Pennsylvania’s education system saw major changes in 2022 with the adoption new learning goals for grades K–12 known as the Science, Technology, Engineering, Environment Literacy and Sustainability (STEELS) standards.

To prepare students for this shift in the classroom, education leaders are investing in their science programs by launching another year of work in the Pennsylvania Science Education Leaders (PennSEL) Network, a group of regional teams working to transform science teaching and learning across the commonwealth.

The PennSEL Network was launched in 2021 by NextGenScience, a project dedicated to advancing quality science education at the nonprofit agency WestEd. NextGenScience worked with local leaders to launch the Network in anticipation of the new STEELS standards in all 29 of Pennsylvania’s regional education offices, or Intermediate Units (IUs).

The network engages teams in learning, strategic planning, and project implementation to create science programs that support all students to meet the STEELS standards, which call for students to use science to make sense of the world around them and design solutions to problems.

Jenn Hoffman, Learning Design and College and Career Development Specialist at Oley Valley School District and PennSEL Network member says, “This is an incredibly effective set of workshops for planning strategies for our PennSEL team, but also for developing strategies for my district and being able to be a leader to other schools in my area around new science standards implementation.”

Network participants are preparing as leaders to update the many pieces affected by new statewide learning goals, such as curriculum, professional learning for teachers, and school policies. Hoffman from Oley Valley School District continued, “The information is valuable, timely, effective, and largely replicable, making it a relevant and meaningful use of my time. In every case, I have been able to quickly turn the information and learnings from PennSEL Network sessions into actionable progress at my school.”

The PennSEL Network is made possible with support from Arconic Foundation and the Grable Foundation. “Investing in the capacity of educators and school districts to thoughtfully design and implement science curriculum will pay dividends for Pennsylvania’s students for years to come,” said Ryan Kish, Arconic Foundation President and Treasurer. “The PennSEL Network is equipping educators with the tools they need to embrace the new state-wide science learning goals with locally-designed solutions that work best for their community and district.”

One goal of the PennSEL Network is to provide support to begin the key strategies needed to launch this work. Each PennSEL Network team is eligible to receive $20,000 in grant funds and guidance to begin enacting their plans in key areas such as:

  • building a shared vision for science instruction in their community,
  • establishing a science leadership council,
  • supporting teams to evaluate and select high-quality instructional materials,
  • building teacher leader and administrator capacity, and
  • boosting capacity to design effective learning opportunities for school and district-based educators.

The work will prepare Pennsylvania students for the revised state science assessments expected to be released in the 2025–26 school year.

Register for a February 22 webinar in which members of the PennSEL Network will share key pieces of their work and lessons learned here.

About NextGenScience at WestEd

In April 2020, NextGenScience launched at WestEd to support educators with the implementation of rigorous science standards across the nation. The project brings together expertise in classroom teaching, learning design, science leadership, and policy analysis. The team was formerly part of Achieve — the nonprofit organization that coordinated the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) in 2013 and led efforts to improve the design, selection, and implementation of high-quality science curricula and assessments. At WestEd, NextGenScience works alongside educators to design quality, coherent programs that align science standards, instructional materials, professional learning, and assessments.