All Standards, All Students: Students from major racial and ethnic groups
As of 2011, over 75% of the students scoring above proficient in 8th grade Science nationally and here in San Francisco were white and Chinese. Nationally, 34% of the students proficient or above were Black and Latino. Almost 20% of SFUSD’s students are Latino and 8% are African American. Among these students, 43% of Latinos and 30% of African Americans scored proficient or above. This gap persists throughout the grades.
The key strategies for raising the achievement level of African-American and Latino students in order to close the achievement gap in Science are:
- Culturally relevant pedagogy.
- community involvement and social activism.
- multiple representation and multimodal experiences. (By this, the authors mean teachers could make use of different media, like articles, technology, and music to deliver content. They could then use multiple means of helping students learn the material including kinesthetic strategies.)
- school support systems including role models and mentors of similar racial or ethnic backgrounds.
An 8th grade Science classroom was the focus for this NGSS case study. Students were studying the cycle of matter and the flow of energy in local ecosystems. Through a series of observations, models they created, and small and large group discussions, the students were going to be evaluating alternative energy sources.
Throughout the unit, the teacher made use of multiple modes of information transfer and continually brought the material back to her students’ lives. She started with a guest speaker and slideshow from an ecologist who had been in Nigeria. The teacher then used a multi-media presentation on the carbon cycle, and handed out corn chips to the class for the debrief. Each activity was either in small groups or a whole-class discussion after small group work. After some in-class discussion of corn, ethanol and high fructose corn syrup, the teachers assigned homework that involved students going through the food in their houses to see what had corn in it.
Their findings became the basis of an in-class discussion about using corn for food versus fuel. To conceptualize the differences between matter, fuel and energy, she used kinesthetic activities in which students holding a vocabulary card walked to the linking idea using yarn to draw a human picture of the concept. The students summarized “what they found most meaningful.” Some students wrote a rap, others a short play. A third group held a panel discussion. The last piece of their work was an assignment in which they wrote about what made the unit important in their lives.
Regarding Strategy 4 mentioned above, several students in the class were benefitting from participation in an AVID class to help them develop their learning skills.
For more details about the relationship of the specific strategies to the NGSS standards, view the entire case study.
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