Education Commissioner questions science standards on NHPR’s Morning Edition

On NHPR’s Morning Edition, Commissioner Frank Edelblut criticized the Next Generation Science Standards, on which the State Board of Education adopted last year. Here’s an excerpt of the interview.

We asked him why he raised the issue [concern over the state’s adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards]:

One of the things that I saw in those science standards was that they were rated by an outside organization – Fordham University, I think it’s the Fordham University Foundation (Edelblut was referring to the Fordham Institute, not Fordham University) – and they were rated a C, which isn’t really very high. I am supposed to reviewing our standards to make sure they’re current and they’re contemporary.

But critics have said that’s one study done by a conservative group using a benchmark that wasn’t up to date. Is that a group we should be looking at to inform our standards?

Well, so in fact the Fordham criticism of the standards wasn’t about whether the standards were up to do date or not up to date; the Fordham analysis, if you read the actual research report on it, talked about the fact that our standards in NGSS have incorporated a number of process scientific approaches in them, and they may have sacrificed some content in that process. And so that’s really the criticism, what is that balance that you get.

What specifically do you mean? What was sacrificed?

So again, the standards are focused primarily on process, but the content of the standards is not as strong. As an example, in the old standards if you just do a word search for the term ‘relativity,’ obviously dealing with the theory of relativity, appeared seven times in our old standard, and it appears zero times in the NGSS. So, are we skipping over the theory of relativity? How is that being integrated? I think it’s important that we make sure we haven’t left out any content because we won’t be serving our students well that way.

You referenced the Fordham Institute’s ranking. It’s an education research group that is fair to say has conservative leanings, but it’s also an organization that supports the Common Core State Standards, which you have been critical of. Why use that group as a bar on one issue but not the other?

I think that’s the question I actually posed to the state Board of Education. When Fordham ranked the Common Core standards high, our own state board said, ‘Well, look Fordham tells us this is a really good standard and we ought to be embracing it.’ There was no discussion about whether they were conservative or not conservative, they were just a third party who was ranking standards. But when Fordham ranks our NGSS standard poorly, all of a sudden they’re not qualified as a standard-ranking organization, and I just think we need to be consistent. And we don’t want to point to one particular ranking of a standard. We need to more broadly look at different folks who have rated standards. We’re not really interested in focusing on standards that are necessarily high in America, as well. We want to target and we want to focus on high standards, but using an international benchmark because we compete in an international world.

Morning Edition also asked him about the amendment to HB 356 (an unrelated bill) that would restructure the Department of Education. He responded to claims that it would give him more authority:

I would challenge them that it gives me any more power, per se. I think what it actually does is it allows the department to functions efficiently and effectively for our constituencies. I find it unusual that folks are concerned that I’m potentially putting things back in line with the law, and yet there was no outrage when individuals took certain functions and moved them around without trying to make them in compliance with the law.

Listen to the full interview here.