Disclaimer: The following post is meant to disrupt your thinking about the Common Core and the Next Generation Science Standards- not to offend.
During the course of taking courses for my teacher certification we had to read J. Abner Peddiwell’s book called The Sabre Tooth Curriculum. The gist of the book is comparing education to the developing a better tiger starting with a sabre tooth tiger. At the end of all of these changes the new tiger looks exactly like the original sabre tooth tiger. As with the tiger, he compares changes in in education the same way. Everything is cyclical. So it seems once again we are redesigning our education tiger with the new Common Core Standards. There are a few of us in my school that have been in education for more that 25 years and have seen all of the changes that have occurred about every five years. Now allegedly we have the next latest and greatest change in education….Common Core (CC) and the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
The Common Core/NGSS bandwagon is being jumped on by districts and states all over the country including mine. I am beginning to wonder -why? Is it because it’s going to be good for students or because they fear if they don’t, their test grades on the new Smarter Balance tests will suffer and, in turn, their AYP? We all know if your AYP suffers the State will intervene. Right now, based on what I am reading in the Next Generation Science Standards is that we are sacrificing content for analysis at the upper levels. If we are expected to be tested on these new standards shouldn’t we wait 12 years until they are fully implemented in order to accurately gauge how they are working? The CC & NGSS assumes that all teachers at every level are following and teaching the standards to mastery. Based on my 26 years experience in education I have found that Science is one subject K-6 teachers don’t like to teach and don’t do it well or often. But before all of my K-6 teacher friends get up in arms- this is not a shot at you- but a reality that I have observed. I have seen some elementary teachers do a really good job of teaching science, but in most cases Science gets 1 hour- once a week. Most elementary teachers I know are not science majors, and only took those classes needed to get their degrees. I have principals in my district saying the Literacy Standards (ELA) are the most important standards. We are continually told in the media that we (the US) is lacking in Math and Science but now Literacy (ELA) seems to be the subject driving the bus. Last year I had to sit through an entire day of “in-service” (with the giant sticky notes for the walls) with Science and STEM teachers on how to integrate ELA into the Science and STEM classes. Really? Are the ELA teachers willing to integrate Science and STEM into their classrooms? Doubt it.
High schools are the schools in every district people look to see how districts perform. Thus, we depend on the other levels to prepare our students for the end game. Many times we (High School teachers) are fixing things missed at the other levels, especially Science and Math. Until we can get K-6 school to teach all of the core subjects daily and/or equally, I won’t feel comfortable relinquishing control of the content especially when many of the NextGen High School Standard are using terms at the top end of Blooms Taxonomy. During the first 12 years of this grand experiment, we at the high schools will need to be making sure we are teaching content and the NGSS if this change in education lasts this long. Remember it is all about “passing” the tests. I also wonder how far we can take content at the lower levels and having students understanding it? There are some concepts especially in science that need higher level mathematics to understand. So if we are taking the content out of the upper level classes, are we doing those students a disservice- especially those that are college bound (or at least until the NGSS have been implemented for 12 years)?
Finally, my questions to you are:
- Why Common Core and NextGen Science Standards? (How many times are we going to redesign the tiger?)
- Are all K-12 teachers, schools and districts ready to give ALL core subjects (including Science and Math) equal time and effort as they give ELA?
- Why are you willing to give up local control of your school and curriculum to the State/Federal bureaucracy?
- Is the State of Michigan willing change its graduation requirements by replacing Chemistry/Physics with Earth Science since this is one of the three main areas in the NGSS?
- Is the Congress or State Legislatures will to put resources into the schools to make this new experiment work (especially in schools in areas that are poverty ridden)?
- Who is driving these changes? Educators or the for profit testing companies?
- Finally, are we doing right by the students with all of this testing?