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January 22, 2013 3 min read
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| NEWS | CURRICULUM MATTERS

Science Draft Tackles College Readiness

With all the talk in education circles these days about “college and career readiness,” it may come as little surprise that the issue is now being raised in the context of the common standards for science under development.

In fact, an appendix to the draft of the Next Generation Science Standards issued this month takes a stab at defining the concept. The document suggests that while college and career readiness may be familiar terrain in mathematics and English/language arts, that’s not the case for science.

To address the matter, the nonprofit group Achieve (which is helping to oversee development of the new science standards) convened experts in scientific disciplines, science education, and workforce readiness to explore the matter. They sought to take into account the context provided as a result of the common-core standards, while “acknowledging the unique nature of science and its increasingly critical role in the future of our society and economy,” the appendix says.

The draft identifies five dimensions of readiness, such as an ability to apply science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas to make sense of the world and approach problems not previously encountered.

One thorny issue with college and career readiness is the blending of those two dimensions into one definition. Does someone really need the same skills and knowledge for a career as for college? (The draft references a definition of “career ready” from the Common Core State Standards that is focused on “preparation for entry-level positions in quality jobs and career pathways that often require further education and training.”) Suffice to say that some experts question this premise.

Leaving that issue aside, the appendix points to some significant differences between the definitions for science, and math and English/language arts. It notes that research on the latter is “quite robust,” but it is “still primitive” when it comes to the former content.

In fact, one challenge for science is that some measures often used for defining readiness don’t apply in this subject. The appendix says that with the common-core standards, “college ready” indicates preparation for credit-bearing coursework in two- or four-year institutions without the need for remediation and with a strong chance for earning credit toward a degree.

So, what’s the problem? Most students enroll directly in credit-bearing courses in science because there are no real alternatives. Also, most postsecondary options don’t include a placement test to determine the appropriate level of science course to enroll in. As I noted on this blog the other day, on the college side, the appendix makes clear that higher education is moving beyond an emphasis on learning content. “A transformation in college science education is under way, informed by how students learn,” it says."[W]hat is taught will be much more than content. College science and engineering education will tend toward disciplinary intersections, focus on core concepts, and integrate practices into instruction.”

As with the latest draft standards themselves, the appendix on college and career readiness (one of 11 appendices!) is also considered a draft, and organizers are inviting feedback to help revise it.

—Erik W. Robelen

| NEWS | CHARTERS & CHOICE

D.C. Law Tops Charter List

The Center for Education Reform has released its 14th annual scorecard on charter school laws.

The District of Columbia came in first as having the strongest of the nation’s 43 charter laws, earning an A. Other A-rated states were Minnesota, Indiana, and Michigan. Nine states earned a B, 16 states earned a C, and 11 states earned D and F grades.

Kansas, Iowa, Virginia, and Mississippi earned Fs.

States were ranked based on whether or not they have independent charter authorizers, and an appeal process for rejected charter applications, how much operational autonomy charters have, whether or not there is a cap on the number of charters, the amount of student and facility funding provided to charters, and how they have implemented the laws.

Jeanne Allen, the president of the Center for Education Reform, which supports charter schools, said the scorecard shows only “satisfactory progress.”

“In the past two years, we’ve seen two new charter laws but both are average in their construction, unlikely to yield large numbers of successful charter schools, and only minimal state improvements,” she said in a press release.

—Katie Ash

A version of this article appeared in the January 23, 2013 edition of Education Week as Blogs of the Week

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