Proposed Arizona education standards aim for ‘deeper learning’
Published: May 21, 2012 at 3:31 pm
The state is one of 26 leading a nationwide initiative aimed at improving science education by requiring a deeper understanding of key concepts, The Arizona Republic reported.
As part of the proposed Next Generation Science Standards, science and technology would be incorporated in all subjects.
“There are fewer concepts but deeper learning,” Janey Kaufmann, a member of the state committee that reviewed the standards, said. “Instead of learning something for a few weeks, that learning will occur over years, with more rigor at an earlier age.”
Kaufmann, head of the science curriculum in the Scottsdale school district, said conversations around the state and a lot of feedback went into the draft.
The draft was released earlier this month. Officials expect another draft to be developed following the public comment period. A second draft and comment period are planned later this year, with a final draft expected in February.
The Next Generation standards are intended to address a critical shortage of workers in the science and technology industries by beefing up science education. Newly released test scores on the Nation’s Report Card showed that Arizona’s eighth-graders were among the lowest performers in the country, with 44 percent lacking basic science knowledge.
The National Research Council developed a framework for the new standards with input from the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.
A committee in each participating state reviewed the standards. The committees were made up of representatives from kindergarten through 12th grade, higher education and science and business communities.
In Arizona, the Game and Fish Department, the Arizona Science Center and Intel Corp. were among the partners that participated.
The science standards are separate from, but align with, the new Common Core State Standards that Arizona will implement in English and math.
The changes could be the biggest boost to science in decades, Gerry Wheeler, interim executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, said.
“Sputnik was in 1957, when I was in high school, and a lot of the media focus was on ‘The Russians are coming!’ But it changed family dinnertime conversation in terms of science-career possibilities,” he said.
Wheeler said the huge emphasis on improving math and reading test scores has pushed science education out of many classrooms.
Once the standards are adopted and tweaked to fit the needs of each state, Kaufmann said the next step will be to create a national science exam. That’s probably at least five years away.
“I have to tell you, until there is a test that counts, science is still is not going to be as important, especially in the elementary grades,” Kaufmann said.
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