Resetting STEM Education

Science ClassOn May 11, 2012 the first draft of the New Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was released.  We, the public, had three weeks to deliver feedback to “Achieve,” who is leading this writing endeavor.  This was a tireless process, and took much time and patience to accurately submit feedback.

As one of those who spent considerable time with colleagues preparing feedback to submit, I was very interested in what reviewers had to say. Peter Ahearn, a K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District in California, had the opportunity to speak directly with one of the California state writers about what happened to the feedback that was submitted, and shared this information with others in the science community. According to Peter, the reviewer said that there were 30,000 public notes submitted on the standards. The specific notes were given to the authors of that standard set.  Some comments, such as “I don’t like this” or “this is awesome,” were ignored.

According to Peter, once the public review was complete there were additional review sessions held by professional college faculty groups, such as the American Physical Society. These groups were asked if the standards prepared students for college. The reviewer he spoke to was not aware if industry groups assessed the standards for career readiness. Since the standards are supposed to help students become college and career ready, we can only hope this was done!

Among a variety of other things, the new standards are intended to place a broader emphasis on the process and practice of the scientific enterprise. This is reinforced by the fact that the first “Dimension of the Framework” on which the standards are based is entitled “Practices,” and is meant to describe how scientists work; something people have long awaited!  Keep in mind that the NGSS are based on the National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for K–12 Science Education.  These new standards will be the first update since the original National Science Education Standards were released in 1996.  I am excited and happy to hear that our feedback is being used to improve the standards, and am hopeful that the new standards will be out by December 2012.   I firmly believe that the Next Generation Science Standards will help to reset STEM education.

Dana

One thought on “Resetting STEM Education

  1. Many comments about STEM seem to reflect the ongoing traditions of “silo-thinking”, promoting favored “channels” of instruction, while knocking down other viable approaches for STEM. As a retired instructor of physics, math, and electronics technology at a regional technical college, I continue to be involved in ways that include ALL students in the STEM curriculum as preparation for their lives and careers after high school.

    These STEM goals need change in three directions, I believe, which extend across the grades and the disciplines. First, a systems approach should build the science content topics in the order of increasing complexity. This means that the high school courses need to be flipped to the natural evolutionary sequence of physics, chemistry, and then biology. Second, a clear definition is needed for each step on a ladder of “Basic Workplace Skill Sets” required for entry into the workplace at several occupational levels, beginning with a “Home and Consumer” baseline that matches the state science content standards for all high school graduates. And, finally, students need opportunities to explore various career and technical education (CTE) pathways throughout their high school years, so they can get a taste of where they might apply their abilities, interests, and learning in their productive years.

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