Innovation In STEM Content To Boost K-12 Education Reform
Posted on: 10/6/2011
An initiative led by 20 states promises crucial innovations that may accelerate education reform for K-12 levels. Based on "A Framework for K–12 Science Education" released by the National Research Council (NRC) in July of this year, these pioneering states are pushing for the development and adoption of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These standards seek to define the core content and applications of all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) courses from kindergarten to high school.
The NRC adopted a two-step process for this initiative. The first step involved getting the science right. The NRC recruited a number of practicing scientists (including two Nobel laureates), researchers, educators and policy experts -- all well respected in their respective fields -- to form the core science council. With the help of design teams from four specific science disciplines -- physical science, life science, earth and space science, and engineering -- the council proceeded to craft the draft for its Framework. The draft was released to the public in July 2010, and after reviewing all comments and feedback, the NRC released the final Framework exactly one year later.
The second step now calls for getting the states to lead the development of the NGSS. This aims to deliver rich STEM content and practices across all grade levels, provide science education at par with international standards, and prepare students for college and the workforce. The NRC will be collaborating closely with the states throughout this process to produce high quality standards for state adoption. The iterative process will also involve multiple reviews by different sets of stakeholders, as well as the production and posting of two public drafts that would allow as much participation as possible in the formulation of education policy.
Education reform motivates this initiative. The U.S. has fallen significantly behind especially in the fields of science, technology and mathematics, the very areas that typically drive technical and business innovations. While very few argue against the need for reform, there is wide disagreement on what should be reformed and how the reforms should be implemented. The NGSS initiative sidesteps all the cumbersome arguments by focusing on developing content, and allowing the participating states autonomy in formulating policy and implementing the new standards. It sticks to the premise that quality science education requires rich content and applications, and promises nothing more than that.
There is also the matter of the existing frameworks for K-12 science education. Schools currently base their STEM curricula on two core standards that are at least 15 years old: the NRC's "National Science Education Standards" and "Benchmarks for Science Literacy" from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). With current advancements in science and technology, now is the time to overhaul STEM education by developing new standards that will allow U.S. schools to develop fresh new science, technology and mathematics courses that will help graduates compete for science jobs.
The initial 20 states supporting this initiative are Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
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