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Next Generation Science Standards Unveiled


In the world of K-12 STEM education, engineering rarely rates more than a passing nod. That soon may change if states embrace a National Research Council panel’s sweeping recommendations for “next generation” science standards as readily as they adopted common core literacy and math standards.

The panel’s July 19 report, “A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Cross-cutting Concepts and Core Ideas,” not only builds on the decades-long effort to improve the teaching and learning of science. It puts engineering on a par with physics and other disciplines as key to meeting humanity’s most pressing challenges while helping citizens make informed everyday decisions, such as choosing among medical treatments.

American students fall in the middle of the international pack in science and math, and only a handful score at the advanced level on national assessments. “Currently, science education in the U.S. lacks a common vision of what students should know and be able to do by the end of high school,” said retired physicist and report panel chair Helen Quinn of the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Stanford, Calif. “Students are rarely given the opportunity to experience how science is actually done.”

The 282-page “conceptual framework” argues for replacing today’s mile-wide, content-driven curricula with an integrated approach that focuses on three major dimensions: scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and discipline-specific core ideas such as engineering design. One of the blueprint’s big goals is “to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science.”

Will that include an appreciation of engineering design and practice? The research council, which is the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering, acknowledges the challenges, including insufficient time at most schools for learning and doing science. The report will help guide efforts now underway at Achieve, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, to develop common state science standards, expected out by the fall of 2012.

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One Response to “Next Generation Science Standards Unveiled”

  1. I teach Technology Education, which is a mandated program in NY. My program is based on the Engineering Design Cycle.

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