Advice for implementing something like this in a school outside D. 6. : LUSENET : Middle School Science : One Thread

I am entering my second year of teaching middle school science (I taught 8th last year and will teach 6th this year). I am very impressed by the work that District 6 has done in coordinating the curriculum of science teachers from 5th through 8th grade. I would like very much to work towards something like this at my school. I realize the process is probably somewhat different at the district level than it would be at a school level, nevertheless I hope I can learn from your experience. How did the process of creating this integrated curriculum occur? Where did it start? How did you get buy-in from teachers? How are you handling the transition from what people are already teaching to the new organization? I'd love to hear comments from those involved with this process, as well as those working on or considering similar reorganization of the curriculum...

thanks so much, Kelly Vaughan

-- Kelly Vaughan (, August 28, 2001


Hi Kelly:

We started this process about 3 years ago. The impetus for change was a set of standards coming from the state of New York, (PDF Document) which were themselves derived from national standards as formulated by the National Science Resource Center’s National Science Education Standards and the Project 2061’s Benchmarks for Sciene Literacy. Coupled with the state standards was the promise of a state-wide Intermediate Level Science Exam, which was finally first administered to (virtually) all 8th graders in NY in Spring 2001.

Neither the state nor the national standards are grade-specific, but rather specify what students should know, understand, or be able to do at the end of grade 8. As such it was our (district) responsibility to figure out how to translate the standards into grade-level objectives. That is what our frameworks does. It is still a work in progress as we attempt to find curriculum units (textbooks, kits, whatever) to match the objectives, which in turn will influence the objectives that we include in the frameworks – it’s an “iterative” process. By necessity some objectives from the state document will not be in our frameworks – there simply isn’t enough time and some of the objectives frankly should be deferred until high school (according to the national standards).

As for teacher buy-in, we are still in the early phases but there has been so much neglect of the middle school science program over the last 10 –15 years that teachers are pretty hungry for support and materials. I believe that once the curriculum materials are in place, teachers will support the program. We also have a huge influx of new teachers, which gives us the opportunity to influence them from the start. We are in fact pretty flexible on the “how” part of the curriculum and do not force a particular way of teaching on our teachers. Nonetheless, we do advocate a constructivist approach and look for materials that support that approach.

As for getting started on your own, I’m curious first off that you don’t already have a set of state or local standards. Check your state’s website. If not, then look at the links above on NSRC and Project 2061. Lastly, we have been using Designing Mathematics or Science Curriculum Programs as our guide. It is essential reading for undertaking this process:

Designing Mathematics or Science Curriculum Programs: A Guide for Using Mathematics and Science Education Standards National Research Council: Committee on Science Education K-12 and the Mathematical Sciences Education Board

"This book was developed to help state- and district-level education leaders create coherent, multi-year curriculum programs that provide students with opportunities to learn both mathematics and science in a connected and cumulative way throughout their schooling. Anyone responsible for designing or influencing mathematics or science curriculum programs will find this guide valuable."

(grades k-12, 1999, 70 pp.) #OP692X

You can order from the NSTA for about 15 bucks.

Good Luck!

-- Michael Gatton (, August 29, 2001.

Thanks so much to everyone who responded to my question about implementing a coordinated curriculum in a school outside of District 6. To answer a few people's question, I teach in District 9 in NYC. It seems (now that the first couple of days of school have passed) that this year my district/school is even MORE focused on math/reading (we are about a cm away from SURR status). I rarely--no, never--hear any concern with science education. Nevertheless, I hope to start a conversation in my school about the science teachers at least meeting during prof. devt. days to discuss our curriculum. A big concern for me is that I am only beginning my second year at this school and am not sure how others would respond to my taking the initiative in this way. Of course, school politics seems like a poor excuse to avoid doing whatever I can to improve the education of our students... I just need to figure out the best, most appropriate ways of raising ideas with other teachers & administrators. I do believe that as professionals, most teachers would welcome a chance to collaborate towards better outcomes for our students. I plan to meet with the science department chair soon to discuss some ideas.

Any more advice or comments greatly appreciated!

Thanks again, best of luck to you all, Kelly Vaughan

-- Kelly Vaughan (, September 08, 2001.

I recently got notice of a New York City publication that is scheduled to be published this Fall, 2001. A Standards-Based Scope and Sequence for Learning: A Teacher's Framework for Standards- Based Planning. This publication will break down standards into grade levels, grades K-8, according to the memo I got. If your school is just beginning the process of revising science curriculum, it might be a good model to follow. I have not seen the document and I only hope it doesn't follow the old "layer cake" paradigm, but having seen the draft report cards from the city, it may well do just that. At any rate, it's worth waiting to see what's in it.

-- Michael Gatton (, September 11, 2001.

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