Or will Kentucky abandon science education beyond the 10th grade?
As climate and evolution arguments swirl around Kentucky’s adoption of the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), some very important, far more basic issues are being totally overlooked.
Essentially, the new NGSS cut off science at the 10th grade level.
While NextGen Science does include topics from high school biology, usually a 10th grade course, much material covered in standard high school chemistry and physics courses is absent.
In fact, if you refer to Page 3 in the second part of the “Front Matter” section in the Next Generation Science Standards’ own web site, the NextGen folks proclaim, “The NGSS do not define advanced work in the sciences.” The discussion goes on to make it very clear that students who want to go into careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) will need additional coursework.
But, there is no guarantee Kentucky’s high school students will ever get that additional instruction.
Thanks to a legal concept called “Fair Notice,” it is my understanding that material omitted from the state’s standards cannot appear on state tests.
Kentuckians know what happens to coursework that schools are not held accountable for. It often vanishes. Thus, with high school level chemistry and physics virtually absent in the NGSS, the stage could be set to deny many of our students any access to these high school level science courses.
And, if our kids don’t get chemistry and physics in high schools, there may be no recovery later in life. Right now, at least one of the regional Kentucky community and technical colleges advises that they offer no remedial courses for high school chemistry or physics.
Furthermore, some of the important two-year technical programs offered by the state’s community and technical colleges could be hard to complete if students don’t arrive on campus with a good grounding in these two high school science areas.
NextGen Science has other remarkable deficiencies. For example, coverage of current flow in closed electrical circuits is very limited. Terms like “volt,” “voltage” and “insulator” are totally absent. With electrical systems all around us, this omission has real consequences – even safety implications. Good luck explaining the dangers of downed power lines.
In any event, the Kentucky Board of Education has a chance to direct fixes to these deficiencies in its forthcoming August 7 and 8 meeting. For the sake of our kids’ futures, I earnestly hope they do so. If the board just rubber stamps the current proposal, the technical sector of Kentucky’s economy could suffer an enormous loss of available manpower in a few more years.