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Equity in Science Education

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:

  • Implement varied and effective research-based teaching and assessment strategies that align with the learning styles of all students.

  • Ensure that curricular content incorporates the contributions of many cultures to our knowledge of science.

  • Ensure that all students are in a learning environment that encourages them to participate fully in class discussions and science activities and investigations.

  • Ensure that discussions about research-based issues related to the pedagogy of gender and multicultural equity are a part of professional development and teacher education programs.

  • Be aware of their own deep-seated beliefs so that they can ensure that their beliefs do not interfere with objective science teaching.

  • Select only those curriculum materials that promote gender inclusiveness through their text, illustrations, and graphics.

  • Select only those curriculum materials that present culturally diverse male and female role models working in all disciplines and at all levels of science.

  • Design and implement varied kinds of assessment models so that all students, regardless of their learning style, can be assessed fairly in science.

  • Provide administrative support for the development and use of a range of assessment tools that promote gender equity.

  • Encourage all students to consider science and science-related careers by exposing them to a range of school and community activities.

  • Provide all students with the most recent information about the kinds of opportunities available in the sciences, as well as the preparation necessary to attain such careers.

–Adopted by the ISTA Board
2/24/ 2007


NSTA Position Statements – Gender Equity in Science Education and Multicultural Science Education: National Congress on Science Education – 7/03/CN24


K-12 Science Education

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:

  • that all teacher certification institutions require courses in the nature of science.

  • advocates that highly qualified teachers are those who possess an integrated knowledge for four areas: 1) subject; 2) teachers and teaching; 3) learners and learning; and 4) the context or setting in which they work.

  • the definition of a highly qualified teacher of science also include:

    1. knowledge of resources to provide access for diverse students to all aspects of the science curriculum.

    2. collaborative skills for working with specialists and support personnel in the professional learning community.

  • that all elementary pre-service teachers should successfully complete at least one physical science, one life science, and one earth/space science course that are inquiry based and include a lab component that addresses the content as articulated in the National Science Education Standards (NSES) for the elementary level.

  • that all middle level pre-service teachers should be required to successfully complete a minimum of 30 semester (or equivalent) credit hours of science content courses to include at least one physical science, one life science, and one earth/space science course that are inquiry based and include a lab component that addresses the content as articulated in the NSES for the middle level.


  • Elementary school students learn science best when -

    1. they are involved in first-hand exploration and investigation and inquiry/process skills are nurtured.

    2. instruction builds directly on the student’s conceptual framework.

    3. content is organized based on broad conceptual themes common to all science disciplines.

    4. mathematics and communication skills are an integral part of science instruction.

  • Teacher preparation and professional development must provide for -

    1. experiences that will enable teachers to use hands-on activities to promote skill development, selecting content and methods appropriate for their students, and for design of classroom environments that promote positive attitudes toward science and technology.

    2. continuing science in-service programs based on current educational research that encompasses content, skills, techniques, and useful materials.

    3. participation in workshops, conferences, and meetings sponsored by local, state, and national agencies.

  • Administrators should provide instructional leadership by -

    1. building consensus for an elementary science program that reflects state and national standards.

    2. implementing and monitoring the progress of the science program.

  • Administrators should provide support systems by -

    1. supplying appropriate materials, equipment, and space.

    2. recognizing exemplary elementary science teaching.

    3. encouraging special science events.

  • Assessment must be an essential component of an elementary science program.

  • Assessment must be aligned with -

    1. what is of value, i.e., the problem-solving model of instruction: concept application, inquiry, and process skills.

    2. the curricular objectives and instructional mode.

    3. the purpose for which it was intended: grading, diagnosis, student and/or parent feedback, or program evaluation.

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:

General Secondary:

  • New teachers should be assigned master science teachers as mentors.

  • The curriculum should be aligned with the science content and process skills outlined in the National Science Education Standards/ Idaho Science Education Standards.

  • Science teaching assignments should provide time for preparations necessary for safe and effective science teaching.

  • Science teachers should be scheduled in only one classroom to be able to manage the laboratory safely.

  • Science students should learn in classrooms that have the facilities and space for a safe laboratory-oriented program.

  • Students need adequate space to work safely. Because of safety considerations and the individual attention needed by students in laboratories, science classes should be limited to 24 students.

  • Support diverse learners effectively, deal with gender/equity issues, model a multidisciplinary approach to learning, and exhibit a desire to be a lifelong learner.

  • Create a safe environment in which students can engage in inquiry-based science instruction in the classroom, in the laboratory, and in field settings described in the ISTA position statement Safety in the Science Classroom.

  • Apply content and skills learned in science class to students’ own experiences.

  • Connect the classroom to the community through field trips, speakers, and local partnerships.

  • Provide students with real-life experiences, such as mentoring and apprenticeships that enable them to develop an awareness of science-based careers and an understanding of how science is relevant to their lives.

  • Provide opportunities for decision-making activities (e.g., debate or research papers) and for involvement in community-based problems.

  • Promote societal goals for scientific and technological literacy.

  • Include a variety of assessment methods that can be used to evaluate overall student achievement and guide decisions about instruction and practices.


High School level:

  • Science teachers should be certified in the science they are teaching.

  • Science rooms/laboratories should be used only for science classes and science activities and should be equipped with:

    • Adequate laboratory space per student and sufficient gas, electrical, and water outlets for student laboratory activities

    • Safety equipment, as required by Idaho State law.

    • Audiovisual equipment such as an overhead projector; videocassette recorder and monitor; slide projector; and one or more computers with Internet access, plus needed software and maintenance service

    • Sufficient storage for equipment and supplies and preparation space close to the classroom

    • Support equipment such as photocopying machines, typewriters, word processors, and telephone in a nearby and accessible area

    • Textbooks for each student, laboratory guides, and references as appropriate and needed

    • Special education support adequate to safely and successfully meet the individual education plan of each inclusion student in the science classroom

Middle School level:


  • Be fully qualified to teach science in Idaho State and have a strong knowledge of science content.

  • Attain a high level of knowledge about educational research on how middle level students learn, best practices, and effective instructional strategies for middle level students, and be able to use this knowledge in the classroom.

  • Deal positively with the variability of behavior patterns of emerging adolescents.


  • Nurture curiosity about the natural world and include “hands-on, minds-on” inquiry-based science instruction.

  • Incorporate independent and cooperative group learning experiences during the study of science, and encourage informal learning experiences to support the curriculum.

  • Integrate science with other curriculum subjects in a multidisciplinary approach, such as through theme-based learning.

–Adopted by the ISTA Board
2/24/ 2007


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



Safety in the Science Classroom

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.

  • Science teachers should be scheduled in only one classroom to be able to manage the laboratory safely.

  • Science students should learn in classrooms that have the facilities and space for a safe laboratory-oriented program.

  • School districts must adopt written safety standards, hazardous material management and disposal procedures for chemical and biological wastes. These procedures must meet or exceed the standards adopted by EPA, OSHA and/or appropriate state and local agencies.

  • School authorities and teachers share the responsibility of establishing and maintaining safety standards.

  • School authorities are responsible for providing safety equipment (i.e., fire extinguishers), personal protective equipment (i.e., eyewash stations, goggles), Material Safety Data Sheets and training appropriate for each science-teaching situation.

  • School authorities will inform teachers of the nature and limits of liability and tort insurance held by the school district.

  • All science teachers must be involved in an established and on-going safety-training program, relative to the established safety procedures, which is updated on an annual basis.

  • Teachers shall be notified of individual student health concerns.

  • The maximum number of occupants in a laboratory teaching space shall be based on the following:

  1. the building and fire safety codes;

  2. occupancy load limits;

  3. design of the laboratory teaching facility;

  4. appropriate supervision and the special needs of students.

  5. ISTA recommends no more than 24 students, unless other adults are present to help supervise.

  • Materials intended for human consumption shall not be permitted in any space used for hazardous chemicals and or materials.

  • Students and parents will receive written notice of appropriate safety regulations to be followed in science instructional settings.

–Adopted by the ISTA Board
2/24/ 2007


NSTA Position Statements –Learning Conditions for High School Science and Safety and School Science Instruction.


Professional Development

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.

  • Student assessment at any level must be accompanied by on-going professional development that:

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.

  • Professional development programs should be based on student learning needs and should help science educators address difficulties students have with subject-matter knowledge and skills.

  • Professional development programs should be based on the needs of science educators—of both individuals and members of collaborative groups—who are involved in the program. Ongoing professional development initiatives should be assessed and refined to meet teachers’ changing needs.

  • To best serve all students as they learn science, professional development should engage science educators in transformative learning experiences that confront deeply held beliefs, knowledge, and habits of practice.

  • Professional development should be integrated and coordinated with other initiatives in schools and embedded in curriculum, instruction, and assessment practices.

  • Professional development programs should maintain a sustained focus over time, providing opportunity for continuous improvement.

  • Professional development should actively involve teachers in observing, analyzing, and applying feedback to teaching practices.

  • Professional development should concentrate on specific issues of science content and pedagogy that are derived from research and exemplary practice. Programs should connect issues of instruction and student learning of knowledge and skills to the actual context of classrooms.

  • Professional development should promote collaboration among teachers in the same school, grade, or subject.

  • Learning strategies should be selected that take into account the context, issues, and goals of a professional development plan. Examples of strategies that are embedded in the daily lives of teachers and linked to student learning include, but are not limited to, study groups, professional networks, action research, lesson study, and demonstration lessons.

  • Professional development programs should fit into the teachers’ schedules and include learning during the school day, after school, and over the summer. Programs should be continuously monitored and modified to meet the changing needs of teachers and students.

  • Professional conferences are integral and necessary parts of a professional development plan of a highly qualified teacher.

  • Access to professional development should be expanded so that both new and experienced teachers can benefit from national meetings and other professional development opportunities that may take place away from their own school and district.

  • Professional development is central to teaching and should be given full support by school districts and their leaders.

  • Resources of funding, time, professional materials, and ongoing support from administration should be considered.

  • Partnerships with parents, the community, scientists, university faculty, and informal science organizations should be encouraged to enhance the quality of the program and to build support for professional development and quality science education in the community.

  • Steps must be taken to build awareness of the importance of professional development, and access must be provided to educators interested in taking a leadership role.

–Adopted by the ISTA Board
2/24/ 2007


NSTA Position Statement – Professional Development in Science Education: National Congress on Science Education – 7/01CNG19, 7/04/CNG5



Teacher Professionalism

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:

  • abide by all federal, state, and local laws.

  • maintain a professional relationship with all students, both inside and outside the classroom.

  • refrain from the use of alcohol or drugs during the course of professional practice.

  • exemplify honesty and integrity in the course of professional practice.

  • honor the trust with public funds and property with a high level of honesty, accuracy, and responsibility.

  • maintain integrity with students, colleagues, parents, patrons, or business personnel when accepting gifts, gratuities, favors, and additional compensation.

  • comply with state and federal laws and local school board policies relating to the confidentiality of student and employee records, unless disclosure is required or permitted by law.

  • fulfill all terms and obligations detailed in the contract with the local board of education or educational agency for the duration of the contract.

  • report breaches of the Code of Ethics for Idaho Professional Educators and submits reports as required by Idaho Code.

  • ensure just and equitable treatment for all members of the profession in the exercise of academic freedom, professional rights and responsibilities while following generally recognized professional principles.

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:

  • Science teachers must collaborate with each other and with stakeholders to make decisions about policies and regulations for science teaching.

  • Science teachers must allocate their time among students, parents, peers, administrators, scientists, and other community members.

  • Science teachers must have both technical and staff support in order to be available for interactions with students and other stakeholders.

  • Science teachers must continue professional growth throughout their careers. They must select learning opportunities that meet their needs. They should be reflective and share research findings from both their own and their students’ experiences.

  • Science teachers should use society’s symbols such as business cards, displaying diplomas, certificates, and awards to reflect professional images.

  • Science teachers must assume responsibility for enabling learners to reach their potential. Science teachers collectively establish and continually revise standards of practice, model ethical behavior, and account for their actions.

–Adopted by the ISTA Board
2/24/ 2007


NSTA Position Statement – Science Teacher Professionalism: Idaho State Department of Education, Professional Standards Commission – Code of Ethics for Idaho Professional Educators.



The Nature of Science

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.

  • Scientific knowledge is simultaneously reliable and tentative. Having confidence in scientific knowledge is reasonable while realizing that such knowledge may be abandoned or modified in light of new evidence or reconceptualization of prior evidence and knowledge.

  • Although no single universal step-by-step scientific method captures the complexity of doing science, a number of shared values and perspectives characterize a scientific approach to understanding nature. Among these are a demand for naturalistic explanations supported by empirical evidence that are, at least in principle, testable against the natural world. Other shared elements include observations, rational argument, inference, skepticism, peer review and replicability of work.

  • Creativity is a vital, yet personal, ingredient in the production of scientific knowledge.

  • Science, by definition, is limited to naturalistic methods and explanations and, as such, is precluded from using supernatural elements in the production of scientific knowledge.

  • A primary goal of science is the formation of theories and laws, which are terms with very specific meanings.

  1. Laws are generalizations or universal relationships related to the way that some aspect of the natural world behaves under certain conditions.

  2. Theories are inferred explanations of some aspect of the natural world and the strongest statements the scientific community can make about the world. Theories do not become laws even with additional evidence; they explain laws. However, not all scientific laws have accompanying explanatory theories.

  3. Well-established laws and theories must:

  • be internally consistent and compatible with the best available evidence;

  • be successfully tested against a wide range of applicable phenomena and evidence;

  • possess appropriately broad and demonstrable effectiveness in further research.

  • Contributions to science can be made and have been made by people the world over.

  • The scientific questions asked, the observations made, and the conclusions in science are to some extent influenced by the existing state of scientific knowledge, the social and cultural context of the researcher and the observer’s experiences and expectations.

  • The history of science reveals both evolutionary and revolutionary changes. With new evidence and interpretation, old ideas are replaced or supplemented by newer ones.

  • While science and technology do impact each other, basic scientific research is not directly concerned with practical outcomes, but rather with gaining an understanding of the natural world for its own sake.

–Adopted by the ISTA Board
2/24/ 2007


NSTA Position Statements – The Nature of Science and The Teaching of Evolution.



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:

  • all teacher certification institutions require courses in the nature of science and evolution.

  • evolution be taught as an essential unifying concept in science that should be included in the K-12 curricula. Teachers of science should be supported in the teaching of evolution and the strong body of scientific evidence supporting it, and not be pressured to present nonscientific views.

  • science curricula, Idaho state science standards, and teachers should emphasize evolution in a manner commensurate with its importance as a unifying concept in science and its overall explanatory power.

  • science teachers should not advocate any religious interpretations of nature and should be nonjudgmental about the personal beliefs of students.

  • policy makers and administrators should not mandate policies requiring the teaching of “creation science” or related concepts, such as so-called “intelligent design,” “abrupt appearance,” and “arguments against evolution.” Administrators also should support teachers against pressure to promote nonscientific views or to diminish or eliminate the study of evolution.

  • Administrators and school boards should provide support to teachers as they review, adopt, and implement curricula that emphasize evolution. This should include professional development to assist teachers in teaching evolution in a comprehensive and professional manner.

  • Parental and community involvement in establishing the goals of science education and the curriculum development process should be encouraged and nurtured in our democratic society. However, the professional responsibility of science teachers and curriculum specialists to provide students with quality science education should not be compromised by censorship, pseudoscience, inconsistencies, faulty scholarship, or unconstitutional mandates.

–Adopted by the ISTA Board
2/24/ 2007


NSTA Position Statement – The Teaching of Evolution: National Congress on Science Education – 8/05CNG9, 8/05CNG10.


The Freedom to Teach and the Freedom to Learn

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
2/24/ 2007


NSTA Position Statement – The Freedom to Teach and the Freedom to Learn.


The National Science Education Standards

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:

  • Teachers, regardless of grade level, should promote inquiry-based instruction and provide classroom environments and experiences that facilitate students’ learning of science.

  • Professional development activities should involve teachers in the learning of science and pedagogy through inquiry, and integrate knowledge of science, learning, and pedagogy.

  • Teachers should continually assess their own teaching and student learning.

  • Assessment practices should be varied and focus on both achievement and opportunity to learn, be consistent with the decisions they are designed to inform, and result in sound and fair decisions and inferences.

  • Subject matter stress should be on in-depth understandings of unifying concepts, principles, and themes with less emphasis placed upon lower-level skills, such as the memorization of numerous facts.

  • Inquiry should be viewed as an instructional outcome (knowing and doing) for students to achieve in addition to its use as a pedagogical approach.

  • Science programs should provide equitable opportunities for all students and should be developmentally appropriate, interesting and relevant to students, inquiry-oriented, and coordinated with other subject matters and curricula.

  • Science programs should be viewed as an integral part of a larger educational system that should have policies that are consistent with, and support, all Standards areas and are coordinated across all relevant agencies, institutions, and organizations.

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:

  • every teacher of science and/or school building should have a copy of the National Science Education Standards.

  • schools and school districts should provide teachers with professional development activities dedicated to implementation of the Standards.

  • pre-service and in-service teacher programs should be Standards-based.

  • professional organizations in science and science education should align their efforts to support implementation of the Standards.

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
2/24/ 2007


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’:

  • understandings of science content and process knowledge and skills

  • abilities to think critically and solve simple to complex problems

  • capabilities of designing scientific experiments, analyzing data, and drawing conclusions

  • capacities to see and articulate relationships between science topics and real-world issues and concerns

  • skills using mathematics as a tool for science learning

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:

  • quality assessment for all students to promote science instruction at the elementary school level.

  • formative assessment as an essential component of appropriate science instruction.

  • the use of a variety of writing tasks as assessment tools in science for all students.

  • appropriate and responsible use of statistical analysis of state assessments to foster understanding of student achievement by media and all stakeholders.

  • positive aspects of state assessments as opportunities to improve science education and student learning (i.e. development of individual professional development plans, curriculum development/adjustment, pacing and timing of content delivery, and effective instructional strategies).

  • that teachers use clearly defined assessments that embed higher-order thinking skills and lab-based performance components that include inquiry, manipulation of materials, and problem solving skills.

  • differentiating instruction based on the authentic quantitative analysis of student achievement data.

  • high expectations for science achievement be set for all.

  • quality assessments be designed that reflect excellence in science curriculum and instruction.

  • appropriate measures be taken to ensure all learners receive the necessary academic support and resources to succeed academically and test fairly in science.

  • science curriculum, instruction, and assessment be aligned so that formative and summative assessment data are meaningful and useful to those working to increase student science achievement at all levels.

  • time be allocated to engage teachers in the science assessment creation/design process.

  • teacher professional development opportunities be offered that focus on aligning assessment with standards-based teaching.

  • multiple forms of science assessment be used to measure student achievement and understanding (e.g., student-directed experimental designs, authentic/performance assessment, portfolio construction, laboratory practicals, real world problem-based learning scenarios, writing challenges, focus group and individual student interviews).

  • selection of science assessment type and/or form of assessment implementation be adjusted on an individual basis to provide necessary accommodations for students with special needs.

  • resource allocations be adjusted to appropriately fund science curriculum-instruction-assessment alignment and subsequent science assessment implementation.

  • high-stakes science testing decisions regarding students, teachers, and schools be made based on multiple pieces of assessment data, not on single test instruments or single test administrations.

–Adopted by the ISTA Board
2/24/ 2007


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

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