The current draft of the Arizona state science standards is a mess. The “internal review” and edits — an unprecedented action taken by the current superintendent of public instruction with no background in science or science education — have left the draft of the science standards in shambles.
Beyond the blatant removal of evolution and climate change from the standards, they are weak in terms of depth and rigor. In some cases, they are just completely wrong (e.g. “magnetic currents” = science fiction). This fiasco has even led to the resignation of the Arizona Department of Education director of K-12 science and STEM education, Lacey Wieser, a longtime champion of quality science education here in Arizona.
But let’s not get too far into the weeds about this current draft. The real question at hand is “Why not adopt the Next Generation Science Standards?” The Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, would be a significant improvement over the current draft of our science standards and their adoption would represent a fiscally responsible choice made by the state. It would be a gift to Arizona teachers, schools and districts.
Our educators could take advantage of myriad resources, curricula and professional development opportunities already in existence to support the implementation of NGSS. They could also contribute resources they develop to the growing body of work supporting these standards around the country. Still on the fiscally responsible argument, Arizona would not have to pay as much for a state science test as we could use any number of assessments already created for the other 19 states and the District of Columbia that have adopted NGSS.
But we want standards developed by Arizona educators? Fantastic! Arizona was one of 26 lead states participating in the writing of the NGSS. Jennifer Gutierrez, a Science Curriculum Specialist and experienced classroom science educator, represented Arizona on the NGSS writing team. Master educators from the other lead states joined her to develop, review and refine the NGSS. Also, all stakeholders were given multiple opportunities to review the NGSS.
Along with many other Arizona educators and stakeholders, I provided my input to the NGSS during those reviews while serving as an Albert Einstein Distinguished Educator Fellow. Arizona educators and stakeholders played their part in the state-led development of the high quality, rigorous Next Generation Science Standards. So, again, the question remains “Why not adopt the NGSS?”
But aren’t Next Generation Science Standards like the federally developed Common Core standards? Not even close! The development of the Next Generation Science Standards could not be more different. This was a state-led process utilizing research-based best practices and research in science education as the foundation for the standards. The NGSS are based on the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education, one of two references used to write our draft science standards.
For all the reasons listed above, I am dumbfounded by the situation with our science standards and ask again: Why not adopt the Next Generation Science Standards?
Let’s adopt these standards, which Arizona participated in developing as a lead state. Let’s support our teachers, schools and districts by giving them access to a growing collection of already developed resources. Let’s make the fiscally responsible choice of adopting the NGSS so we can take advantage of assessments, which have already been written, instead of paying for the development our own.
Let’s help Arizona resume its role as a lead state in science education!