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Science Education in Wisconsin

A Vision for Science Education

BeakerIn a world of continual innovation and discovery, students across Wisconsin must have the ability to apply scientific thinking, skills, and understanding to real-world phenomena and problems. Therefore, student learning must include experiences requiring that type of work. Our students, our communities, and our state need scientifically literate citizens who can make informed decisions, help manage our abundant resources, and move our economy forward.

NRC K-12 Science Framework Cover ImageThe National Research Council issued A Framework for K-12 Science Education (2012), succinctly laying out an expectation for high school graduates that we have adopted as the vision for science education in Wisconsin:  “[By] the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues; are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives; are able to continue to learn about science outside school; and have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering, and technology.” Educators should work with their colleagues and communities to create their own visions for science education based on their unique contexts.

New WI Standards for Science Released

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction went through a transparent and comprehensive process for reviewing and revising our academic standards in science. We are now pleased to announce that the State Superintendent has decided to adopt the proposed new standards for K-12 science education. Thank you to the writing committee and members of the public for the extensive assistance and feedback we received. 

Resources for Science Educators

  • Science Assessment - provides resources for effective classroom science assessment aligned to the NGSS, strategies for creating strategic systems of assessment, and details about our state assessment system
  • Science Standards - page provides links to the standards as well as appendices to support implementation
  • Statewide STEM Professional Development Calendar - includes all STEM subjects, can be filtered by science, math, engineering, student opportunities, etc.
  • Elementary Science Resources - ideas on the why and how of implementing elementary science
  • Science Disciplinary Literacy - links to resources and learning curated and created by Wisconsin educators
  • Social Media Connections - has links to the DPI science blog, twitter account, Google+ community, and archives of past resource/opportunity emails
  • Science Equivalency - information and links related to having a CTE course count for science credit
  • Science Inquiry - a new report from DPI and the American Institutes for Research/MWCC detailing changing notions of scientific inquiry, particularly noting how there is no set "scientific method" and what inquiry looks like in the NGSS
  • Evaluating Science Materials - a few tools and ideas to support work in evaluating instructional materials

Current State of Wisconsin Science Education Policy (updated November 16, 2017)

Standards - The state has now adopted new science standards. Notably, school districts have local control over what standards they choose to adopt and use. With over 300 districts across the state using the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), our new WI standards built from the NGSS and include the same main three dimensions of disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts. 

Of course, standards are only guidelines for instruction and not a panacea for change; moving toward research-based instructional practices requires ongoing, collaborative work among professionals.  

State Assessments – See the new web pages on science assessment for further information and a new Forward Exam set of practice items (scenario-based). 

The Forward Exam tests students in grades 4 and 8 in science. In spring of 2018 it will include traditional multiple-choice items and two sets of 3-5 items that go along with a scenario and require more in-depth use of science and engineering practices. By spring 2019, previous items will be fully replaced with items aligned to the new Wisconsin Standards for Science (WSS) that are more reflective of science and engineering practices. As we create these items, we are building from the new Wisconsin Standards for Science at grade 4 and grades 6-8, though these elements will also connect to the Next Generation Science Standards  at these grades, as most districts across the state are already using those standards. The best preparation for state science exams will be effective, inquiry-based science instruction from K-12, not a contrived focus on particular topics or an emphasis on practice questions.

The administration of the ACT in grade 11, which includes a science test, will be used as the accountability measure in science at the high school level. Science is part of the ASPIRE tests at grades 9 and 10, but the accountability for science will only be at the 11th grade as assessed in the ACT. 

For questions about this information, contact Kevin Anderson (608) 266-3319