blank, Rolf. What is the Impact of Decline in Science Instructional Time in Elementary School? 2012 http://www.csss-science.org/downloads/NAEPElemScienceData.pdf NAEP Elementary Science Data 2012.
O’Sullivan, C, Jerry, L, Ballator, N, Herr, F. National Assessment of Educational Progress 1996 Science State Report for Minnesota. 1997. https://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/stt1996/97499mn.pdf
Mueller, D. STEM in Minnesota. Education and Workforce Disparities. https://www.wilder.org/Wilder-Research/Publications/Studies/STEM%20in%20Minnesota/Education%20and%20Workforce%20Disparities%20-%20Race%20and%20Ethnicity,%20A%20Cradle%20to%20Career%20Perspective.pdf Wilder Research. 2014.
National Research Council. (2012). A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Committee on a Conceptual Framework for New K-12 Science Education Standards. Board on Science Education, Division of Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press.
MnSTA Position Statement on Science Laboratory Safety PDF version
Approved January 30, 2016, by the MnSTA Board of Directors
A survey of Minnesota Science Teachers Association (MnSTA) members in 2014 identified science laboratory and classroom safety as a top priority of concern. MnSTA has reviewed and now adopts the NSTA Position Statements on Laboratory/Classroom Safety as the MnSTA Position Statement on Science Safety.
Several accidents in Minnesota classrooms have elevated the concern about safe facilities for science laboratories, the use and disposal of chemicals, safe instructional practices, and student overcrowding in laboratories.
National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) Position Statements are well researched and vetted, including reviews from the legal profession. From a legal point of view, position statements from professional organizations are considered standards of conduct (duty of care) for the profession.
MnSTA endorses the following NSTA position statements on science laboratory safety in schools:
- Learning Conditions for High School Science
- The Integral Role of Laboratory Investigations in Science Instruction
- Liability of Science Educators for Laboratory Safety (primary document)
- Safety and School Science Instruction
Furthermore MnSTA strongly recommends that schools annually complete the Minnesota Fire Marshall Checklist for Science Laboratories. This document includes statutes and building codes relevant to K-12 science classrooms. The checklist must be on file at the school to be accessible for fire inspections.
Schools should consider the impact of class size on safety risks. The NSTA statement on Liability of Science Educators for Laboratory Safety cites research on the increase in accident rates when class sizes exceed 24.
- An Alcohol Accident in Minnesota http://www.mprnews.org/story/2011/12/11/class-lab-safety
- NSTA position papers are at http://www.nsta.org/about/positions/
- The Minnesota Fire Marshall Checklist is at https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/sfm/programs-services/Documents/School%20Inspections/2007sciencesafetychecklistschools.pdf or this shortened link http://bit.ly/MNScienceChecklist
- NSTA has a collection of safety resources and links at http://www.nsta.org/safety/
- A set of safety resources for Minnesota schools is at the Minnesota STEM Teacher Center: http://www.scimathmn.org/stemtc/resources/science-best-practices/science-safety
- Article: Science Teachers: Education Quality Plummets as Class Sizes Rise
Minnesota Science Teachers Association, Inc.
Position Statement of the Board of Directors regarding Minnesota’s High School Assessment in Science
February 20, 2007
Download a pdf of this statement here (71k pdf).
As an educational organization representing Minnesota science teachers, the Minnesota Science Teachers Association (MnSTA) Board of Directors wishes to inform you of its position concerning high school science standards and testing. The Minnesota Academic Standards in Science demand a broad background in all science content areas for all students. We believe the scope of these standards builds the necessary foundation for students to become literate members of society in the twenty-first century. As such, we need to see that same foundation be encompassed in the MCA II testing plan for high school science.
The current academic standards were derived from the Benchmarks for Science Literacy (Project 2061, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 1993) and the National Science Education Standards (National Research Council, 1996). Both of these documents emphasize science for all students, in much the same way that No Child Left Behind emphasizes evidence of learning for all students. Because testing tends to encourage districts to place an importance and value on content areas that are tested, MnSTA requests that the Minnesota Legislature support our national and state documents in promoting the literacy of our students in all content areas of science. Currently, state statutes require high school science testing only for the biology and nature of science standards. MnSTA would support your efforts to revise the current high school testing plan to include all science content areas.
We recommend that the 2004 Minnesota Session Laws, Chapter 294 be amended to require earth and physical science questions, in addition to the current life and nature of science areas on the high school MCA II test. This will then reflect a statewide commitment from science teachers, school districts and legislators to our academic standards and to science for all Minnesota students.
Marlene Schoeneck, 2007 President, MnSTA, , 218-338-6011 x 116
Ed Hessler, 2007 Executive Secretary
Minnesota Science Teachers Association, Inc.
Position on Science Teacher Licenses by Praxis Testing with particular reference to HF 2689, SF 3326 and the House Omnibus Education Bill
April 19, 2006
Download a pdf of this statement here (169k pdf).
This statement represents the position of the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association, Inc. (MnSTA) and a consensus of the MnSTA Board of Directors.
We oppose any attempt to reduce the qualifications of science teachers by providing licenses based only on the Praxis test.
- We acknowledge the difficulties of providing qualified and licensed science teachers for all of the science classes in Minnesota. Many science classes are being taught by teachers who may lack qualifications and who are not licensed to teach the subject.
- Effective science teaching and learning requires that teachers have deep understanding in science teaching practices, the nature of science and subject area content. There are skills that are specific to the science discipline. For example, science safety and laboratory/field techniques are quite different for chemistry and geology.
- The science teaching standards of the Minnesota Board of Teaching (MnBOT) are effective guidelines for the preparation for science teachers and the evaluation of licensure candidates. These standards define the specific teaching skills and content knowledge needed for each of the current license areas: General Science 5-8, Chemistry 9-12, Earth and Space 9-12, Life Science 9-12 and Physics 9-12. We encourage provisions that would allow teachers to gain licenses in more that one licensure area through teacher preparation programs.
- In addition to the college preparation programs for science licensure, several programs have emerged to help teachers become qualified for licensure in additional science disciplines. Many of these programs involve targeted classes for teachers in the summer and on-line instruction during the school year. These are aligned with the MnBOT standards in science.
- The MnBOT has developed a thorough portfolio process that allows teachers to demonstrate their qualifications for additional licenses by providing evidence of meeting the teaching standards through course work, professional development activities and teaching experience.
- The Praxis content test only provides a narrow assessment of some of the content knowledge needed for that license. It does not evaluate the deep understanding of unifying principles of the discipline, the ability to translate that knowledge to students, the teaching strategies specific to that discipline, understandings of misconceptions that block student learning and methods of assessing student understanding.
Minnesota is a national leader in quality science education. Maintaining high standards for its science teachers is critical for producing high-quality graduates.
Ed Hessler, 2006 Executive Secretary
POSITION OF THE MINNESOTA SCIENCE TEACHERS ASSOCIATION ON THE DRAFT STANDARDS FOR SCIENCE
The Minnesota Science Teachers Association strongly and unequivocally supports evolution as the cornerstone for the teaching of the life sciences. Indeed as was said by population geneticist, Theodosius Dobzhansky, "nothing in biology makes sense without it." Evolution has been empirically tested and supported by a vast number of scientific studies including but not limited to geology, paleontology, behavioral biology, and molecular biology. The results have been astonishingly clear and convincing: Biological evolution is simply a fact of nature and accounts for similarities among living things, life's diversity, and many features of the world we inhabit. Biological evolution is the best scientific explanation we have for these observations about the living world.
As noted recently in "Our Perspective: Science, Social Studies--Proposed Standards Need Public Input," published in the Star Tribune, anti-science advocates who want to include "intelligent design" and other euphemisms for "creationism" in science classes have tried to insert words such as "possibly" and "may be" into the state science standards, thereby open science classrooms to virtually any alternative opinion about how nature produces the diversity of life. Science does not work based on personal opinions and intelligent design creationism which have nothing to do with science. On the contrary, they promote religious and political agendas. The Minnesota Science Teachers Association rejects "creationism" e.g., creation science and intelligent design or intelligent design creationism in any form in science classes because the inclusion of such ideas are not science and cheat our students from an understanding of science as well as the history and nature of science.
The "Santorum Amendment" is being promoted as a mandate and/or guideline for the way biological evolution should be treated in the study of the life sciences. It is not a part of the No Child Left Behind legislation passed by Congress in late 2001, and signed into law by President Bush in early 2002, i.e., there is no federal mandate to teach intelligent design creationism. The Joint Explanatory Statement of the Committee of Conference in which it is mentioned is not a part of the law as enacted. For further information, explanation of the "Santorum Amendment" and a commentary by a scientist and lawyer, see the National Center for Science Education . We also believe that school districts should use science standards and benchmarks which include evolution as the core concept of the life sciences as the basis for curriculum design, instruction and assessment. To teach or not to teach evolution or whether or not to include intelligent design creationism should not be a local choice. Whether to teach evolution as a separate unit or as a strand throughout the study of the life sciences or choices about various instructional strategies are and should be local decisions.
Middle Level Standards:
Seventh and Eighth grade science should remain full year coherent science courses taught by highly qualified science teachers. 7th and 8th grade science should not be a smattering of life, earth and physical science.
Finding highly qualified teachers to teach all of these disciplines would be difficult. Taking five introductory level college courses in biology, in geology, in chemistry, in physics, in meteorology does not make a qualified science teacher for the 7th and 8th grade level.
Middle level or junior high school students are ready to begin deepening their understanding of science and making connections between concepts. They can start to see how lots of different ideas hang together. The proposed standards and benchmarks do not encourage this kind of thoughtful learning but instead encourage a mad race from one disjointed fact to another.
In the proposed science standards there is too much required information to learn at the middle level. Teaching this information would prevent teachers from teaching science as it is practiced by scientists, i.e., as inquiry. Research on learning supports the idea that young learners need to manipulate materials as they explore ideas and develop scientific concepts. This will not happen if class time is dedicated to memorizing facts so that students can perform on a test.
There is a potential for earth science to completely disappear from Minnesota schools if the proposed standards are implemented. Currently, all Minnesota students are provided a full year of earth science, usually in 8th grade. This is the only time students learn about how basic earth systems work. After this they take physical science, biology, and perhaps chemistry and/or physics. Earth science is very rarely offered as a full-fledged science course at the high school level. The proposed standards for science dilute the science offered at 8th grade and they do not guarantee a high school earth science requirement. So many of our personal and social decisions depend upon our understanding of the processes that shape our earth such as understanding climate change, flooding, groundwater and surface water quality, volcanic activity, earthquakes, storms, and space exploration. We should at least maintain one year of earth science in grades 7-12.
Environmental Education or Environmental Systems:
In The Minnesota Report Card on Environmental Literacy (2002), a recent report on the environmental literacy of Minnesota residents, 90% of respondents supported environmental education in K-12 schools. This is consistent with data from other states and nationally. In addition, Minnesota Statues Section 115A.073 (1998), sets some specific goals for Environmental Education for all citizens: "Pupils and citizens should be able to apply informed decision making processes to maintain a sustainable lifestyle. In order to do so, citizens should: 1. understand ecological systems; 2. understand the cause and effect relationship between human attitudes and behavior and the environment; 3. be able to evaluate alternative responses to environmental issues before deciding on alternative courses of action; and 4. understand the effects of multiple uses of the environment." In order to reach this goal it is important that environmental systems/science be included in the new science standards. We strongly recommend that environmental systems or environmental science be included in the framework used in the development of science standards.
In the current draft of the Minnesota Standards for Science, there are few opportunities for students to become literate in environmental science. There are no standards/benchmarks that deal with environmental systems, grades 9-12. Furthermore, with the exception of soil erosion, there is almost no mention of the interaction of human impacts on the environment nor of the impacts of environmental degradation on humans. How can students, tomorrow's citizens and leaders, "apply informed decision making processes to maintain a sustainable lifestyle" if they are not given opportunities to learn these necessary skills and knowledge required of citizens?
Minnesota Science Teachers Association (MnSTA)
October 14, 2003
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MnSTA/MAEE Joint Statement on the Minnesota Science Standards
This document is also available here as a pdf file (168 k).
Science Standards Legislation
This is a consensus statement of the boards of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association (MnSTA) representing 1,200 members statewide and the Minnesota Association for Environmental Education representing 150 members across the state. The following recommendations are a result of the joint MnSTA-MAEE state convention held in Mankato, April 16-17, 2004:
- The science standards prepared by the Academic Standards Committee in Science represent a basic level of science literacy for students. Therefore, all the standards should receive equal merit and all students should be expected to meet all the standards.
- We suggest that future development of the standards be expanded to include additional important environmental concepts with higher level critical thinking skills at all grade levels. We suggest that eventually higher level standards also be prepared for elective science areas, comparable to those developed for biology.
- Earth science standards, grades 9-12, should not be optional or offered only as an elective to non college-bound students. They should be required for the reason stated in Item 1 above.
- Decisions concerning course content and the sequence of courses (Physics, Biology, Chemistry, Earth Science, Environmental Science, etc.) should be made locally to make optimal use of staff, facilities and resources.
- House File #1793 recommends inserting language concerning challenges to scientific theories: “The student will be able to explain how scientific and technological innovations as well as new evidence can challenge portions of or entire accepted theories and models including but not limited to the cell theory, atomic theory, theory of evolution, plate tectonic theory, germ theory of disease and big bang theory.” This should be rejected. The Academic Standards Committee in Science included the concept of the status of theories in science where it fits best and makes most sense. It is found in the “History and Nature of Science” strand, which addresses the dynamic aspect of theories in science. (cf. Grades 9-12; History and Nature of Science. A Scientific World View #5.)
- The science standards are for all students, therefore any testing should address all standards, not just Biology as found in current Senate Committee Draft SF 1774DIV. Test implementation should allow 3 years for 9th grade students to prepare for an 11th grade test.
We appreciate your concern for the education of the students of Minnesota as we continue the tradition of excellence in science education.
Minnesota Science Teachers Association
Tony P. Murphy, President
Minnesota Association for Environmental Education
Statement by the SciMathMN Board of Directors supporting the Minnesota Academic Standards developed by the full Science Standards Committee.
Sent to chairs of education committees in the Minnesota House and Senate, 2/17/04.
Minnesota has long been a national leader in shaping the way science is taught. Our state’s students have regularly scored at or near the top in leading science tests. The results from the 1995 Third International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the largest such study ever conducted, showed that Minnesota’s fourth and eighth graders were among the worldwide leaders in science achievement. They were outperformed only by Korea at the fourth grade level and Singapore at the eighth grade level. National assessments, such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also show the strengths of Minnesota students in science.
The state science education standards serve as the roadmap teachers use to drive excellence in Minnesota science education. The SciMathMN Board of Directors strongly encourages the Minnesota legislature to bring forward the Minnesota Academic Standards for Science as developed by the full Science Standards Committee. These standards align with those developed by the two largest and most respected scientific organizations in the United States: the National Science Education Standards developed by the National Research Council and the Benchmarks for Science Literacy developed by the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Both documents were created with significant national input from scientists. They were developed based on sound science in order to prepare our students for higher education, jobs in a wide variety of technical and scientific fields, and to ensure our nation’s competitive performance in the international workplace. Past alignment with national standards and practices is a reason Minnesota students have done so well on national and international comparisons. Changing the proposed Minnesota Academic Standards for Science to include recommendations from the minority report of the Science Standards Committee will be a disservice to Minnesota’s students, and limit Minnesota’s scientific and technological competitiveness.
The minority report, signed by only four members of the Science Standards Committee, asserts that students have the right to learn about evolution within the context of the other competing theories. This assertion appeals to our shared democratic ideals, but the argument is misleading, because it misconstrues and misrepresents the status of a “theory” in science. The Theory of Evolution is as central to modern biology as the Theory of Plate Tectonics is to geology, and as the Theory of Relativity is to physics. Evolution, Plate Tectonics and Relativity are considered scientific theories because their principles have withstood countless tests of validity through experiments using multiple working hypotheses, as is required by the scientific method. There are simply no scientifically sound competing theories to the theory of evolution today.
No small part of the evolution controversy stems from differences in the everyday use of the word “theory” by scientists and non-scientists. Outside of the scientific community, the word “theory” is used the same way scientists use the word, “hypothesis”, but for scientists, a theory is a concept that is upheld in countless scientific tests and explains observed phenomena. A scientist doesn't start from scratch; instead, s/he begins with an understanding of the accepted science, and works from there. The Theory of Evolution was a necessary precursor to the science of heredity, which in turn has lead us to the modern promise of biotechnology, including life-saving gene therapies. In biology, there is no other analytical base that can explain our observations and guide biological research other than Theory of Evolution. Teaching our students otherwise leaves them insufficiently prepared in knowing the main ideas of science.
What’s at stake? Students need a science education well-grounded in the important ideas of science to build their personal capacity to succeed and to contribute to our state’s workforce. A workforce lacking a strong understanding of the key ideas in science will weaken Minnesota businesses and industries and contribute to the waning of US’s role as an international leader in science and technology.
Our state’s economic security will be seriously compromised if the rigorous science education standards drafted by the full Minnesota’s Science Standards Committee are not approved by the legislature. Four years ago, when Kansas removed the topic of evolution from their science standards, the Oregon software company, Broadcast Software International, responded by immediately rejecting Topeka as a site for the new regional technical center. According to the firm’s president, Ron Burley, at issue was not only whether they could count on a good selection of well-educated future employees in the area, but also their image as a business at the forefront of technology. Such concerns are particularly immediate and relevant as Minnesota recently launched a high-profile initiative to attract biotechnology firms to the state—an industry representing the cutting edge of biological science.
Will Minnesota continue to serve as a national role model for science education programs around the country? Or will the legislature opt for a lesser future, denying our students the science standards that ensure their competitiveness in an increasingly scientific and technological society? The SciMathMN Board of Directors encourages the legislature to adopt the Academic Standards for Science developed by members of the full Science Standards Committee. It is a strong guarantee that Minnesota students will have a sound learning of important science.
Executive Director Executive Committee
SciMathMN is a non-profit, statewide education and business coalition advocating for quality K-12 science, mathematics and technology education based on research, national standards and effective practices.
1. We firmly and unequivocally support a robust and distinct Earth Science curriculum at the 9-12 grade level that is in parity with the traditional offerings of high school life science (e.g., biology, anatomy) and physical science (e.g., chemistry, physics). We strongly recommend that an Earth Science curriculum be directed to all students as a required class, not offered as an elective to non college-bound students.
The role that Earth science plays in our lives is diverse and ubiquitous, and thus is appropriate for all students.
Consider these broad arenas in which an understanding of Earth Science plays a role: prospecting and extracting mineral resources, prospecting and extracting petroleum, storing nuclear waste underground, reclaiming land, using and protecting groundwater, developing flood plains and controlling floods, forecasting weather and understanding climate change, going to Moon and Mars, exploiting stone and aggregate materials, and mitigating natural hazards ( e.g. landslides, volcanic eruptions, etc.). Consider also the personal arena in which earth science plays a role: do I buy a house near an active fault line, will the river's meandering affect my subdivision, do I vote in favor of a new landfill?
Ultimately, whether we recognize it or not, all humanity depends on natural resources and the environment for its standard of living. Earth science is the discipline in which students learn about Earth's processes, its environment and natural resources. Therefore it is vital that all students in high school be exposed to a strong Earth science curriculum. Earth science is also a distinct discipline whose principles are essential in many professional jobs and industries, making it appropriate for college bound students. In addition, Earth Science is highly interdisciplinary, putting principles of geology, physics, chemistry, and biology into the context of real-world problems and experiences. As such, it is an ideal course either to introduce the sciences in general or to use as a capstone experience, particularly for college bound students, in which diverse science concepts are integrated. 2. We strongly recommend that the assessment of a 9-12 science curriculum test ALL of the science standards.
Today, Earth science is a full-fledged scientific discipline. Earth scientists work in research, government, industry and academia. Earth science is included in the National Research Council's 1996 National Science Education Standards. A relevant and significant discipline like Earth science should be tested along side the life and physical sciences. A standards-based assessment test should not be developed based on the science classes that high school students are currently able to take, but should reflect what all students should know about the sciences.