More reasons why Kentucky’s science standards should also be reviewed, right now
As we pointed out some time ago, Kentucky’s Common Core State Standards areas of math and English Language Arts are currently undergoing a review that will last until April 30, 2015. Unfortunately, Kentucky’s new science standards, which are basically just a repackaging of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), were not added to that review list, but they should be.
Among other faults, the NGSS are woefully deficient in the areas of high school chemistry and physics. In fact, the NGSS really don’t describe any material needed for such courses. Among the most serious omissions is a good discussion of how mathematics needs to be thoroughly intermixed with the delivery of these two top-end high school science courses.
That’s not just my opinion (informed, I might add, as I hold a Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering). University of Virginia emeritus professor of life sciences Paul R. Gross and professor emeritus at the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at California State University–Long Beach Lawrence S. Lerner sound off here about the serious deficiencies of NGSS in top high school sciences including the lack of real math.
Some other key points from Gross and Lerner:
• “The “practices” strategy (pushed in NGSS) is not ‘next generation.’ It has been promoted and implemented nationally as “inquiry learning” or the like since the early 1990s.”
That has most definitely been true in Kentucky. For example, “Discovery Learning” is discussed on Page 60 of the first edition of the Kentucky Department of Education’s “Transformations: Kentucky’s Curriculum Framework, Volume II,” which was issued in 1993 (sorry, this edition not on line. Find a somewhat more recent version [circa 1995?] online here). You can find a number of places where “inquiry” learning is discussed.
• (The practices strategy) “has had no notable effect on the (mediocre) performance of American students in national and international science assessments.”
In other words, Professors Gross and Lerner say the “research doesn’t show” this NGSS “stuff” works.
• “Students will not learn best if they practice science exactly as do real scientists. A firm conclusion from cognitive psychology contradicts that claim.”
Got that? Professors Gross and Lerner say research by cognitive psychologists refutes the assumptions in the NGSS. Given the generally poor quality of research conducted by education schools in this country, that is no surprise, either.
So, come on, Commissioner Holliday. Let’s get a review of NGSS now, before we do more damage to students.
You see, if the state has no standards for high school chemistry and physics, there is no requirement for Kentucky high schools to offer those courses. Furthermore, there is no minimum standard of quality for the courses even if they are offered. That is a sure recipe to deny Kentucky students in some areas of the state a real opportunity to go into STEM careers. We need to add the high school standards the NGSS forgot, the sooner, the better.