Colorado adopts new science standards that focus on inquiry, not memorization

New science standards adopted by a divided Colorado State Board of Education call on students to learn by puzzling through problems in the natural world rather than by listening to facts from a teacher.

The Next Generation Science Standards, already in use in 38 states, represent the most significant change to what Colorado students will be expected to know in this round of revisions to state standards.

The process concluded Wednesday with the adoption of standards in comprehensive health and physical education, reading, writing and communicating, and science. The board had previously adopted new standards in social studies, math, world languages, arts, and computer science, among others. Most of those changes were considered relatively minor.

The Next Generation standards, which were developed based on years of research into how people learn science, are considered a major change. They focus more on using scientific methods of inquiry than on memorization. In a time when we can look up literally any fact on our phones – and when scientific knowledge continues to evolve – supporters of the approach say it’s more important for students to understand how scientists reach conclusions and how to assess information for themselves than it is for them to know the periodic table by heart.

Click here to read the full story in Chalkbeat (June 14, 2018)

Click here to read a story by the National Center for Science Education  (June 14, 2018)

Educators Scramble for Texts to Match Science Standards

Five years after the NGSS rolled out, districts are sorting through a nascent, untested curriculum landscape that’s full of murky claims—leaving both students and teachers in a tough spot as they try to put standards into action.

The challenge is accelerating, even as two developments promise to shake up the marketplace this fall. California, an influential bellwether, will adopt science curricula, and EdReports, a nonprofit that releases Consumer Reports-style curriculum reviews, will unveil its first look at science series.

Until then, though, many districts’ main decision on science curricula comes down to this: Buy now, or wait?

Click here to read the full story by Stephen Sawchuk in Ed Week (June 5, 2018)

Transforming Science Education in San Francisco

Janet Carlson, Associate Professor and Director of the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Education writes in Ed Week’s blog, Urban Education Reform: Bridging Research and Practice. The post is written from the researcher perspective. Later this week, Ed Week will share the practitioner’s perspective on this research.

Why this Research?

Five years ago, the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) made a commitment to invest in the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) through a multi-year solution strategy that combined developing and adapting new curriculum materials with an integrated professional development plan so that the persistent inequities in student learning would be interrupted. Seeing an opportunity in the disruptive nature of the NGSS to alter science teaching and learning in ways that improved learning for all students, the SFUSD Science Team partnered with the Center to Support Excellence in Teaching (CSET) at Stanford University to ensure that the curriculum and professional development work was guided by best practices and research.

Click here to read the full article in Ed Week (June 4, 2018)

Evolution is and ‘will remain’ part of Arizona’s science curriculum, Ducey says

When it comes to teaching science in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey is apparently on a different page than School Superintendent Diane Douglas.

Ducey said evolution should stay a part of the state’s science curriculum, while creationism should remain out of science class.

“Evolution is part of the curriculum and will remain part of the curriculum,” he said.

The governor’s comment comes after we reported earlier this month that the Arizona’s Department of Education, under Douglas, made revisions to a draft of updated science standards prepared by some of the state’s teachers.

The revisions by the department omitted and watered down references to “evolution” and “evolve.”

Click here to read the full story on the KVOA News 4 website (May 29, 2018)

Arizona Science Educators Raise Alarms about Revised K-12 Standards


If you think back to your grade school science classes and Schoolhouse Rock episodes, you might remember memorizing a lot of vocabulary words.

But science is more than words. It’s about wonder, curiosity and experimentation. The new Arizona Science Standards are meant to encourage a messy, hands-on approach to science. The Department of Education’s revisions [shown in green, here] shifted the focus—backward.

“As a professional, as a science educator, I just could not support teaching students this incorrect idea of what science is,” says Lacey Wieser, the department’s former director of K-12 science education. She resigned rather than implement the changes made during an unprecedented internal review.

“I think the changes really shift from the focus from this idea of science of discipline for helping students make sense of the world, to just really memorizing a body of facts,” Wieser says.

Wieser was alarmed by the addition of so-called “key concepts” to the standards. They look a lot like the old vocabulary terms emphasized in Arizona’s outdated standards from 2004. That’s just what the committee of experts who wrote the new document wanted to get away from. Another troubling change: Department staff deleted or qualified the word “evolution” throughout the document.


Educators complained the internal review was an overreach of power. Sara Torres, the executive director of the Arizona Science Teachers Association, says, “In the past internal reviews were always done for formatting issues and grammatical edits, and never to change the specific content of the standards.”


The draft standards for Science, and History and Social Science, are available for public comment until May 28. They’ll be submitted to the Board of Education for adoption this fall.

Click here to read the full story featured on KNAU Radio (May 14, 2018)


Hart School District (Calif.) Eyes Updated Science Curriculum

Amidst grumblings from Santa Clarita Valley (Calif.) teachers who say they lack proper educational materials, the Hart Union High School District is sharing an update on the overhaul of its science curriculum Wednesday.

The William S. Hart Union High School District is expected to look at classroom support at Wednesday’s meeting of the Governing Board regarding the rollout of the Next Generation Science Standards curriculum, as well as an upcoming chemistry pilot that is predicted to commence this year.

To prevent a disastrous situation from occurring in the Santa Clarita Valley’s high school district, personnel have attempted to keep board members apprised of Hart’s new science curriculum for grades seven, eight and nine.

“The item on the board agenda is an update of the work we’ve been doing to shift science instruction in the district,” said Mike Kuhlman, assistant superintendent of educational services. The update is one step in a continuous process that will play out over the next couple of years, he added.

“We believe that in the world that our students are inheriting, they will need to have a STEM focus,” Kuhlman said. “Therefore, we are working to redesign the curriculum with the intent that every student in the Hart district has taken biology, chemistry and physics by the time they graduate.”

“The idea in a nutshell behind the Next Generation Science Standards is ‘science for all,’” Kuhlman said.

Click here to read the full story in The Signal, Santa Clarita Valley (May 1, 2018)



School board honors student arts — and gets a science lesson

Haughton was giving the Monroe Board of Education a snapshot of Connecticut’s Next Generation Science Standards — and how Monroe’s schools and teachers have met and even exceeded those new requirements. Presenting with Haughton were colleagues Jim Stoelzel, 6-12 instructional leader, and Director of Curriculum Sheila Casinelli.

The presentation on science education and on a separate language arts initiative took up the greater share of the board meeting.

“We have been ahead of the game in adopting the new Next Generation Science Standards,” said Casinelli. “In the curriculum, science and mathematics are interrelated. It is all based on claims, evidence and reasoning.”

Because of the latter, children’s writing and speaking skills become reinforced by the curriculum as well. The new curriculum builds on the strength and popularity of Monroe’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program, which was instituted in 2011.

“The new curriculum standards don’t come in a ‘kit’ but are something that requires innovation at the district level, including ongoing professional development for teachers,” said Stoelzel.

Click here to read the full story in the Monroe Courier (April 25, 2018)

Utah Board of Education Gives Go-ahead to Draft New Science Standards

After past sparring over hot-button topics like evolution and climate change, Utah Board of Education gives go-ahead to draft new science standards

The Utah State Board of Education greenlit plans Thursday (April 12) to begin drafting new school science standards, a process likely to touch on divisive issues like climate change and evolution.

The state last approved new middle school science standards in 2015, which were based partially on the Next Generation Science Standards, a series of education benchmarks developed by a consortium of national experts.

But what is taught in Utah classrooms for grades kindergarten through five, and nine through twelve was unaffected by that change, and those guidelines for science curricula remain between seven and 15 years old.

After months of pleading by Utah science educators to cohere science standards for all grade levels, the board voted in November to charge a State Standards Review Committee, comprised of parents and educators, to study and recommend elementary and high school science curriculums.

Board members also requested in March that the committee include a “crosswalk” breakdown directly comparing elements of the current curriculum compares to NGSS.

Click here to read the full story in the Salt Lake Tribune (April 13, 2018)


How Soon Will the New New York State Science Standards Be in Your Child’s School?

CAZENOVIA, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) – Students across New York state will soon notice a gradual roll-out of the state’s new science standards.

Recently, NewsChannel 9 was given a rare behind-the-scenes look at how the new standards incorporate lesson study and maintain a focus on engineering. The observation took place at Burton Street Elementary in Cazenovia while second-graders tackled a soil erosion project called, “Save the Sand Towers.”

OCM-BOCES is one partner in a leadership team that includes help from the Syracuse University School of Education. Members are helping teachers prepare for the new state science standards before they are fully implemented into curriculum at all schools at all grade levels.

“These were officially approved by the Board of Regents last July, so the state has picked a slow roll-out, which I think is really important,” said Whisher-Hehl, the OCM-BOCES coordinator of innovative teaching and learning. “The tests are not slated to change for a handful of years. Right now they are developing feedback from the field to make a road map for when the new test will be rolled out.”

“These standards were developed specifically for equity and access. They were developed to have a set of science standards that really work for all kids and that all kids could have a strong foundation,” explained Whisher-Hehl. “Secondly, they were designed to help kids gain skills and understandings that will move beyond science, so it includes content, but also includes the scientific and engineering practices.

Click here to read the full story on WSYR-TV website (April 10, 2018)