No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and The Laser Model
Recently the Professional Services Division at the SSEC sat down for the second of our new Journal Club meetings. Building off of our last discussion of the SSEC's "LASER" (Leadership and Assistance for Science Education Reform) model, we read Christopher L. Miller's report "District Leadership for Science Education: Using K-12 Departments to Support Elementary Science Education under NCLB." The report was published in Science Educator in 2010 and describes the findings from case studies of two school districts' responses to the lack of emphasis on science that resulted from the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001.
The report concludes that integrated K-12 science departments can be an effective method for supporting elementary science education as an alternative to or in the absence of funding for science specialists. In the context of this case study, an integrated K-12 science department had many benefits, including the establishment of a network of shared responsibility and accountability as well as a professional learning community (PLC) to connect content experts at the secondary level with teachers lacking comfort in science.
Our group quickly picked up on the alignment of the LASER model with the system employed by the Millikan school district case study in Miller's report. Both the LASER model and the integrated K-12 science department structure highlight the importance of a shared vision and team approach to developing leadership at all levels. Furthermore, the LASER model addresses other elements necessary to a successful, sustainable science program like community support, which a K-12 department structure could also leverage. These approaches also demonstrate the importance of self-motivation to the success of the reform effort. A district developing and integrating a K-12 science department and a leadership team attending an SSEC Strategic Planning Institute both require a certain amount of initial commitment to improving K-12 science to build a foundation for success. Transforming science education is a much harder battle to fight without a few folks willing to lead the charge.
This idea of championing inquiry science education got us thinking about how to strengthen our own leadership skills. Our conversation about educational policy and NCLB reminded us of the importance of science not only as its own subject matter, but as a subject that links many other important competencies. In our daily work it can become easy to have tunnel vision focused only on science education. It's important to remember not only the acronym STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) or STEAM (which includes the Arts) but that science can also support many other subjects, including helping students to achieve NCLB's literacy goals. By working together we can increase awareness of the interconnectedness of these subject areas and improve education for all.