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Education Reporter

New Science Standards in the Works
Most states have already adopted common standards for language and math, and proponents of national curriculum standardization are trying to build on that momentum. As part of that plan, the congressionally chartered National Research Council (NRC) released a framework this summer to be used in developing national science standards.

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Achieve, a nonprofit organization that pushes standards-based education reform across the states, is developing NRC's framework into what Achieve calls "Next Generation Science Standards." Achieve is managing the project with the assistance of 20 states and dozens of science teachers and state standards experts.

Carnegie Corporation of New York is funding the development of the framework and the standards. Their website states: "We have issued an urgent call for a national mobilization to transform mathematics and science education and deliver it equitably and with excellence to all students."

Stated goals for developing the science standards include creating a stronger emphasis on depth rather than breadth of science concepts and providing greater coherence across grades.

The new science standards are comparable to the Common Core Standards Initiative (CCSI), released in 2010, which Achieve also played a large part in creating. According to Achieve's website, "The goal of this process is to create excellent K-12 science standards. Whether individual states decide to adopt them or whether they become 'common' state standards will ultimately be up to the states to decide."

Although the effect of standards and testing has been fiercely criticized under the No Child Left Behind Act, proponents still hope the new science standards will eventually be adopted by nearly all the states, just as the CCSI standards in language and math have been.

Francis Eberle, executive director of the National Science Teachers Association, acknowledged there are many steps required before implementation is possible, but he is hopeful that states will embrace the new science standards. "What's exciting about this effort is that these will be common science standards that will provide students access to the same information," he said.

Helen R. Quinn, chairwomen of the NRC, said that many of the states "are feeling, if we're doing common things in math and English/language arts, why not in other areas?"

No plan currently exists for the federal government to require states to adopt the new science standards or to award incentives for adopting them, as was the case for the CCSI. The new science standards are expected to be completed by the end of 2012.

(Education Week, 8-10-11; www.blogs.edweek.org 9-20-11)
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