Blake collaborates on National Academies’ ‘Taking Stock of Science Standards Implementation’

Dr. James Blake, director of strategic initiatives and focus programs at Lincoln Public Schools, facilitated The Role(s) of Leadership panel that is described in Chapter 4 of the proceedings, “Taking Stock of Science Standards Implementation: Proceedings
Dr. James Blake, director of strategic initiatives and focus programs at Lincoln Public Schools, facilitated The Role(s) of Leadership panel that is described in Chapter 4 of the proceedings, “Taking Stock of Science Standards Implementation: Proceedings

The Board of Science Education of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, in partnership with the Council of State Science Supervisors, hosted a public summit and webinars in late 2021 and early 2022 to take stock of the implementation of state science standards, as well as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), and determine the next steps to consider for continuing or reinvigorating implementation efforts. The summit served as a setting to consider implementation across all states and territories, identify successes and challenges, and identify areas where additional resources or work was needed. This workshop resulted in three commissioned papers and the publication of a proceedings.

Committee member Dr. James Blake, director of strategic initiatives and focus programs at Lincoln Public Schools, facilitated The Role(s) of Leadership panel that is described in Chapter 4 of the proceedings, “Taking Stock of Science Standards Implementation: Proceedings of a Virtual Summit,” as well as in the paper “Envisioning Beyond Zip Codes and Boundaries: The Systemic Work Needed to Actualize Equitable Science Education for All.” Blake spent one-and-a-half years on the planning committee for the Summit.

Download a free PDF of the proceedings at:

“Through connections with LPS, I was identified to be on the planning committee to do an audit of NGSS funded by the Gates Foundation,” Blake said. “Proceedings cannot make recommendations; it’s more of a meta-analysis. We talked to experts before the Summit, and then I developed prompts for the panelists to reflect on.”

On the committee, Blake filled the niche role of principal, and one who had experience as both a classroom teacher and state-level administrator in science. “I was able to affirm to the group how important it is for teachers to see their principals out of the buildings, getting training on reforms on science education,” he said.

Blake gathered Mike Heinz, science coordinator at New Jersey Department of Education and president of Council of State Science Supervisors; Elizabeth Mulkerrin of the Omaha Zoo and Aquarium, National Science Teaching Association president elect, and former science teacher; Gudiel Crosthwaite, superintendent of Lynwood Unified School District; Zoe Evans, principal of Bowdon High School and former science teacher; and Takako Olson, director of curriculum, Lincoln Public Schools, as the five panelists.

During the hour-long panel, in October, Blake asked, “What if we could teach for joy and fun, without standards and tests?” This phrase was said to him years ago, and he has used it as his internal compass, to think about the child’s needs first. His colleague Olson added that investigations should not just “confirm concepts” but allow students to uncover those ideas. “We talk about time a lot, but the system has to change to get the time,” Olson said.

The report emphasized that to secure high-quality curriculum resources, considerable funding is required to develop, study, and supply them in a wide range of schools and districts. Moreover, there is “no escaping the political nature of the work of promoting equity.” Blake stressed that it is critical to understand “the players and the micro politics in your area,” because even if your plans are the right thing to do, your ideas may fail without systemic support.

Blake encourages any group that would like to have a session with him on the ideas in these reports and where they came from, as well as how to incorporate them into their individual settings, to contact him at

“It’s a reflection of the nation, not just one district,” Blake said. “We need to bring equity more to the forefront. I encourage teachers and principals and curriculum specialists to get into these reports and dig into them. Have the confidence to push through these new reforms.”

There were four overarching themes from the Landscape of Implementation and The Role(s) of Leadership panels. They were: (1) quality science education is a human right; (2) we must actively work to shift our beliefs and biases to align with equity in practice; (3) a systemic approach is necessary to achieve three-dimensional learning; and (4) community partnerships should be designed to carry out the educational vision of science and STEM. Some key concepts for these themes are as follows:

• “Framing quality science education as a civil right transforms working toward better science education into an ethical imperative to increase the proficiency of Black and Indigenous students, other students of color, emergent multilingual students, girls and genderqueer students, and neurodiverse students. [It is imperative for] students to have ongoing opportunities … to participate meaningfully in learning opportunities where they apply science and engineering knowledge to answer questions related to matters of personal and community concern.”
• Four steps to shifting our biases: a) examine the data; b) have community conversations; c) act; d) examine biases, and act again.
• “As recent consensus reports have emphasized (e.g., National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, 2021b), such changes require transformations of educational infrastructures. Educational infrastructures include not only standards, curriculum, and assessments, but also policies and processes related to the preparation and hiring of educators, allocation of resources to schools, and school leadership practice (Hopkins et al., 2013).”
• Utilize actor-network diagramming, in which “leaders identify people, groups, policies, and processes that make up an actor network that accounts for existing inequities in their state science systems.” Also, pay close attention to what has been called “the zone of mediation” (Oakes et al., 1998). “The zone of mediation refers to ‘what is possible’ to propose as a policy solution, and it is a constantly shifting zone, given both internal priorities of state agencies and external circumstances. A challenge for many leaders in state agencies is to locate that zone and find ways to advocate productively within it.”

Where it is not always possible to bring racial equity to the forefront—or even equity—attention to the “zone of mediation” is key.

Blake and the workshop committee defined the specific topics to be addressed, developed the agenda, and selected and invited speakers and other participants. Its members were:

Maya M. Garcia, chair
Aneesha Badrinarayan
James A. Blake
Ravit G. Duncan
Jessica F. Henderson
Victor D. Sampson, II
Samuel D. Shaw
Tricia I. Shelton
Amy Stephens

The other two papers, “Reflection on Centering Students Experiences from Taking Stock of Science Standards Implementation A Virtual Summit,” and “Reflections on the National Academies Taking Stock of Science Standards Implementation Summit: Teacher Education and Professional Learning” can be downloaded as PDFs at


Hopkins, M., Spillane, J. P., Jakopovic, P., & Heaton, R. M. (2013). Infrastructure redesign and instructional reform in mathematics. Elementary School Journal, 114(2), 200-224.

Oakes, J., Welner, K., Yonezawa, S., & Allen, R. L. (1998). Norms and politics of equityminded change: Researching the “zone of mediation”. In A. Hargreaves, A. Lieberman, M. Fullan, & D. Hopkins (Eds.), International Handbook of Educational Change (pp. 952-975). Klewer.