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Next Generation Science Standards Face Criticisms

news story by Nancy Swanson | July 11, 2013

Related Topics: education, Next Generation Science Standards, schools, science, STEM, science, technology, engineering, mathematics, reform

As more states prepare to adopt the newly created Next Generation Science Standards, a new report out of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute gives these new standards a “C.”

In fact, the institute feels that some of the states adopting the new standards are actually taking a step down from their initial standards.

For example, the state of Kansas is set to adopt Next Generation Science Standards later this year. However, their previous standards were ranked as some of the highest standards in the nation.

“We think that the ones you are ushering out the door are superior,” Chester Finn, the institute's president, said in a conference call ahead of the report’s release. “I hope you give them a very nice going-away party.”

Finn continues stating that there are alternatives other than Next Generation Science Standards that they could pull from.

“Our suggestion is that states that are unhappy with their science standards might have other alternatives,” he told reporters. “They might borrow from the standards of a state that’s done a really good job of this.”

According to the report, 13 states already have better standards than the Next Generation Science Standards, and the states with poor standards may be better served looking toward these states for help.

The report comes as more states are either adopting the standards or seriously considering adopting them. Maryland and Vermont recently adopted the standards, joining Kentucky, Kansas and Rhode Island. Additionally, five more states—California, Florida, Maine, Michigan and Washington—are also heavily considering taking up the standards as well.

In spite of these criticisms, many are still showing support for the new standards, and hope that more schools will continue to adopt them.

“The National Science Teachers Association strongly disagrees with the opinions of the Fordham Institute regarding the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The NGSS contains rigorous and substantive science content that will give all students the skills and knowledge they need to be informed citizens, college ready, and prepared for careers in a workforce that now considers science skills and knowledge to be basic and fundamental requirements.”

Sonia Siegel-Vexler and Jeff Estes, co-directors of LASER, a state program led by Pacific Science Center and Battelle with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, Educational Service Districts and school districts, showed support for the new standards.

They explained that these standards not only provide clarity, but also help students gain a deeper understanding of science.

“The new guidelines build a clear progression of science skills from kindergarten through grade 12,” they wrote in an op-ed piece for the Seattle Times. “By graduation, students should understand science and technological information so they can engage in public dialogue and make personal decisions. They should possess the skills required for a STEM workforce, short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.”

Created earlier this year through a coalition of 26 states, the Next Generation Science Standards sought to be the equivalent to Common Core standards for science. The hope is to generate a set of standards that is consistent throughout the nation.

While the Fordham Institute has been critical of these new standards, they do find some good in them and hope that they will improve over time.

“We found some good things in it,” Finn, a former education official in the Reagan administration, said during the conference call with reporters. “It is a C, not an F. We found some improvements over earlier drafts. ... But we also found some serious shortcomings.”

Nancy Swanson is a writer for 360 Education Solutions