Sunday, May 29, 2016

Exploring the Relationship between Secondary Science Teachers’ Subject Matter Knowledge and Knowledge of Student Conceptions While Teaching Evolution by Natural Selection (Lucero, Petrosino, and Delgado, 2016)

Hoboken Sewer Drains- 2016
I received news recently that a paper I co-authored was accepted to The Journal of Research in Science Teaching (JRST).  JRST is a very highly ranked journal in Education….not just Science Education (see Figure 1). This is related to the evolution education work I have been doing. The specific paper accepted was based in part of the dissertation by my doctoral student Margaret Lucero (who is now a professor at Santa Clara University). We have some minor revisions to make but it should be published in the Fall. I am including the abstract to the paper to give readers a rough idea of what the paper is about.It involves work that has been ongoing for the better part of 3 years. Previous papers have already been published on this work in various other journals and presented at a number of national and international research conferences.

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The fundamental scientific concept of evolution occurring by natural selection is home to many deeply-held alternative conceptions and considered difficult to teach. Science teachers’ subject matter knowledge (SMK) and the pedagogical content knowledge (PCK) component of knowledge of students’ conceptions (KOSC) can be valuable resources for helping students learn difficult science concepts such as natural selection. However, little research exists that explores the relationship between science teachers’ SMK and their KOSC on evolution by natural selection. This study explores the relationship between SMK and KOSC through the participation of four biology teachers at a single high school and thus deepens our understanding of the teacher knowledge base. Main data sources are teacher interviews in which each teacher answered SMK-type questions and predicted what their students’ most common alternative conceptions were by using the Conceptual Inventory of Natural Selection (CINS). Other data sources include student responses on the CINS and classroom observations. Findings revealed related patterns within the SMK-KOSC relationship among these teachers and suggest potential avenues for future inquiry.


Dear Drs. Lucero, Petrosino, and Delgado,

The review process of your revised manuscript, JRST-2016-03-0110, titled “Exploring the Relationship between Secondary Science Teachers’ Subject Matter Knowledge and Knowledge of Student Conceptions While Teaching Evolution by Natural Selection,” is now complete. Your manuscript has been assessed by two reviewers (one of the original reviewers, and a second reviewer who brings a fresh perspective), whose comments are included below. The reviewers feel that your manuscript has the potential to make a significant contribution to our field. Based on the reviews and our own close reading of the manuscript, we have decided to accept  the manuscript for publication in the Journal of Research in Science Teaching if you will make the following revisions....
Figure 1

Monday, May 23, 2016

Developing Student Expertise and Community: Lessons from How People Learn: New Directions for Teaching and Learning, Number 108 (J-B TL Single Issue Teaching and Learning) (No. 108) 1st Edition by Anthony J. Petrosino (Editor), Taylor Martin (Editor), Vanessa Svihla (Editor)

From the Editors- This issue of New Directions for Teaching and Learning presents research from a collaboration between learning scientists, assessment experts, learning technologists, and domain experts as part of a project with the vision of transforming education (specifically in bioengineering, but eventually in all fields) to produce adaptive expertise in students. This research is based on the model proposed in the National Research Council book, How People Learn. This model proposes a sequence of learning activities drawn from learning research that are designed to maximize the degree to which students understand and can use what they learn in meeting discipline-based challenges.

The chapters in this volume illustrate how learning scientists, assessment experts, learning technologists, and domain experts can work together in an integrated effort to develop learning environments centered on challenge-based instruction, with major support from technology. While the strategies and research illustrated in these chapters were developed in one discipline (engineering), they are applicable across disciplines that have as their goal helping students learn to think about the process of problem solving.

Here is an independent review on this book by Dr. Shannon M. Spencer from The University of Michigan.

Table of Contents

EDITORS' NOTES (Anthony J. Petrosino, Taylor Martin, Vanessa Svihla). 
1. The Emergence of a Community of Practice in Engineering Education (Yifat Ben-David Kolikant, Ann McKenna, Bugrahan Yalvac)
This chapter explores how engineering faculty and learning scientists developed a collective wisdom in order to work together to develop course materials.
2. Desegregated Learning: An Innovative Framework for Programs of Study (Arturo A. Fuentes, Robert Freeman, Stephen Crown, Javier Kypuros, Hashim Mahdi)
Too often courses exist in a vacuum, with the learning segregated into small units. This chapter discusses the effort of one group to "desegregate" their curriculum into a flow of integrated learning experiences.
3. The Development of Adaptive Expertise in Biotransport (Taylor Martin, Anthony J. Petrosino, Stephanie Rivale, Kenneth R. Diller)
The authors describe how they studied a biotransport course as a mechanism for continuous development of adaptive expertise, the ability of students to use their knowledge creatively and flexibly.
4. Establishing Experiences to Develop a Wisdom of Professional Practice (Joan M. T. Walker, Sean P. Brophy, Lynn Liao Hodge, John D. Bransford)
The authors compare the performance of first-year and senior students' perceptions of two types of instructional material focused on professionalism, with an eye toward understanding how materials may be tailored to meet the needs of first-year and advanced undergraduates.
5. Teaching Writing in a Laboratory-Based Engineering Course with a "How People Learn" Framework (Bugrahan Yalvac, H. David Smith, Penny L. Hirsch, Gülnur Birol)
This chapter discusses the effectiveness of a "How People Learn" framework used in a laboratory-based module designed to improve students' written communication skills without compromising acquisition of content knowledge.
6. Learning Content Using Complex Data in Project-Based Science: An Example from High School Biology in Urban Classrooms (David E. Kanter, Melissa Schreck)
The authors explore the extent to which project-based science can help students make sense of complex scientific data and promote deep understanding.
7. The Effect of a Bioengineering Unit Across High School Contexts: An Initial Investigation in Urban, Suburban, and Rural Domains (Stacy S. Klein, Melissa J. Geist)
The authors discuss the degree to which innovative curricula such as those developed in the VaNTH project are effective with students in different situations.
8. Implementing Learning-Science Research in University Settings: New Research Opportunities (Ann McKenna).

Monday, May 16, 2016

"Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken" Voted to Privatize Transportation "to Save Money" in 2014; Costs Escalate to $1,612,063 in 2015-16

It was just about 2 years ago when the Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken Board of Education majority decided to privatize transportation services (bus drivers and aides mostly) for the Hoboken School District. At the time, Kids First Board members said that the schools were "$2.3 million dollars underfunded" and that privatization would "save the district a great deal of money." You can read more about the context of these cuts in an article from the Hoboken Reporter entitled "63 school employees, three teachers to lose job" from May 18, 2014.

So....was money saved by eliminating the Transportation Department? Seems like a reasonable question to ask. 

Item #1- Actual Money Spent
According to the 2015 Hoboken Board of Education Audit Report:
In 2014 the HBOE spent $1,551,318 on Pupil Transportation 
(see figure 1)
In 2015 the HBOE spent $1,438,187 on Pupil Transportation 
(see figure 1)
In 2015-16 the HBOE plans on spending at least $1,612,063 on Pupil Transportation
(see Figure 2)

No money was saved....According to publicly available documents, Pupil Transportation spends the same if not more money now than 2 years ago. Unfortunately, many dedicated and competent bus drivers and aides lost their jobs. 

Figure 1: 2015 HBOE Audit Report

Figure 2: 2016-17 HBOE Budget
* anticipated costs are historically lower than revised and actual

Item #2- Year to Year Variation in Cost
When we add the total budgeted amount on Pupil Transportation from 2006 to 2016 (see Figure 1) we obtain a total sum of $17,361,721 and an average of $1,578,338 per year in non-adjusted inflation dollars. Most telling, we find a standard deviation of approximately $96,878 per year-- (plus or minus) as there is year to year variability (see Figure 3). Privatization does not seem to have changed Pupil Transportation costs beyond anything expected from normal year to year variability. Statistically, this would be indicate no significant effect of privatization on Pupil Transportation spending to date. 

Item #3- The 2014 Surplus
On December 9, 2014 the HBOE was informed they had a surplus of $1.5 million dollars 

Item #4- The 2015 Surplus
On January 19, 2016 the HBOE was informed they had a fund balance of $5.4 million dollars 

 According to publicly available documents, the HBOE is spending  roughly the same and possibly more on Pupil Transportation after privatization then it did before privatization. Certainly no different than normal variability. During the same period of time, the district has enjoyed $millions in fund balances**. 

Figure 3: Sum, Average, and SD for Pupil Transportation 2006-2015

The hard working people who made up the Transportation Department in 2014 are essentially gone from the district. No one is left to speak for them. No union. No association. But we should take a moment to remember them. And we should remember the claims of how much money would be saved by privatizing Transportation that were made by the Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken Board Majority that has yet to materialize. It is worth remembering the reality of what actually has taken place. Some have said it is not too much of a stretch to imagine similar types of arguments being used to privatize other services in the district down the road. This remains to be seen. 

According to the Hoboken Reporter, the six current Hoboken Board of Education voting members who have run under the Kids First/Reach Higher Hoboken banner are : Leon Gold, Board President Thomas Kluepfel, Board VP Jennifer Evans, Irene Sobolov, Sharyn Angley, and Monica Stromwall. 

** Of course, this makes claims of the district's looming "bankruptcy" by Leon Gold in 2014 questionable at best...misinformed and potentially misleading at worst.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Hola Dual Language Program Recognized as a Model Program by New Jersey Supervisors

HoLa's Spanish Program Wins Award--- The New Jersey Supervisors of World Languages Model Programs Initiative, designated HoLa as a model program district. HoLa will serve as a resource for other districts to witness firsthand, exemplary practices in world language instruction and assessment.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

School Budgets Approved in Most NJ Districts Holding Elections

In 2012 a number of significant changes were made to New Jersey's school districts in terms of budgets and elections. Districts were given the option of keeping elections in April or moving elections to November. Many chose to move elections to November. Although sometimes this was contentious as in a 5-4 vote that occurred in Hoboken, New Jersey.  

In addition, districts were given the option that if their budget was less than 2% higher than the previous year's budget (with some allocations), the budget would not necessarily have to be put on the ballot. For instance,  taxpayers in Hoboken, New Jersey have not had a vote on the budget for almost 4 years and have seen the total budget go from $64,300,000 for 2013-14 to $69,758,824 for 2016-17 or an 8.56% increase. During the same period of time the district K-12 enrollment (line 39 on yearly ASSA reports) has gone from 2321 students (2013-14) to 1940 students  (2016-17) or a 16.41% decrease*. 
"Under the new state law, a city council, school board, or public referendum can decide to move elections....the measure can be debated again in four years." 2/28/12
Municipal taxpayers and concerned citizens may or may not have an issue with this type of situation but, as in Hoboken, their concern will likely not be realized via the ballot box. Although the issue can now again be debated since more than 4 years have passed since the original motion was passed.   -Dr. Petrosino 

School budgets were approved in 14 of 16, more than 87 percent, of the New Jersey districts that held budget elections on Tuesday, April 19. In two districts, the spending plans were rejected.
Voters in 17 New Jersey school districts went to the polls to select members of their local school boards, and in 16 of those, voters also took action on local revenue to fund the proposed 2016-2017 school budgets. In Newark, a state-operated district,budget elections are not held.
A total of 83 candidates, half of them incumbents, ran for the 52 open seats on ballots in the 17 districts.
In the 17 districts holding elections on April 19, the ratio of candidates to open school board seats is 1.59 to 1. That figure is higher than in the November 2015 General Election when there were 1.22 candidates for each open seat statewide.
Until 2012, all of New Jersey’s school districts with elected boards of education, more than 540, held their annual elections in April. Legislation enacted that year permitted communities to move their school board elections to the General Election date in November. The vast majority of communities have done so. In the November election districts, the proposed school budget is not placed on the ballot if it is within the state’s 2 percent tax levy cap.
Statute also permits communities that opted for November elections to switch back to an April date after four years. This year, two districts, Plainfield and Asbury Park, switched from November election dates back to April.
Annual school elections took place on April 19 in the following school districts; the result of the budget election is noted after the district name:
Bergen County – Cliffside Park (Approved); Fairview (Approved); Garfield (Approved); Hackensack (Approved); Oakland (Approved); Palisades Park (Rejected).
Essex County – Irvington (Approved); Newark (a state-operated district with no budget election)
Hudson County – North Bergen (Rejected); Weehawken (Approved)Middlesex County – New Brunswick (Approved)Monmouth County – Asbury Park (Approved); Neptune Township (Approved)Morris County – Riverdale (Approved)Passaic County – Passaic (Approved); Totowa (Approved)Union County – Plainfield (Approved)
Related Links: 

*The All Residents (including charter school) number (line 51 ASSA report) has gone from 2363 students (2013-14) to 2546 students (2016-17) or an increase of 7.74%. Currently charter schools spend about $13,000 per student while the traditional Hoboken public schools spend around $26,000 per student. 

Friday, May 6, 2016

Advisory: Department of Education Announces Public Meetings to Explore Later School Start Times

Prince Henry departs Hoboken- 1902
There has been growing research concerning the need to begin the start of the school day later in the morning to allow students more time to sleep. In 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics released a statement on the topic that certainly had an impact on the topic. 
"Studies show that adolescents who don’t get enough sleep often suffer physical and mental health problems, an increased risk of automobile accidents and a decline in academic performance. But getting enough sleep each night can be hard for teens whose natural sleep cycles make it difficult for them to fall asleep before 11 p.m. – and who face a first-period class at 7:30 a.m. or earlier the next day." -American Academy of Pediatrics (2014) 
Looks like the message is finally getting through to states and districts around the country. In New Jersey, there will be a series of public meetings concerning later start times. 

Trenton, NJ – The New Jersey Department of Education (NJDOE) will hold regional public meetings to receive comments from parents, educators, students and the community on the issue of later school start times in the middle and high school grades.
Legislation calls for the NJDOE to explore the issues, benefits and options of instituting a later start time to the school day in middle school and high school. As part of its outreach, the NJDOE will conduct meetings throughout the state to elicit comment and insight from the community.
The regional meetings will be held at the following dates and locations:
Monday, May 2, 2016 – Southern Region
Camden County College, Blackwood Campus
Civic Hall (CON 105)
200 College Drive, Blackwood, NJ
4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Register for the May 2 meeting

Wednesday, May 4, 2016 – Central Region
New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, Room 1
12 Centre Drive, Monroe, NJ
11 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Register for the May 4 meeting

Tuesday, May 10, 2016 – Northern Region
Franklin Williams Middle School auditorium
222 Laidlaw Avenue, Jersey City
4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Register for the May 10 meeting
Free parking is available at all three locations.
Online registration is being taken to present oral testimony. Space is limited, and registrants will be accepted on a first-come, first-served basis. Those accepted to present oral testimony will be granted three minutes for their presentations in order to ensure that all participants can be heard. Speakers are asked to bring printed copies of their remarks to the meetings, as testimony will not be recorded.

Citizens who want to provide input but cannot attend the regional meetings may provide comments and suggestions to the NJDOE through May 20 via email at or by mailing comments to: New Jersey Later School Start Time, c/o Division of Learning Supports and Specialized Services, New Jersey Department of Education, PO Box 500, Trenton, New Jersey 08625-0500.

Citizens are asked to describe how a school start time of 8:30 a.m. or later would affect them as it relates to their position as a student, parent, teacher, school administrator, coach, counselor, citizen, or other. The public testimony will be considered for incorporation into a report that the NJDOE will submit to the Governor and Legislature with a recommendation on whether to establish a pilot program to test later school start times.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

31st Semi-Annual UTeach Recognition Dinner

I attended the UTeach Recognition Dinner recently. The dinner is in recognition of this semester's graduating students from the College of Natural Sciences who will be certified high school teachers. This is the 31st dinner (two a year, one at the end of the Fall and the end of the Spring semesters). 

UTeach is now a nationally recognized program with over 5300 secondary STEM teachers across the country. It has been acknowledged by the White House as an exemplary secondary pre-service STEM teacher preparation program and is currently at 44 sites around the country. UTeach is part of a national strategy for expanding the number of highly trained and qualified secondary STEM teachers (click here for the 2013 press release by the President's Office

UTeach allows students to graduate in four years with both deep content knowledge in their major and a teaching certification. Ninety-two percent of UTeach graduates have become teachers, and 82 percent are still in the classroom after five years. I am a co-founder of the original UTeach Program and have been active in the replication efforts. 

Projections indicate that, by 2018, UTeach-like programs around the country will have produced an estimated 7,000 new math and science teachers, and those teachers will have affected more than one million students by 2017 and more than 20 million during the course of the new teachers' careers.

At The University of Texas at Austin, UTeach has graduated more than 800 students, and has more than doubled the number of math majors and increased by six times the number of science majors being certified as teachers at the university.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Claims of Bankruptcy Ring Hollow As the Hoboken District Enjoys a $5.4 Million Dollar Fund Balance for Fiscal Year 2015

Hoboken's WWII Memorial
Photo credit: Anthony Johnson/CaptureTheSunrise
On January 16, 2016 the Hoboken Board of Education was informed by their accountant and auditor that the district had a fund balance of $5,400,000 for fiscal year 2015. It must be confusing to the pubic to believe their school district is going bankrupt when that district is told they have a fund balance of over $5.4 million dollars. This would appear to be counter intuitive since financing and "adequate funding" is a key argument in the district's lawsuit against the renewal and expansion of the Hola Dual Language School. Worth noting that the fiscal year before, the Hoboken Board of Education was informed they had a fund balance of $1,500,000. It is hard to imagine how a district is going bankrupt with a fund balance that grows in the millions of dollars yearly. 
"But essentially, the expansion of HoLa from 245 students to eventually 405 students is bankrupting us …" -Hoboken Board of Education president and Kids First member Leon Gold (3/13/2014)

Audit Report for Fiscal Year 2015 indicating $5,400,000 fund balance (January 2016)
(short video)


Audit Report for Fiscal Year 2014 indicating $1,500,000 fund balance (December, 2014)
(short video)

Teacher Appreciation Week - National Science Foundation

1969 HHS Redwing Football Team 
I received this letter from the Program Director from National Science Foundation (NSF) to distribute to the teachers I work with or have worked with over the years with funding from the NSF. NSF has helped and made possible such projects as UTeach Engineering, the STEM Education Center, NOYCE Grants, UTeach Natural Sciences, UTeach Computer Science, Beyond Blackboards, VaNTH ERC as well as other projects I have been involved with as an Advisory Board member or to assist with internal/external evaluation. To all those teachers--- the NSF recognizes the many wonderful STEM teachers during Teacher Appreciation Week.

Dear Dr. Petrosino MSP PI,

During this particular week, we want to acknowledge and celebrate the amazing commitment and profound work of STEM teachers with whom you work or have worked.

Therefore, we strongly encourage you to share this letter, from the Assistant Director of the Directorate for Education and Human Resources here at the National Science Foundation, Joan Ferrini-Mundy, with every teacher of STEM content, elementary, middle or high school, with whom you have or are working, especially those that have been engaged at any time in the Math and Science Partnership effort.

Feel free to e-mail the letter or hand-deliver it if you have the opportunity.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to recognize this wonderful pool of dedicated STEM teachers.

I also want to commend you for the significant contribution you are making and have made in providing outstanding STEM teachers to classrooms across the United States.

All the best,


Program Director
Division of Undergraduate Education
National Science Foundation
Suite 865
4201 Wilson Blvd
Arlington, VA  22230
Direct 703-292-5171
Fax 703-292-9322

Our youth should not be shackled by limiting adult perceptions of their potential, but rather adults should ensure that our youth own the mathematical and scientific knowledge, dispositions and skills that will allow them to explore the post-secondary options of their choosing, in the near and long-term.  It's about preparation, opportunity, and options for all.  -K Bergin