Equality with the NGSS involves access. It's getting everyone to the (lab) table, allowing everyone access to 3-dimensional phenomena-based science education. NCLB has created some equality issues with its emphasis on testing in reading and math. There are classrooms where science is marginalized. Fortunately, I don't have those issues in my school. We provide high quality science to all of our students, and we're working to make the 3-dimensional phenomena-based. However, equity is another matter.
I heard/understood/developed this definition of equity through the session. Equity is giving everyone the opportunity to make sense of the science. It's providing the scaffolding needed to make sure everyone has a chance to "figure it out." This is where I began to struggle last year and am continuing the productive struggle. Too often, I (and I assume others) do a great job making sure everyone has access to the science learning experiences, but in our follow-up discussions, we allow a few students to share what they "figured out" and then release all of the other students from the expectation that they, too, should be figuring it out.
I shared this issue with my PLC this year (before the Board on Science Education helped me realize that it's an equity issue) to see if we could come up with some solutions. We developed a few ideas. First, we decided that it is important to develop a culture where it is expected that all students will be actively processing the learning experiences they are engaged in. This requires developing a culture of trust so that students know it's okay to not get the "right answer." It also requires holding students accountable for their own thinking. This means that there are times during the learning experience that all students are going to have to put their thinking down on paper BEFORE they discuss with peers or the class. Since conversations with colleagues help us all to process, it will also be important to capture how students' thinking changes during peer or whole-group discussions. Students may not be used to this and may resit keeping evidence of their "rough draft thinking" after they have developed a better explanation of the phenomenon. This is a pitfall that we'll have to work through by assuring students that it's what scientists (and students) do. We might even bring in examples from the journals of famous scientists showing their initial ideas and "final drafts."
As you use the summer to rest and reflect, take some time to think about equality and equity. What steps can you take this upcoming year to make sure that not only all of your students have access to science instruction, but that they also have the opportunity to do their own sense-making?