A nationwide group representing science teachers and a science education coalition have written to the U.S. Department of Education warning that excluding science as a top priority in new state education plans would be a mistake.
In a letter sent Thursday to Jason Botel, the department’s acting assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education, the National Science Teachers Association and the STEM Education Coalition said that the department’s recent feedback on states’ plans for the Every Student Succeeds Act improperly discourages states from using science in school accountability systems.
Last week, the department asked three states (Delaware, Nevada, and New Mexico) for additional information about their ESSA plans.
Department officials said that while Delaware’s plan includes science as an academic indicator, it appears to include only reading and math as indicators. That’s a wrong-headed approach, the science teachers group told Botel, and also contradicts statements made by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and President Donald Trump about the importance of science.
The group’s letter, written by NSTA Executive Director David L. Evans and STEM Education Coalition Executive Director James F. Brown, also says:
Fifteen years of data and experience with the No Child Left Behind Act clearly demonstrated that the law’s narrow focus on math and reading has negatively impacted science education. The time and resources devoted to science education—especially in our nation’s elementary classrooms—plummeted because science scores were not counted in many states. We have already learned the destructive lesson that “if it’s not tested, it’s not taught,” and we should not repeat past mistakes.
The groups want the department to clarify its position and ensure that its feedback to Delaware’s plan does not set a precedent.
The feedback DeVos’ agency has sent to those three states has caused a bit of a stir in education circles. However, the department moved quickly to try to assure states that their early questions and concerns did not amount to a rejection of those plans.
Read the full letter below: