Will Florida Adopt the Common Science Standards?

By Erik W. Robelen — June 05, 2013 2 min read
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Florida is inviting public comments on the Next Generation Science Standards as part of its effort to decide on whether to adopt them, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

Although Florida was not one of the 26 “lead state partners” to help develop the standards, it has been following the process closely, and the state even submitted comments on early drafts. In a story earlier this year, I reported that Florida officials were expected to seriously consider adoption. The Sentinel said education Commissioner Tony Bennett was “noncommittal” when asked about the matter last month, explaining that the state was “still evaluating the standards.”

Rhode Island is the only state to adopt the standards so far since they were issued in final form in April. However, several other states may do so in coming weeks, including Maine and Kentucky. Although it seems safe to say that most, if not all, the lead state partners will eventually adopt the standards, the big question is how many other states will also sign on. As I reported in my story earlier this year, quite a few other states were keeping close tabs on their development.

There are some potential complications in Florida, including how the standards treat evolution and climate change, two topics that may prove politically contentious in the Sunshine State. The Orlando Sentinel reminds us that Florida went through what it called a “bruising fight over evolution” during the 2007-08 school year, when it first adopted science standards that require the teaching of evolution.

I would not be surprised if Florida officials also are awaiting the results of an expected review of the standards by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative-leaning Washington think tank. I know that Florida officials were stung by Fordham’s original grade of D for the state’s own science standards in 2012. However, Fordham, after further consideration and analysis, decided to raise the grade to a middling C.

Fordham is expected to grade the Next Generation Science Standards and also offer some kind of comparative look in relation to individual state standards. Fordham’s early signals are that the think tank is not looking very favorably on the science standards for several reasons, including concern about science content that is excluded and the strong focus on the practices of science and engineering risks overshadowing the learning of core knowledge.

UPDATED (2:35 p.m.)
I just learned that Alabama, which is not among the 26 lead states to develop the common science standards, is not ruling out adoption. A blog from the Birmingham News quotes the state’s education superintendent Tommy Bice on the matter.

“Are we going to look at those standards? Absolutely, we are,” he told the newspaper’s higher education reporter, adding that an ad hoc committee to recommend potential changes to Alabama’s science standards will review every state’s standards and “anything else that’s out there.”

Of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that Alabama is high on the list of states with significant political blowback against the Common Core State Standards. It’s also a safe bet that issues like the teaching of climate change and evolution might spark considerable debate there.

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