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Education Think-Tank Organization Cautions Against Science Standards

MC1 Charlemagne Obana
A Washington DC-based education think tank is warning states like Kentucky that the new science standards they're adopting are less effective than they could be.
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute released a report earlier this year giving the new standards a “C” grade. At the same time it gave Kentucky’s current standards a “D” grade. The report says neither set of standards are as effective as other model states, like Massachusetts and South Carolina, which are used in the report as comparisons. Earlier this year, the Kentucky Board of Education approved the Next Generation Science Standards that were developed by 26 states. The standards update what students should learn in science and have been backed by several in the scientific community. But the Fordham Institute says there are deficiencies in the commonwealth’s current standards, and that the new standards are also deficient.  For example, the report says:

"A scaffold exists for what might have been an effective set of standards. But the documents are so short on details—including critical content—that the standards fail to provide the backbone for a rigorous K–12 science curriculum."

The report also says of the NGSS:

"The NGSS fall short of excellence in several ways, including: overemphasis on practices over essential content; omission of much essential content; failure to integrate mathematics content that is essential to science learning; and use of “assessment boundaries” that put arbitrary ceilings on the content that will be assessed (and therefore taught) at each grade."

Fordham President Chester E. Finn Jr. says there are a few states, including Washington D.C., that already have good science standards in place, and states like Kentucky should look to them for help. He adds states must decide if they’ll implement the standards as is, or choose to supplement the content with areas they find defective. “Most states have their hands full with the common core [standards] in English and math and so a question that we pose for state officials is as you think about changing your science standards at the same time, do you have the bandwidth, the organizational capacity, to do that too.” Finn poses this question to Kentucky's education leaders. “Do state officials in Kentucky also want to provide some of the content that we find missing in the NGSS and deal with some of the other defects that we found in the NGSS or are they content just to implement it as is.” The Fordham report says that 38 states currently have standards inferior or equal to  the Next Generation Science Standards.  Kentucky's new science standards will be implemented the 2014-2015 school year. UPDATE, 8/20/13: KDE officials sent this statement:

The Fordham report clearly indicates that the current Kentucky science standards are inferior to the Next-Generation Science Standards recently adopted by the Kentucky Board of Education. Kentucky teachers, who were involved in the development of the new standards, are excited about the impact they will have on raising the level of science education in the state. The Next-Generation Science Standards have received broad support from the 26 states leading this effort, the public during public comment periods, scientists, educators and the business community both inside and out of Kentucky. Further, it should be noted that many of the report’s observations are not in the scope of the new standards, but rather are curriculum decisions that are left up to schools and districts.