OpenSciEd Is Currently Being Field-Tested at High School
TAUNTON — Superintendent John Cabral, Science Curriculum Coordinator Elizabeth Pawlowski, Taunton High School Principal Scott Holcomb and Friedman Middle School Principal Danielle Coute are pleased to announce that the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and StandardsWork recognized Taunton Public Schools for implementing the high-quality instructional materials (HQIM) curriculum, OpenSciEd.
Representatives from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and StandardsWork visited Taunton Public Schools in September as part of their #CurriculumMattersMA and Knowledge Matters Campaigns. This visit highlighted the work of Taunton Public Schools, which was an early adopter of the evidence-based science HQIM curriculum and a field test district for the state.
“We were deeply impressed by what we saw during our visit to Taunton Public Schools. Among our favorite moments was when students told us how much more engaged they were in science than they’d ever been before,” President of StandardsWork, Inc. and Executive Director of Knowledge Matters Campaign Barbara Davidson said.
In order for a curriculum to be deemed HQIM, it has to pass a strict review process by a third-party instructional material consulting organization such as EdReports or NextGen. The materials must be rigorous, aligned to grade-level standards and practices, and easy to use while meeting all the needs of students and promoting equitable classroom experiences.
DESE approached Taunton Public Schools three years ago asking if the district would be interested in piloting an OpenSciEd curriculum in its middle schools. As such, Taunton Public Schools was one of the first early adopters of the OpenSciEd curriculum, which is now being used in 24 districts around the state.
“Our middle school educators were instrumental in shaping OpenSciEd’s national curriculum movement, with our educators even helping to develop modified remote lessons to be used throughout the country during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Science Curriculum Coordinator Pawlowski said. “We truly stand by this HQIM curriculum as it is much more motivating for students because they feel as if they are in charge of their learning and they are gaining knowledge by participating in a learning community of their peers.”
OpenSciEd is a student-focused curriculum that helps teachers guide students to solve problems through questioning, modeling, investigations and examining evidence through structured routines. As part of the curriculum, each unit begins with students experiencing a novel real-world phenomenon together. The teacher then leads them through protocols and eventually, the class creates a driving question board summarizing their ideas. These ideas represent how they want to learn about and understand the science behind the phenomenon. The teacher then uses that board to plan instruction.
Because the curriculum honors student thinking and reasoning and welcomes all students’ contributions to the classroom, OpenSciEd is highly inclusive and culturally responsive. Instead of using science vocabulary and jargon, which can often hinder ESL students’ learning, the curriculum is very English-learner forward with students’ cultural knowledge at the forefront of most discussions. With this curriculum, students are driving instruction, sharing and showing what they know, and, since they are designing activities, they are invested in the process and results which fosters more authentic engagement.
“OpenSciEd provides a unique opportunity for all students, regardless of their backgrounds, to have equal access to high-quality instructional materials. Many times, girls and minorities exit the scientific world at an early age whereas their male counterparts continue to excel. However, through OpenSciEd, the playing field is leveled for all students,” Principal Coute said. “The days of memorizing facts and passing tests are long gone. As we prepare our students for a post-COVID world, our students are authentically learning about real-life phenomena. Students are eager to learn about the world around them, which ultimately will create lifelong learners. As our students solidify their scientific thinking, they are poised to become leaders within the scientific community.”
Currently, all of Taunton Public Schools’ middle school teachers have been trained in at least one OpenSciEd unit and by the end of 2023, all teachers are expected to be trained in all units. This has been made possible by a generous grant from the One8 Foundation.
“I would like to recognize the teachers; administrators; parents; school committee members; and especially our Science Curriculum Coordinator Pawlowski, Assistant Superintendent Chris Baratta, and principals Coute and Holcomb for their support of OpenSciEd,” Superintendent Cabral said. “Taunton Public Schools is at the forefront of a nationwide shift centered on providing students with HQIM and to date, it’s been a success in all the courses it’s been implemented in. We have supported our teachers as they make the shift to this new way of teaching science in the middle school grades and, as a result, we have seen tremendous improvements in our student engagement and achievement.”
Over the next three years, the high school will also be field testing two or three OpenSciEd draft units to assist developers with perfecting the curriculum in the areas of biology, chemistry, physics and elementary science units. This process will mirror the process that the middle school conducted three years prior.
“As a former high school science teacher, I love that the hands-on discovery method OpenSciEd offers moves the student beyond manipulatives and immerses them into a blended minds-on and hands-on experience focusing on higher-order thinking skills,” Principal Holcomb said. “The superior learning experience offered by OpenSciEd will lead to a greater understanding of science concepts promoting long-term retention while being applicable to other domains beyond science. I am excited at the opportunity this affords our high school students.”
Massachusetts is a partner state in the OpenSciEd Consortium and has supported and guided the development of the materials since its inception. During a span of three years, more than 80 middle school educators have piloted the materials and provided feedback to the developers. To learn more about the OpenSciEd Consortium, click here.
About the Knowledge Matters Campaign
The Knowledge Matters Campaign is a project of StandardsWork, a non-profit advocacy organization whose mission is to “find the good and praise it.” The campaign garners national awareness for the importance of building students’ background knowledge of the world through high-quality literacy instruction. To date, the Knowledge Matters School Tour has visited over 20 districts across the country whose implementation of high-quality, knowledge-building curricula is considered by the campaign to be praiseworthy.