State Boards of Ed. Group Launches Science-Standards Initiative

By Erik W. Robelen — March 08, 2013 3 min read
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With a final version of the “next generation” science standards expected to come out this month, the National Association of State Boards of Education is gearing up for a year-long initiative to provide its members with “information, analysis, and resources” about the new standards, according to a press release.

NASBE is getting a $319,000 grant from the Carnegie Corporation of New York for this work. It’s worth noting that Carnegie also has been the major funder for the development of the science standards, a partnership of 26 “lead states” as well as experts in science and science education. (Full disclosure: Carnegie also supports Education Week‘s coverage of business and innovation.)

The NASBE press release seems to signal that the question is not so much whether states should adopt the standards (which again are still not finished), but how they can build broad-based support for the standards and prepare for changes in their systems to successfully implement them, including professional development, assessments, and teacher licensure.

That said, it’s certainly not a given that all states will adopt the standards. (Adoption decisions in many, but not all, states are the purview of state boards of education.) The 26 lead states have agreed to “give serious consideration” to adopting the standards “as presented.” In January, I wrote about the prospects for widespread adoption. This, of course, involves considerable speculation. For one, we still do not have a final product. But certainly the gist of the standards is pretty clear. And my impression was that a lot of states may well sign on, though probably fewer than the 45 who adopted the common-core math standards and 46 who adopted common-core for English/language arts. In calling around, I came across a number of non-lead states, including Florida and Louisiana, who indicated that they were also planning to seriously consider the new standards.

“State education policymakers, like many others, are working hard to answer the national call for greater emphasis on science, and the Next Generation Science Standards will provide them with a critical tool to do this,” said NASBE Deputy Executive Director Brad Hull in the press release. During the year, NASBE “will host regional symposia at which state board of education members can develop adoption plans and conduct policy audits to identify other policy areas affected by the [standards].”

(The challenge of the “greater emphasis” issue was reinforced recently by new survey data indicating that only one in five K-3 classrooms teach science every day. Averaged across a week, they spend just 19 minutes a day on science.)

Top priorities in the development of the common standards include: promoting depth over breadth in science education; ensuring greater coherence in learning across grade levels; and helping students understand the cross-cutting nature of crucial concepts that span scientific disciplines. Another aim is for students to apply their learning through scientific inquiry and the engineering-design process to deepen understanding.

Here are a few additional resources from the EdWeek archives (including this blog) to better understand the standards and recent reaction to them.

• An overview of the second and final public draft, and early reaction;

• A sharp critique from science and math experts assembled by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute;

• Some pushback from the engineering community on the second draft;

• Reaction from several content-specific groups;

What is college- and career-readiness in science? and

Who is writing the “next generation” science standards?

Stay tuned for more coverage, especially once the standards are released.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.