“No science standards review” says State Board in clear and unambiguous resolution

At the April 6, 2017 meeting of the State Board of Education meeting, the department presented a “process model” that called for reviewing six academic standards over the next year.   One standard proposed for review was the New Hampshire College and Career Ready Science Standards, adopted in November of 2016 after a two year process.  The New Hampshire standards are a full adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards.

When the board questioned the need to review the science standards so soon, commissioner Edelblut said that they had been “rated poorly by a third party reviewer [Fordham Institute]…because of a process orientation.”  When challenged about the validity of the widely-discounted (here and here, for instance) Fordham study, he said,

“Maybe we need to just add some content specific types of things to that….the goal here is to be sure that we aim for a good high standard….there are changes that take places, there are new scientific discoveries…”

Board member Helen Honorow said (here is the video) that there is ambiguity in the field about the State’s commitment to the standards.  The department circulated a draft document, not approved by the board, that had led to confusion in her community, Nashua, about the status of the science standards.

The Concord Monitor reported on the meeting, quoting board member Gary Groleau saying,

“I’ve never been more certain of anything that we’ve done.  To send the message that we’re backing up, or not fulfilling that responsibility that everybody understands is more than problematic.”

and Cindy Chagnon saying,

“Why on Earth are we doing science?…What are we trying to give our schools and teachers whiplash or something? Like, what – you’re doing this again?….This would create chaos. This would create extra money spent. This would be ridiculous,”

In the end, the board unanimously passed  the following resolution:

The SBOE states clearly and with no ambiguity that, having just spent two years of intensive review, monthly presentations and public forums reviewing the New Hampshire College and Career Ready Science Standards and on November 3, 2016 adopted the Next Generation Science Standards as our New Hampshire College and Career Ready Science Standards.  The Board will not be review science standards until 2022.

And what about that Fordham Review?

The Fordham review criteria do come from a model of teaching science as a collection of facts to be remembered.  Reviewers disagree that the core NGSS advance – learning content by doing science and engineering – was legitimate.

Seven people conducted the study.  None claimed a background in education research and only two had K–12 teaching experience. On the other hand, the NGSS were developed by expert teams from 26 states who directed 40 writers, including 20 K–12 teachers, seven K–12 administrators, seven science education researchers, four scientists, and two engineers. During development, drafts of the NGSS were reviewed by tens of thousands of teachers, administrators, scientists and engineers (including Nobel laureates), education researchers, employers, and members of the public. They were signed off on by the National Research Council, the most respected scientific body in the United States. The Fordham report was not externally reviewed.

NGSS adopters

NGSS has been adopted by 18 states (bolded states scored higher than NGSS in the Fordham analysis but adopted NGSS): Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, along with the District of Columbia.  

New Hampshire support for the science standards

Most importantly, there has been wide New Hampshire support for the Next Generation Science Standards.   A wide array of STEM Task Force members, including educators, business people and inventor Dean Kamen, recommended immediate adoption of NGSS.  The Business and Industry Association, representing hundreds of New Hampshire business of all sizes strongly supporting NGSS.

New Hampshire science teachers were strong supporters as well.  Over 600 educators responded to the department’s science standards survey.  The result was that over 90% of New Hampshire school districts reported that they were on the path to NGSS.  Many had fully adopted the standards.

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