This past Monday was an experience I wish all parents of public school students and their fellow community members could have witnessed. It was a remarkable spectacle of dozens of science educators, curriculum coordinators and administrators from every region of New Hampshire (including a few postsecondary faculty) collaborating enthusiastically and thoughtfully on how to improve science education for all schools in our state. Outside distractions were checked at the door and an analytical and energetic mindset was put forth in the process of determining what was best for New Hampshire educators to meet their students’ science education needs.
Every eight years there is a New Hampshire Science Credentialing Standards review. This is an analysis of the current state standards for credentials in science to determine if necessary changes need to be made. This year is that year, and it just so happens that it coincides with the initiation of the new NH Career & College Ready Science Standards. You can read about the adoption of these new standards HERE.
Considering these new standards are different from our state’s previous K-12 Curriculum Frameworks for Science in that they are designed to address the pedagogical and scientific advances over the past several years, as well as provide deepened inquiry experiences for students at all grade levels, it is imperative that the state standards for credentials be examined and adjusted where appropriate.
What are the state standards for credentials? They are the standards that have been established to determine whether or not a candidate attempting to receive an educator license has the appropriate knowledge and skills. When investigating the state standards for credentials for incoming educators, current educators of Monday’s standards review worked diligently to determine the changes that needed to be made and mindfully considered each word of each modification and addition. This review is necessary in ensuring that the candidates that are being accepted for educator certification are specifically qualified for those teaching positions. Suggested changes could also help to define direction for professional development opportunities for our current science teachers.
One position’s certification standards that are being closely examined are that of the elementary teacher. Although the elementary education certification requirements are not up for review this year, they were still meticulously inspected by a subcommittee of committed elementary educators. This was done so that a full review of all science involved teaching credentials could be accomplished and with the active engagement of experts at all primary, elementary and secondary levels.
The subcommittee that I had the privilege to be a part of looked at the current certification standards as well as the possibility of creating the standards for an elementary science specialist certification. This examination was done in order to take the first steps toward adjusting the credentialing standards so that new elementary educators are more prepared to teach science (as college education programs must also adjust to meet the preparation requirements set forth by the state) at the elementary level. The potential proposal of an elementary science specialist position would be another strong effort toward bolstering science education in our state.
Monday’s Subcommittee of the Professional Standards Board (led by Barbara Hopkins, our state’s new Director of Science Education, and William Ross, Education Consultant of NH’s Department of Education) took into account several aspects before making any suggestion of change, including the different challenges each region of New Hampshire faces, as well as the various compositions of schools and districts throughout the state. There are still two more meetings scheduled and a lot of collaboration in between before this committee completes their recommendations to the Professional Standards Board, who in turn review and recommend to the NH State Board of Education for approval. Still, this first meeting was a tremendous first step toward strengthening NH’s science credentialing standards and securing a stronger science education future for our children.