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Week of December 15, 2008

Table of Contents

U.S.Students’ Performance Remains Stagnant in International Science Exam

The International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) last week released the 2007 Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS), the fourth in a cycle of international comparative assessments of student achievement in math and science. Results showed that the average math scores for U.S. fourth and eighth graders have increased since 1995, by 11 points for fourth grade and 16 points for eighth grade. The science scores, however, were statistically unchanged compared to 1995.

The TIMSS data also revealed achievement gaps between African American, Hispanic, and white students in both fourth and eighth grades in the U.S. In fourth grade, African American students scored 79 points lower than their white classmates and the gap grew to nearly 100 points in eighth grade. U.S. boys also scored higher than girls in the fourth grade, although the difference was not statistically significant. This changed in eighth grade when boys scored 12 points higher, a significant difference.

TIMSS assessed 425,000 students across 59 countries, including the United States, the largest number of countries ever to have participated in TIMSS. The report provides rankings of student achievement by country, as well as information about home, school, and other factors associated with student performance.

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Winter Study: Improve Your Knowledge of Physical Science

Register to attend the NSTA Online Short Course: Force and Motion

Teachers will love this online short course on Force and Motion. If you’re teaching grades 3–9, you can build your background through NSTA’s live web sessions beginning Feb. 4, 2009, and on the following four consecutive Wednesdays (2/11, 2/18, 2/25, and 3/4) in the evening under the guidance of Dr. Matt Bobrowksy. Participants will strengthen their physical science concepts through synchronous learning for an hour and a half each week.

The virtual classroom of students, the instructor Dr. Bobrowksy, and NSTA staff will share comments about the topic and pose and answer questions. Follow up weekly discussions are posted on the course listserv, and self-paced completion of corresponding course materials (SciPack, SciGuide, e-book, and journal articles) all contribute to boosting knowledge of the subject.

Consider this comment from a previous Michigan teacher/attendee: “I really like the interaction available for each participant. The ability to hear the presenters and participants and use a whiteboard is extremely helpful.”

Fees include all materials:

Member rate: $322.50
Nonmember rate: $367.00

Two graduate professional development credits from the University of Idaho can be earned for an additional fee. For more details and to register, visit the NSTA Learning Center.

Questions? E-mail Flavio Mendez, Director, NSTA Symposia and Web Seminars.

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Apply for an Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence

Amgen is soliciting applications for its annual Amgen Award for Science Teaching Excellence. The awards program recognizes outstanding science teaching at the K–12 level. Winners receive a $5,000 award; in addition, their schools receive a second $5,000 award to further science-related education. This year, Amgen has expanded the program to honor 34 science teachers in the US and Canada.

Teachers in the following states and provinces are eligible: California, Colorado, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Washington, Puerto Rico, Alberta, British Columbia, Ontario, and Quebec.

Visit the Amgen website to apply. The deadline is February 2, 2009.

Questions? E-mail amgenfoundation@amgen.com or phone (805) 447-4056.

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Science Students to Compete in NASA Naming Contest

Are you looking for a great pre–winter vacation activity for your students? Or an extra credit opportunity? K–12 students can enter the "Name NASA's Next Mars Rover" contest by submitting an essay that suggests a name for the Mars Science Laboratory rover. It's a great chance to review Earth and Space Science content or bring science into a language arts activity for your students.

Students 13 years old and younger must submit a mail in form with a parent/guardian signature (available on the website below). Students 14–18 years old may submit by mail or online. Feel free to send your class submissions in a single envelope, but remember that the contest ends January 25, 2009. One of your students could be named the winner this spring!

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Building Your True Teacher Value

Plan to Attend the NSTA New Orleans 2009 “National”

Choose the best professional development you can find by attending the top Conference on Science Education nationwide for building skills and expertise in the classroom. NSTA’s national event will be held March 19–22 in New Orleans. The finest science education leaders and experts will preside over diverse workshops, presentations, and seminars designed to increase content knowledge, sharpen inquiry skills, teach assessment, improve student performance, and assist you in your journey towards becoming the best educator you can be!

Register by January 9 (the earlybird deadline) to get the most affordable rates: $190 for members and $264 for nonmembers. Check out a sampling of more than 1500 sessions using the session browser/scheduler.

Have a look at just a few session titles:

  • Featured Speaker Bill Nye the Science Guy
  • How Do We Know That Students Understand?—Planning templates and examples provided.
  • A Teacher–Scientist Partnership Model for Professional Development—Learn how to implement a model that builds teachers' content knowledge and pedagogical expertise through rich and engaging professional development led by teacher-scientist teams.
  • Be a Model Scientist—Use concrete inexpensive models to enhance students' learning of abstract science concepts through hands-on activities that build on content knowledge.
  • The Multiple Dimensions of Scientific Inquiry in the PreK–12 School Setting—Transform your science class into an authentic research community by using multiple inquiry modes characteristic of research in the natural sciences.
  • Why Won't Jane Compute?—Learn how to use the new Institute of Education Science (IES) frameworks to improve girls' interest and performance in your classroom.

And then there are in depth institutes, symposia, field trips, day long programs, the exhibition hall, graduate credits to earn, networking and more. Visit www.nsta.org/neworleans for information on the wide variety of activities and career-building events for science educators.

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Explore the World From Your Living Room! Take an Online Grad Course from AMNH

Sign up today for Seminars on Science from the American Museum of Natural History—the online courses that teachers are calling “fantastic,” “wonderful,” and “complex.” Follow a space probe as it heads to Saturn. Dissect your dinner. Explore the geology of your own backyard. Seminars on Science courses provide powerful classroom resources and link participants to educators across the country. “What a positive experience,” said one teacher of our Diversity of Fishes course. “I guess that is why I keep taking courses at AMNH. Offer another course—I can't wait.”

Spring courses include: Earth: Inside and Out; The Ocean System; Evolution; The Solar System; The Diversity of Fishes; Space, Time and Motion and Genetics, Genomics, Genethics. Free sample resources are available for each course at learn.amnh.org.

Designed for K–12 educators, each six-week course is led by an experienced classroom teacher and a research scientist. In-depth readings and assignments paired with rich web-based discussions assure that educators come away from each class with a deeper understanding of both the science and the tools of scientific inquiry. Graduate credit is available and each participant receives a CD of course resources suitable for classroom use.

Registration closes January 12 for Spring Session 1 (January 26–March 8)! Sign up by January 2 and receive a $50 early registration discount. For more information and to register, go to learn.amnh.org or call 800-649-6715.

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The Perfect Holiday Gift

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NSTA Express is Taking a Break

This is the last issue of NSTA Express for the year 2008. We appreciate your support, and we look forward to serving you in 2009. Happy Holidays to you and yours!

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And Don’t Forget…

Visit our member services web page to ensure that NSTA has your current contact information.

Visit the NSTA Science Store for an outstanding array of bestselling books and teaching resources. Receive 30% off the price of the December featured book, Start With A Story: The Case Study Method of Teaching College Science.

NSTA is offering more Web Seminars in the months ahead. Visit the website for more information and to register to attend these FREE professional development opportunities.


Professional development courses in your future?
Online options give you a world of choice.
Take a look at these groups offering courses for science educators!


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