On September 11, 2013 the Kentucky Legislature’s Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee considers a regulation that makes the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) the only set of science standards for every public school in Kentucky. This vote on regulation 704 KAR 3:303 is crucial. A favorable decision on NextGen Science will likely doom thousands of Kentucky’s students to an incomplete science education that will almost certainly deny them a choice to advance into real careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Here’s what’s going on:
At a very basic level, the NGSS do not comply with the requirements for Kentucky’s new academic standards found in the 2009 Senate Bill 1 legislation.
A very key requirement in Senate Bill 1 says the revisions to the state’s academic standards will:
“Ensure that the standards are aligned from elementary to high school to postsecondary education so that students can be successful at each education level.”
This important requirement does not say Kentucky’s new education standards should only cover preparation of students for success in the lowest levels of nontechnical areas of higher education and non-college careers. Instead, Senate Bill 1 clearly requires education standards to cover all programs and career paths students might choose to follow. This includes full preparation, if the student chooses, for those programs that lead to the most demanding courses of study that our postsecondary system offers. The education standards should consider the needs all of all students, not just those pursuing the least rigorous careers.
The standards should insure our education provides students the choice, whether that is a career as a secretary or a career that requires advanced degrees in highly technical areas such as science or engineering. Those choices should not be limited simply because a student attends one of Kentucky’s less upscale school systems.
And, this is where the NGSS clearly, and by their own admission, absolutely fail to meet Kentucky’s statutory requirements.
In one of NextGen Science’s own documents called “Front Matter,” under the heading “What is Not Covered in the Next Generation Science Standards,” NextGen itself clearly admits:
“The NGSS do not define advanced work in the sciences. Based on review from college and career faculty and staff, the NGSS form a foundation for advanced work, but students wishing to move into STEM fields should be encouraged to follow their interest with additional coursework.”
What, exactly, is included in what NextGen Science considers “Advanced Work” subjects? The Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s recent critique of the NextGen Science Standards provides answers. NextGen Science omitted much of what students would receive in a high school chemistry and physics course. Basically, this includes the last two years of high school science that any student who wants to pursue a STEM career, and, for that matter, any student who just wants a solid liberal education, is absolutely going to need.
Without this course material, not only are students left unprepared for STEM careers, but they will likely be non-competitive for entry in the nation’s more competitive postsecondary institutions. They most definitely will not be prepared for success in college, as Senate Bill 1 requires. That clearly makes 704 KAR 3:303 deficient, and it needs to go back to the Kentucky Board of Education for a lot more work.
By the way, adopting NextGen Science may actually cause a further deterioration of already limited opportunities for many Kentucky students to go on to careers in science and technology. Click the “Read more” link to learn how that could happen.