New Colorado Science Standards Earn a “D”

D is for Disappointing.

This January, the Thomas Fordham Institute reviewed science standards in all 50 state.  The majority of states earned Ds or Fs with only 6 states and jurisdictions receiving A’s.

Colorado was rated right there in the middle of the pack with a D.

What is surprising to me is that the reviewers analyzed Colorado’s new academic standards released in December, 2009.   At first I thought, “Oh, they must have looked at the old ones.”  But, no – they did review the new ones.

The Colorado Review starts a little cocky, as the authors poke fun at what they believe is a “mistranslation” in the opening document of renowned French mathematician Henri Poincaré’s famous.aphorism: “On fait la science aver des faits, comme une mason aver des piers, maps une accumulation de faits n’est pas plus une science qu’un has de piers n’est une maison.”

And, they score the standards with a 3 out of 10 total points.

  • Content & Rigor 2.3
  • Scientific Inquiry & Methodology 7
  • Physical Science 3
  • Physics 0
  • Chemistry 0
  • Earth & Space Science 1
  •  Life Science 3
  • Clarity & Specificity 0.8

Basically, the low scores come from a lack of content rigor.

The material presented suffers from a serious lack of clarity, depth, and sufficient content. The standards have  a frustrating tendency to string together numerous properties without explanation.

If there was an area that was well received, it was the components of scientific inquiry and methodology.  Hurray!

Not knowing if the Fordham Institute is connected to the national movement to create Next Generation Science Standards, this report is either  extraordinarily well timed – or planned. Most folks in curriculum know that The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve have embarked upon a plan to develop the Next Generation Science Standards.  These standards are scheduled to be released in the Fall of 2012 and Colorado will likely use these standards to revise their new academic standards in science.

What does this mean if you are a school or district aligning your standards to the new Colorado Academic Standards? Well if you are like us we are spending time analyzing the Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas which as released by the National Research Council (NRC) in July 2011.  This framework identifies the key scientific ideas and practices all students should learn by the end of high school.  It will serve as the foundation for new K-12 science Next Generation Science standards.

Want to know more?  Watch this webinar on Making the Transition to Scientific and Engineering Practices: Visiting the Potential of the Next Generation Science Standards that was run on October 25, 2011 and is archived.

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