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Week of July 11, 2011

Table of Contents

Sally Ride Science

STEM Teachers Thrive in Professional Learning Communities

With the support of the National Science Foundation and in collaboration with WestEd, the National Commission on Teaching and America's Future (NCTAF) has released "STEM Teachers in Professional Learning Communities: From Good Teachers to Great Teaching." NCTAF and WestEd conducted a two-year analysis of research studies that document what happens when science, technology, engineering, and math teachers work together in professional learning communities to improve teaching and increase student achievement. This report summarizes that work and provides examples of projects building on that model.

According to the report, participating in learning teams can successfully engage STEM teachers in discussions about the mathematics and science that they teach. This seemingly basic finding is more important than it may appear. While it is considered a professional trait to continuously seek more knowledge, in reality it can actually be threatening for professionals even to acknowledge that there is something more that they should know or understand better. Teachers operating in traditional artisan isolation are often hesitant to discuss the content that they teach. The report concludes that improving teaching quality is the single most important investment we can make to prepare today's students for college and career success. But this need comes as states and school districts are struggling with dire reductions in funding. In the face of this fiscal reality, we need innovative ways to organize STEM teachers for better learning outcomes with a more cost-effective deployment of existing resources. The report says that we can achieve this objective by enabling STEM teachers to team up for more effective teaching and learning. The report is available online (PDF).

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What Would You Do If You Were the Secretary of Energy for a Day?

If you were the U.S. Secretary of Energy and had the power to set the energy priorities for the entire country, what projects/programs would you implement to help transform our society? The team at Planet Forward, a multimedia initiative dedicated to promoting smart, innovative ideas to solving our climate, sustainability, and energy challenges, wants to know! Recently, they interviewed Bill Nye to find out what his “energy to-do” list would be if he became the Secretary of Energy. Check out what he had to say and then weigh in by adding to Planet Forward’s #EnergyToDo list on Twitter. Simply log on to your Twitter account, write your idea in the “What’s happening” field, and then add the #EnergyToDo hashtag at the end of your message.

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From the NSTA Calendar: Free Summer Seminars on Education Policy

Would you like to become more knowledgeable about education policy? Want to know more about Race to the Top, the Common Core, Title I, and the president’s Blueprint for Reform—and how they will affect you and your students? From 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Time on July 14, July 28, August 11, and August 25, you can join the Department of Education’s (ED) live and online presentations entitled Summer Seminars at Six: An Introduction to Education Policy. This free series is designed to share information about education policy to help teachers to be engaged and participate in policy discussions at the federal, state, and district level. Teachers working at ED, along with other staff, will lead the seminars, which will include opportunities for questions and discussion both in person and online.

You can participate in person at ED’s LBJ Building in Washington, D.C., or online through U-Stream. For more information and to register, visit the Department of Education’s website.

And check the NSTA Calendar for other events held by federal agencies such as ED and NASA.

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Investing in Innovation Program Seeks Reviewers

Through the Investing in Innovation (i3) program, the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Innovation and Improvement supports innovative practices that are demonstrated to have an impact on improving student achievement. The program is now seeking individuals to serve as peer reviewers for the newly announced FY 2011 i3 grant competition. The Call for Peer Reviewers may be found on the i3 website.

The peer reviewers may come from various backgrounds and professions including: PK–12 teachers and principals, college and university educators, educational evaluators, social entrepreneurs, strategy consultants, grant makers and managers, and others with education expertise. The selected reviewers must have expertise in at least one of the program’s five absolute priorities or in educational evaluation:

i3 Absolute Priorities

  • Supporting Effective Teachers and Principals
  • Promoting Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education
  • Implementing Standards and Assessments
  • Turning Around Low Performing Schools
  • Improving Achievement in Rural LEA’s


Educational Evaluation

Experience in designing, conducting, and reviewing rigorous educational evaluations, including:

  • Understanding of education research and recent findings of the relevant literature
  • Knowledge of education data sources and measures of program implementation and outcomes
  • Expertise with experimental and quasi-experimental research designs
  • Fluency in reviewing organizational and project evaluation plans and evaluation results

Additionally,the most qualified candidates will also have expertise in one or more of the following attributes or skills: program or organizational innovation, experience disseminating or scaling successful programs, and prior experience reviewing or approving grant applications.

For specific instructions on how to apply, please consult the i3 Call for Peer Reviewers. The deadline for applying was Friday, July 8, but prospective peer reviewers who express interest following the July 8 deadline may still be considered if the Department needs additional peer reviewers.

Reviewers will receive an honorarium for their time and effort.

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