Six educators, a state representative and three business people from the Kansas City-metropolitan area are helping develop the nation’s Next Generation Science Standards. They are serving on a statewide committee to review and comment on work being done by Kansas State Department of Education staff members. Similar committees are hard at work in 19 other states, and the goal is to complete the new national standards by the end of 2012.
This week, the Kansas State Board of Education heard an update on the status of the Next Generation Science Standards during their monthly meeting. During their September meeting, the board learned that Kansas would most likely be named as one of 20 lead states to develop the new standards, and each board member had the opportunity to nominate members for the review committee.
Development of new national science standards is in Phase I. Last summer, as the first part of Phase I, the National Research Council developed a Framework for K-12 Science Education. This document “describes key ideas and practices in the natural sciences and engineering that all students should be familiar with by the time they graduate from high school,” according to the website for Achieve, the education reform group coordinating this project. Now twenty state committees — including the one in Kansas — are charged with writing standards based on the framework.
National science standards currently in place are 15 years old, and much has changed during that time. In the past year alone, physicists developed the first quantum machine, biologists developed a synthetic genome and robotic explorers have discovered water on Mars. In addition, education experts have become focused on improving science literacy of public school students in the United States. In addition, business experts, economists and politicians are talking about the need to train more scientists in an effort to increase innovation and fuel job growth.
Although Kansas is participating in writing the Next Generation Science Standards, the state will not be required to adopt them when they are complete. As a matter of fact, during the board’s September meeting, there was some discussion of the potential political difficulty of introducing the new standards in a state where the teaching of evolution has been controversial. The state board of education’s vote in 2005 to place less emphasis on the teaching of evolution in science classes attracted national attention.
Kansas City-area representatives who are members of Kansas’ Next Generation Science Standards Review Committee are:
- James Benz, a science teacher at Turner Middle School in the Turner Unified School District #202
- Barbara Bollier, a medical doctor who represents District 25 in the Kansas House of Representatives, where she serves on the Education Committee
- Lynette Day, a Science and Health Resource Specialist with the Shawnee Mission School District
- Rob Elder, an employee of Seaboard Farms in Shawnee Mission
- Marcel Harmon, an employee of the M.E. Group, an Overland Park-based engineering company
- Alan King, Curriculum Director for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools
- Angela Kreps, president of KansasBio, the state bioscience industry organization
- Marsha Ratzel, a sixth-grade science teacher at Leawood Middle School in the Blue Valley School District
- Christine Sanders, a sixth-grade science teacher at Basehor-Linwood Middle School in the Basehor-Linwood School District
- Bruce Wellman, an aerospace and engineering instructor at Olathe Northwest High School in the Olathe Public School District, a National Board Certified chemistry teacher and a 2009 recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science Teaching.
Earlier this fall, Achieve announced the 20 lead states that would draft the new national science standards. In addition to Kansas, the Lead State Partners are Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington and West Virginia. Missouri is not participating in this project.
A full list of all 58 members of the Kansas Next Generation Science Standards Review Committee was provided to members of the state education board, which held their monthly meeting yesterday and today in Topeka.
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