The Idaho Science Teachers Association endorses the following statement: ‘The National Congress on Science Education recognizes that teachers have a professional commitment to providing quality science education for all students, requiring an understanding of the special needs and culture of each child. Science educators must embrace and welcome all students, regardless of disability, gender, race, language, sexual orientation, class, ethnicity, or religion, as they bring unique viewpoints and approaches to our ever-expanding field.
Disability serves as a paradigm for diversity equity, and represents a critical issue in science pedagogy, which can be applied to the benefit of all students. It is anticipated that lessons learned from a focus of “disability” equity will be applied to the larger challenge of equity in science education.’
ISTA strongly endorses instituting a policy of equity in all preK-12 science classrooms. Equity means ensuring that all students – regardless of gender, age, cultural or ethnic background, or disabilities – have the support they need to become successful science students and feel respected and challenged. This position is supported by the National Science Education Standards (NSES). While this position specifically addresses equality in preK-12 classrooms, ISTA recognizes the importance of the issue in higher education.
In order to accomplish equity in the classroom, the following should take place:
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statements – Gender Equity in Science Education and Multicultural Science Education: National Congress on Science Education – 7/03/CN24
The Idaho Science Teachers Association supports the notion that inquiry science must be on of the education every student at every grade level. Integral 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.
To that end, ISTA recommends:
ISTA recommends staffing middle and secondary schools with teachers who are qualified to teach science and are trained and dedicated to working with students at this important period in their lives. Science concepts must be presented in an age-appropriate, engaging way so that students can build on their prior knowledge and attain the necessary background to participate successfully and responsibly in our highly scientific and technological society.
The Idaho Science Teachers Association recommends the following standards for creating and maintaining science-learning conditions:
High School level:
Middle School level:
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statements – Elementary School Science, Science Education for Middle Level Students, and Learning Conditions for High School Science: National Congress on Science Education – 8/05CNG9, 8/05CNG19, 7/04/CNG9, 7/04/CNG10, 7/04/CNG12
Science students deserve a safe, effective learning environment. This requires safe and adequate conditions, adequate facilities and equipment, and competent, qualified teachers. Inherent in many instructional settings including science is the potential for injury and possible litigation. These issues can be avoided or reduced by the proper application of a safety plan.
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statements –Learning Conditions for High School Science and Safety and School Science Instruction.
To be prepared for the 21st century, it is critical that all students have sufficient knowledge of and skills in science. Studies suggest that high-quality teaching can make a significant difference in student learning. The Idaho Science Teachers Association believes a high-quality science teacher workforce requires meaningful, ongoing professional development. To achieve this goal, schools and school systems must devote time and resources to effective professional development for all K–16 teachers of science and science educators to support learning throughout their careers.
ISTA strongly believes that we must move forward with professional development programs based on the best information currently available. The science education community should continue to encourage and conduct systematic research about effective professional development to add to our knowledge base for particular purposes in various contexts.
a) provides knowledge of standards based content.
b) models effective science teaching strategies.
c) emphasizes the analysis of assessment data.
d) applies the data results to the improvement of teaching.
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statement – Professional Development in Science Education: National Congress on Science Education – 7/01CNG19, 7/04/CNG5
The professional educator aspires to stimulate the spirit of inquiry in students and to provide opportunities in the school setting that will help them acquire viable knowledge, skills, and understanding that will meet their needs now and in the future.
The professional educator provides an environment that is safe to the cognitive, physical, and psychological well-being of students and provides opportunities for each student to move toward the realization of his/her goals and potential as an effective citizen.
The professional educator, recognizing that students need role models, will act, speak, and teach in such a manner as to exemplify nondiscriminatory behavior and encourage respect for other cultures and beliefs.
The professional educator is committed to the public good and will help preserve and promote the principles of democracy. He/She will provide input to the local school board to assist in the board’s mission of developing and implementing sound educational policy, while promoting a climate in which the exercise of professional judgment is encouraged.
The professional educator believes the quality of services rendered by the education profession directly influences the nation and its citizens. He/She strives, therefore, to establish and maintain the highest set of professional principles of behavior, to improve educational practice, and to achieve conditions that attract highly qualified persons to the profession.
The professional educator regards the employment agreement as a pledge to be executed in a manner consistent with the highest ideals of professional service. He/She believes that sound professional personal relationships with colleagues, governing boards, and community members are built upon integrity, dignity, and mutual respect. The professional educator encourages the practice of the profession only by qualified persons.
In order to enhance the above professionalism statements, The Idaho Science Teachers Association advocates that professional science educators:
The teacher is the key to making science teaching a profession and to providing quality science education. For American society to accept science teachers as professionals, science teaching needs to conform to society’s professional practice model.
Society’s professional practice model is knowledge based and client oriented. It is a pact between society and members of an occupation whose work “requires discretion and judgment in meeting the unique needs of clients . . . (A profession organizes itself) to guarantee the competence of its members in exchange for the privilege of controlling its own work structure and standards of practice.” The profession assumes collective responsibility for defining, communicating, and enforcing professional standards of practice and ethics. It develops and maintains a process, which ensures both the research, and craft knowledge accumulated in the field are communicated and used effectively by all its members. That knowledge is also used to prepare, induct, certify, select, and evaluate new members. Further, the profession ensures continuous generation of new knowledge. Differences in knowledge levels, expertise, responsibility, and productivity result in differentiated roles, status, and compensation.
Science teaching requires an individual to exercise discretion and judgment in meeting the needs of students. Thus, it is fitting for science teachers to assume the rights and responsibilities of professionals in our society.
ISTA supports the following as necessary to enhance science teacher professionalism:
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statement – Science Teacher Professionalism: Idaho State Department of Education, Professional Standards Commission – Code of Ethics for Idaho Professional Educators.
All those involved with science teaching and learning should have a common, accurate view of the nature of science. Science is characterized by the systematic gathering of information through various forms of direct and indirect observations and the testing of this information by methods including, but not limited to, experimentation. The principal product of science is knowledge in the form of naturalistic concepts and the laws and theories related to those concepts.
Science is a method of explaining the natural world. It assumes that anything that can be observed or measured is amenable to scientific investigation. Science also assumes that the universe operates according to regularities that can be discovered and understood through scientific investigations. The testing of various explanations of natural phenomena for their consistency with empirical data is an essential part of the methodology of science. Explanations that are not consistent with empirical evidence or cannot be tested empirically are not a part of science. As a result, explanations of natural phenomena that are not based on evidence but on myths, personal beliefs, religious values, and superstitions are not scientific. Science is limited to explaining natural phenomena through the use of empirical evidence.
The Idaho Science Teachers Association endorses the proposition that science, along with its methods, explanations and generalizations, must be the sole focus of instruction in science classes to the exclusion of all non-scientific or pseudoscientific methods, explanations, generalizations and products.
The following premises are important to understanding the nature of science.
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statements – The Nature of Science and The Teaching of Evolution.
Evolution, in the broadest sense, can be defined as the idea that the universe has a history: that change through time has taken place. If we look today at the galaxies, stars, the planet Earth, and the life on planet Earth, we see that things today are different from what they were in the past: galaxies, stars, planets, and life forms have evolved. Biological evolution refers to the scientific theory that living things share ancestors from which they have diverged; it is called “descent with modification”. There is abundant and consistent evidence from astronomy, physics, biochemistry, geochronology, geology, biology, anthropology, and other sciences that evolution has taken place.
As such, evolution is a unifying concept for science. The National Science Education Standards recognizes that conceptual schemes such as evolution “unify science disciplines and provide students with powerful ideas to help them understand the natural world” (p. 104) and recommends evolution as one such scheme. In addition, Benchmarks for Science Literacy from AAAS’s Project 2061, as well as other national calls for science reform, all name evolution as a unifying concept because of its importance across the disciplines of science. Scientific disciplines with a historical component, such as astronomy, geology, biology, and anthropology, cannot be taught with integrity if evolution is not emphasized.
There is no longer a debate among scientists about whether evolution has taken place. There is considerable debate about how evolution has taken place: What are the processes and mechanisms producing change, and what has happened specifically during the history of the universe? Scientists often disagree about their explanations. In any science, disagreements are subject to rules of evaluation. Scientific conclusions are tested by experiment and observation, and evolution, as with any aspect of theoretical science, is continually open to and subject to experimental and observational testing.
The importance of evolution is summarized as follows in the National Academy of Sciences publication Teaching about Evolution and the Nature of Science: “Few other ideas in science have had such a far-reaching impact on our thinking about ourselves and how we relate to the world” (p. 21).
The National Science Education Standards note that, “[e]xplanations of how the natural world changes based on myths, personal beliefs, religious values, mystical inspiration, superstition, or authority may be personally useful and socially relevant, but they are not scientific” (p. 201). Because science limits itself to natural explanations and not religious or ultimate ones, science teachers should neither advocate any religious interpretation of nature nor assert that religious interpretations of nature are not possible.
Some policy makers continue attempts to distort the teaching of evolution through mandates that would require teachers to teach evolution as “only a theory” or that require a textbook or lesson on evolution to be preceded by a disclaimer. Regardless of the legal status of these mandates, they are bad educational policy. Such policies have the effect of intimidating teachers, which may result in the de-emphasis or omission of evolution. As a consequence, the public will only be further confused about the nature of scientific theories. Furthermore, if students learn less about evolution, science literacy itself will suffer.
The Idaho Science Teachers Association (ISTA) strongly supports the position that evolution is a major unifying concept in science and should be included in the K-12 science education curricula. Furthermore, if evolution is not taught, students will not achieve the level of scientific literacy they need. This position is consistent with that of the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and many other scientific and educational organizations.
ISTA also recognizes that evolution has not been emphasized in science curricula in many locations in a manner commensurate to its importance because of official policies, intimidation of science teachers, the general public’s misunderstanding of evolutionary theory, and a century of controversy. In addition, some teachers are being pressured to introduce creationism, “creation science,” intelligent design and other nonscientific views, which are intended to weaken or eliminate the teaching of evolution.
Within this context, ISTA recommends that:
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statement – The Teaching of Evolution: National Congress on Science Education – 8/05CNG9, 8/05CNG10.
The Idaho Science Teachers Association believes that a teacher’s freedom to teach involves both the right and the responsibility to use the highest intellectual standards in studying, investigating, presenting, interpreting and discussing ideas and facts relevant to his or her field of expertise. ISTA has therefore set forth the following standards in regard to the freedom to teach and learn:
I. As professionals, teachers must be free to examine controversial issues openly in the classroom. The right to examine controversial issues is based on the democratic commitment to open inquiry and on the importance of decision-making involving opposing points of view and the free examination of ideas. The teacher is professionally obligated to maintain a spirit of free inquiry, open-mindedness and impartiality in the classroom. Informed diversity is a hallmark of democracy to be protected, defended, and valued.
II. Many state legislatures, boards of education, and school administrators have shown disregard for the teacher’s professional role in dealing with controversial issues in the classroom. Consequently, it is important that the Idaho Science Teachers Association, as a professional organization, support the concept that teachers have a significant role in determining educational policy. If freedom to teach is to be meaningful, teachers must participate in decisions regarding the organization, presentation, and evaluation of instruction, and in determining the competency of other teachers and administrators. The same is true of the freedom to learn. Commitment to the freedom to learn demands student involvement in curricular decisions and instructional evaluations.
III. Teachers should be encouraged to participate in community affairs. Such participation is important in its own right as well as for the modeling of active citizenship for students. Such participation is a part of the freedom to teach. Boards of education must support community involvement by making it clear that judgments of professional competency will not be based on teachers’ personal, religious, political, social, or economic beliefs. As agents of a democratic society, teachers must not advocate the use of violence to achieve social or political change. Boards of education and professional organizations have an obligation to protect teachers from unjustified attacks based on classroom performance or community participation. This obligation calls for the education of community members and students concerning the legitimate roles of teachers as professional educators and concerned citizens. Boards of education and professional organizations must give both moral and financial support for teachers when such attacks occur.
Ultimately, the freedom to teach and to learn will exist only if a continuing effort is made to educate all Americans about these freedoms. Professional educators must set an example in their communities that illustrates respect for schools and classrooms and a free marketplace for ideas. An appreciation for the concerns of parents and other members of the community who legitimately disagree must be respected. We, as professional educators, must show our faith in the freedom to teach and learn that honors opposing viewpoints.
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statement – The Freedom to Teach and the Freedom to Learn.
In January 1996, the National Research Council released a comprehensive vision for the improvement of science teaching and learning. This vision has wide support among the science education community as it based upon the seminal works of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Science for All Americans, Benchmarks for Science Literacy). The National Science Education Standards are neither a “national curriculum” nor a prescription to be followed by all schools and school districts regardless of local concerns and needs. Rather, the Standards represent a vision of science education ranging from the specifics of classroom practice to the overall organization of the educational system. More succinctly, the Standards present a view of a scientifically literate populace. Although the Standards represent an ambitious ideal that will take much time to realize, they are practical in their recognition of the realities of classroom life and the various factors that impinge on educational change.
Americans strongly value local control over their educational systems and the National Science Education Standards emphasize the importance of local control. The Standards are not an attempt to provide standardized criteria for all educational systems across the U.S. Rather, they provide a framework by which states, local school boards, administrators, teachers, and citizens can make decisions about how well their educational system supports, and is progressing toward, a scientifically literate society. The National Science Education Standards were developed through a cooperative effort of teachers, school administrators, parents, curriculum developers, college faculty and administrators, scientists, engineers, and government officials. The Standards, both in vision and development, truly exemplify American pluralism.
The values and goals of educational systems are dynamic. They change in response to the needs of our citizens and society. Consequently, the Standards should not be viewed as rigid prescriptions and guidelines. They, too, are dynamic and will change in response to our society’s needs. However, a shared vision must exist if we are to mobilize all aspects of our educational systems and produce coherent efforts toward a common end. The National Science Education Standards provide such a vision. The Idaho Science Teachers Association strongly supports the National Science Education Standards by asserting that:
Achievement of the Standards vision will not occur without the support and efforts of all those dedicated to quality science education. In order to support movement toward the vision, it is further asserted that:
The ultimate success of the Standards vision and the effort to improve science teaching and learning rests most directly with the classroom teacher. It is incumbent upon classroom teachers to become as knowledgeable as possible about the Standards and then, in turn, assist in the dissemination of the vision to colleagues, administrators, parents, community leaders, and policy makers.
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statement – The National Science Education Standards.
ISTA values a scientifically literate citizenry. Science assessments are necessary tools for managing and evaluating efforts to ensure all students receive the science education necessary to prepare them for participation in our nation’s decision-making processes and lifelong learning of science in a technology-rich workplace.
Meaningful science assessment is realized only when stakeholders–students, parents, teachers, school administrators, community members, business persons, policy makers, and government officials–share the responsibility for science learning and associated formative and summative assessments. These stakeholders need to provide adequate resources, equal access, leadership, environment, guidance, enthusiasm, incentives, and positive motivation for science learning. Quality science assessments should be mechanisms for accessing information on students’:
Assessment feedback reflects the learning setting and should be used to adjust course content, teaching techniques, or learning strategies to improve student science learning. Moreover, the assessment data should be used to craft appropriate teacher professional development experiences, identify students who need extra help and/or learning accommodations, and revisit and redesign assessment tools to better reflect the learning goals and instructional setting.
The data and knowledge gained from quality assessment can indicate how well students are meeting science standards and expectations only if the assessment is appropriately aligned with the science curriculum and instruction. Science curriculum goals, instructional topics and strategies, and assessment topics and techniques should be in alignment if tests are to yield useful data. Additionally, it is important that the processes used to collect and interpret evaluation data be consistent with the purpose of the assessment.
With respect to science assessment, ISTA advocates:
–Adopted by the ISTA Board
NSTA Position Statement – Assessment: National Congress on Science Education 8/05CNG21, 8/05CNG22, 7/04/CNG17, 7/04/CNG22, 7/03/CN21, 7/03/CN22, 7/03/CN23