A 30,000' view from a state agency

Jennifer Stadum, Montana Office of Public Instruction - Indian Education Division

Jennifer Stadum, Bachelor of Arts in Anthropology: Plains Indian Studies; Master of Arts in Teaching: Multi-Cultural Education; and Master of Science in Science Education: Wildlife Ecology
Montana Office of Public Instruction
Indian Education Division
Indian Education Specialist

Describe the context of teaching about the Earth and sustainability in your school and/or district. "Context" should be interpreted broadly, and may include the grade levels and courses in which Earth science and/or sustainability are taught (or not), who is involved in teaching these courses, the proportion of students who encounter Earth science and sustainability in their courses, any collaborations with outside organizations, among other things that are relevant in your particular setting.

I am an Indian Education specialist with the Montana Office of Public Instruction and I have been here close to 8 years. I have been working with NGSS ever since 2011 when the lead states were evaluating and providing feedback on the draft NGSS. In my previous position, I was a Science Inquiry Learning in the Classroom and Indian Education for All Instructional Coach for a K-12 district. It has been 8 years since I have had daily interactions with classroom teachers.

NGSS was not completely adopted by the state of Montana. The SEPs were not adopted, and wording was changed in some of the PEs to reflect the unique opportunity we have here to add American Indian content when it is relevant to a specific standard. Thus, the Montana Science Content Standards were adopted with a July 2017 beginning implementation date. I work closely with our Science Coordinator to hear about what schools and districts are doing to help teachers learn more about NGSS and its implementation. Over the last year, I have had several individual teachers contact me asking for guidance on how to implement both NGSS and Indian Education for All (a state law regarding the teaching of all Montanans about the unique cultural heritage of the twelve tribes represented in Montana). At first, I would recommend resources. Yet, I realized there was a gap not only with teacher confidence implementing Indian Education for All, but also with embracing and implementing NGSS.

As we are designing lessons that utilize tribally specific knowledge, there are many places in the PEs for ESS that have many organic connections. Our lessons are used by K-12 Montana public school teachers. We are a local control state, so there are many iterations of what ESS looks like K-12 across the state.

Describe how the teaching you described is evolving or has evolved with implementation of the NGSS.

Across the state we have entities that are receiving NSF funding to assist in the professional development for K-12 teachers of science. We also have curriculum consortiums and Regional Educational Service Areas. Each of these groups develops training based upon requests from schools/districts. The most intensive NGSS training is happening with the grants funded by NSF. Though schools and districts can choose what curriculum materials are used for science, they are required to teach to the state science standards. Unfortunately, we are in the midst of changing assessment vendors as well as updating our science assessments to include the new standards. We are still about 2 years off from implementation of the new assessment. Thus, it will still be several years before we can begin to see where there may be weaknesses in the teaching of science across the state.

Describe the perceived challenges and opportunities you (both personally and as a school or district) face with that implementation.
The challenges to successful NGSS implementation is teacher preparation, both in teacher preparation programs as well as professional development provided for teachers across the state. The biggest shift for our teachers is away from the discipline-centered model to 3 Dimensional science teaching. This shift seems very challenging to incorporate at the high school level. As we approach release of the new science assessment, it will be interesting to see how administrations reorganize their science departments to meet the students' needs as they learn to accomplish the standards...or practices.

The other challenge is with our elementary teachers, particularly in the primary grades. Overall, there is consistent feedback that the teachers themselves lack enough science knowledge to teach through a progression of standards. We have so much work to do to help these teachers feel more secure in their knowledge and to engage in the possibilities of NGSS and embrace 3 dimensional learning.

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