Challenging the science status quo
Last Friday, Achieve released the first draft (of three) of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), an attempt to create “common,” multi-state standards for that critical subject. Using a framework developed by the National Research Council (and reviewed fairly favorably by Fordham last fall), experts from twenty-six states worked with Achieve to draft the new standards, said to be “rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally-benchmarked science education.” It remains to be seen whether these common standards will avoid the pitfalls that plague too many state standards (Fordham will offer its own feedback to the drafters in a few weeks). "Commonness" alone doesn't guarantee they will be better than the status quo. Still, this is an important step in a multi-year process that, done properly, may significantly alter U.S. science education. The timing is right because, regardless of how the NGSS drafts stack up, something needs to change. Our recent study of state science standards revealed a dismal situation: A majority of states received a D or F grade in the review, with the national average a low C. By this time next year, when the third and final draft of the NGSS is supposed to be ready, states will be able to determine whether they're better or worse than what they have today. For far too many, they could scarcely be worse. Meanwhile, NAEP science scores have barely budged and U.S. results on international science assessments remain middling at best.
“Public Gets Glimpse of Science Standards,” by Erik Robelen, Education Week, May 11, 2012.