California is one of 20 states pioneering a 2012 change in science standards and requirements for students in K-12, according to the state’s department of education. This will be the first change in over a decade.
Changes will shift the “emphasis of science education from memorizing factoids to understanding big ideas about how the world works and how we can use science to solve real problems,” said Dr. Matthew A. D’Alessio, CSUN professor of geoscience education.
Selected states will review and comment on the standards set forth by “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts and Core Ideas” composed by the National Research Council.
“California is very influential in setting curriculum,” said Dr. Norm Herr, CSUN professor of science education. “I’m sure (the National Research Council) wanted California to be part of the process just because it’s such a large state.”
California requires teachers to address state standards in the classroom, but the National Assessment of Education Progress reported most states showed little improvement among students in grades four to eight.
Five of the 37 participating states did improve their 4th-5th grades science scores between 2000 and 2005. Those states were California, Hawaii, Kentucky, South Carolina and Virginia.
“This is the first time I’ve ever seen engineering addressed as an entity in the standards,” Herr said. “It is so critical, really, to the economic success of our nation.”
Money for the ramped up requirements has yet to be secured, though.
“Right now the state doesn’t have much money, so I doubt there is going to be a lot of state funding for it,” Herr said. “Ideally it should come from the state, because it is a state initiative. But there is federal dollars that is going to be associated with this as well.”
Some critics point to the risk of standardized requirements, and the discrepancies between teaching to the test and how much students actually learn.
“Teachers spend more time teaching the boring factoid-based standards because they are easier to teach and easier for children to learn quickly to boost standardized test scores,” D’Alessio said.
But others think the new requirements will only help.
“It’s a great chance for students to realize their potential in different subjects,” said liberal studies major Shannon Moultrie. “Right now, K-12 students don’t know much about engineering until they’re in college. It would be a good idea to introduce it to them early on.”