Tuesday, June 04, 2013

State Board to Vote on Science Standards

The Kentucky Board of Education votes this Wednesday
to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards

The Kentucky Board of Education will meet Wednesday, June 5 at 9 a.m. ET in the State Board Room on the first floor of the Capital Plaza Tower in Frankfort.  

During the meeting the board is expected to approve a resolution in support of Senate Bill 1 (2009) and the Kentucky Core Academic Standards. It will consider applications for Districts of Innovation; receive results of the TELL (Teaching, Empowering, Leading and Learning) Kentucky school working conditions survey. The board will hear updates on the 2012-14 biennial budget and state management of the Breathitt County and Monticello Independent school districts.

The Board will also vote on adopting the Next-Generation Science Standards.

The meeting will be webcast on the Kentucky Department of Education’s homepage the day of the meeting and click here to access the agenda and supporting materials.

This Op-Ed from Robert Bevins in the Courier-Journal:

New science standards should not be a concern

When the conservative Fordham Institute reviewed state science standards last year, Kentucky’s statewide standards were given a D. The authors, a panel of esteemed scientists and educators, found Kentucky’s standards to be “so short on details — including some critical content — that the standards fail to provide the backbone for a rigorous K-12 science curriculum.”

As a Kentuckian, an educator and a scientist, I believe we must do better if Kentucky is to be competitive in the 21st century. We should all be glad that the state’s board of education is poised to adopt Next Generation Science Standards; these standards will give tomorrow’s Kentucky the foundation needed for success, preparing tomorrow’s doctors and patients, workers and entrepreneurs for future discoveries and grand new opportunities.

The Next Generation Science Standards come from an unprecedented collaboration among 26 states — including Kentucky — working together to improve and update their science education.

Written by the states and guided by an impartial partnership including the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Achieve organization, these standards aced the Fordham Institute’s review.

In a recent letter to The Courier-Journal, the chair of the state’s Senate Education Committee objects to NGSS adoption, singling out the new standards’ coverage of evolution and climate change.

These concerns are misplaced.

Those topics are central to our students’ ability to understand modern biology, medicine and agriculture, and to take part in modern scientific discussions. They are so essential, and so scientifically uncontroversial, that both topics were identified by the National Research Council as core themes that ought to be at the center of state science standards.

If Kentucky’s students are to compete successfully on national college entrance exams, they must have the scientific education to effectively answer questions regarding climate change and evolution. Additionally, for Kentucky to recruit employers from high-tech fields such as biomedical research, these companies must feel confident that Kentuckians have received quality science education.

Sen. Mike Wilson, the Senate education chair, objects to statements in NGSS that lay responsibility on humanity for today’s global climate changes.

While these may be politically controversial statements, they are scientifically uncontroversial.

Science should not be viewed as politically correct or incorrect, but as a process by which we better understand the world around us. We must not ignore evidence that does not conform to our closely held beliefs.

This is why science education is vitally important. Effective science education teaches us to recognize our own biases and accept results that might not match our expectations or desires. Our science education standards should reflect the best available science, not anyone’s ideological party line.

The basic physics and chemistry explaining how gases like carbon dioxide added to the air would cause global warming dates back to the 1820s. By the 1890s, scientists began calculating how changes in CO2 could affect global temperature. By the 1950s, scientists could see a clear human fingerprint on the rapid increase of atmospheric carbon dioxide. Tomorrow’s citizens deserve a clear understanding of that science.

Similarly with evolution, Sen. Wilson objects to the discussion of evolution and speciation in NGSS, wrongly claiming there is “no factual evidence that this has ever occurred.” Scientists and educators agree that evolution is the foundation of a modern science education, crucial information for anyone interested in medicine, agriculture and even mining.

Sen. Wilson is right that many Kentuckians reject evolution. It would be wrong to present this as a reason to rewrite the standards.

First, many Kentuckians see no such conflict between their Christianity (or other religious background) and evolution. Second, students will not be required to blindly believe in evolution, but instead be able to understand the material covered and see how the evidence leads scientists to their conclusions.

Rewriting or rejecting the Next Generation Science Standards on these grounds would only deprive our children of the scientific knowledge they will need as adults, and create an impression that scientific evidence can be trumped by personal beliefs.

I hope the state board of education, and Sen. Wilson, will join me and the many Kentuckians who joined to create Kentuckians for Science Education, in supporting the rapid adoption of Next Generation Science Standards in Kentucky.

Robert Bevins, Ph.D., is president of the Kentuckians for Science Education, a nonprofit coalition of scientists, educators, parents and concerned citizens which advocates for preserving and improving science education in Kentucky’s public schools.

This from the Courier-Journal:

Stick with Science

Kentucky is on the verge of a major upgrade to science education in public schools and it is imperative that the public give this matter full attention.

Sen. Mike Wilson
The proposed science curriculum, joined with new “common core” academic standards in English, math and language arts, will offer Kentucky students a more sophisticated scope of study and a better chance to excel in college and careers — if it is not picked apart by critics.

And the proposed Next Generation Science Standards are drawing fire from an unlikely source — the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Mike Wilson. He appears perturbed the standards “make it clear that evolution is fundamental to understanding life sciences,” a seeming jab at the science curriculum for failing to include beliefs such as the Biblical account of creation.

Sen. Wilson, a Bowling Green Republican and general manager of a Christian radio station, just five months ago insisted he had no plans whatsoever to let his personal, evangelical Christian faith influence his work as education committee chairman.

Now he is doing exactly that — despite his pledge after his Republican colleagues appointed him chairman last December that he would not use the position to push creationism, his belief that the world was created by God.

“I have no plans for doing anything like that or focusing on that,” Sen. Wilson told The Courier-Journal’s Tom Loftus.

While many people of faith may hold this belief, it has no business in a public school science curriculum.

Rep. Derrick Graham
Fortunately, the House recently appointed Rep. Derrick Graham, a Frankfort Democrat and recently retired social studies teacher, as chairman of the House Education Committee. As the new science standards move through the legislative review process later this year, Rep. Graham offers hope of a more reasoned analysis.

Meanwhile, Sen. Wilson, in a letter published May 23 in this newspaper, used his position as education committee chairman to question the validity of the new science standards developed by 26 states, including Kentucky, with the help of the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for Advancement of Science.

Sen. Wilson objects to some of the content of the new standards, particularly when it comes to evolution, or the well-supported scientific theory that human life developed from a common ancestor and has evolved over time by natural selection.

“There is no factual evidence that this has ever occurred and to suppose that it happens is counter to the beliefs of many Kentuckians,” he wrote.

Perhaps those Kentuckians never got the sound science education they deserved. As Dr. Robert Bevins, a Kentucky scientist whose opinion piece also appears on this page, observes: “If you don’t receive a good science education as a child, you grow up to be an adult who doesn’t understand science very well.”

Sen. Wilson, also frets that the new standards link climate change to human activities because they correctly state “Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature.”

While this objection does not appear to stem from religious belief, translate “fossil fuels” to coal and denial of the well-documented trend of global warming certainly conforms to the worshipful attitude of some Kentucky lawmakers to the coal industry.

Sen. Wilson observes there has not been enough press coverage of the new science education standards.

So here is some information about them and how the public can get involved.

Information on the standards is available at www.nextgenscience.org/

The Kentucky Board of Education, which has given preliminary review to the standards, is scheduled to give them a second review at its meeting June 5 at 9 a.m. Those who can’t make it to the meeting can watch a livestream on the Education Department’s website, http://www.education.ky.gov

If the standards receive final approval from the board, the state Education Department will file them with the legislature as proposed changes to state regulations that define the state’s Core Academic Standards.

The public will have a chance to comment before lawmakers review the regulations. Several legislative committees, including the House and Senate education committees, will have an opportunity to review them at public hearings later in the year where the public also may comment.

Following review, the regulations could be enacted and become part of the state’s public school curriculum.

The public must follow this closely and make sure public science education is based on sound science and not anyone’s religious beliefs, no matter how sincere.

This from KSBA:

Ed chief concerned upcoming hearing will put new standards “misinformation” in spotlight

Classroom use of the national "Common Core State Standards" have stirred opposition in several states this year. Now Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is worried that critics will use a legislative hearing next week to attack the “Kentucky Core Academic Standards” that resulted from the Senate Bill 1 reforms ordered by the 2009 General Assembly.

The legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education meets June 10. Holliday has been called to give an update on implementing Senate Bill 1 changes, including testing, instruction and accountability measures that allow Kentucky students’ work to be compared with that of counterparts in other states.

Kentucky was the first state to adopt the national Common Core State Standards crafted by several groups including the Council of Chief State School Officers, of which Holliday is an officer.  The first standards offered to states covered English Language arts and math. Drafts of science standards are being reviewed by states now, while social studies standards are in development.

For various reasons, the national standards have come under fire in several states. In Indiana, for example, state spending relative to implementation of the student progress measures has been frozen by the legislature. A similar budget restriction is expected to be passed by the Michigan legislature.

“We’ve been trying to combat misinformation (on national standards).  We’ve moved on," Holliday said Friday in a KDE webinar for superintendents. "We are now heavily invested in Kentucky Core Academic Standards that teachers in Kentucky developed. We invested in tests that teachers in Kentucky developed and a Kentucky developed assessment and accountability system.

"We appreciate the work that was done on a national level and we certainly tapped into it because it was free and we didn’t get any money to develop these standards required by Senate Bill 1. We were lucky the national work was being done,” Holliday said.

In a recent newspaper op-ed article, the new chairman of the Senate Education Committee, Mike Wilson (R-Bowling Green), questioned the proposed science standards as they relate to issues of evolution and climate change. The article has since received some national news media attention and sparked discussion among scientists and teachers in Kentucky.

“Due to a lot of push-back coming out of northern Kentucky, we’ve been put on the agenda where we are with the standards, in particular the science standards…and the end-of-course (exams), ” Holliday said.

The commissioner asked superintendents to contact their legislators before the committee hearing.

“Make sure they understand that Kentucky teachers in the thousands did the hard work to interpret common core standards to turn them into Kentucky core standards,” he said.  “Make sure they know what the choices are. They are pretty simple.

“We can continue this work through Senate Bill 1, or we can stop it right in its tracks and we won’t see improvements in our test scores. We’ll be stuck in a rut,” Holliday said. “Or we can go back to where we were before, back to CATS (the state’s previous school assessment and accountability system). I don’t think anybody wants that. The people who are the loudest against common core are the people who were loudest against CATS. I hate to be so blunt, but that’s the way it was.”

Holliday said he expects the push-back on common core standards that has occurred in other states will be voiced at the education panel’s hearing.

“I know that on June 10 we will have a large contingent show up at the interim joint committee meeting to really rally against the work we’ve done through Senate Bill 1,” he said. “I don’t want to waste the work of teachers and your work the last three years.  I need your help to contact legislators. They’ll do the right thing if they have accurate information.”

This Op-Ed from Terry Holliday in the Kentucky Inquirer by way of KSBA:

New standards lead to success
Our goal in Kentucky is to provide students with a world-class education that will prepare them for college, careers and to compete in a global economy.
This has been the focus since the passage of Senate Bill 1 in 2009, which charged the Kentucky Department of Education, in collaboration with the Council on Postsecondary Education, to implement new academic content standards in reading, language arts (including writing), mathematics, science, social studies, arts and humanities and practical living skills/career studies. Senate Bill 1 was the driving force behind Kentucky’s involvement with the Common Core State Standards initiative.

The Kentucky Board of Education, Education Professional Standards Board and the Council for Postsecondary Education voted to implement the Common Core State Standards in 2010. They were adopted as the Kentucky Core Academic Standards. For the past two years, Kentucky teachers have implemented the standards.

Has it been easy? Not always. Lack of funding for new textbooks, teacher professional development and student intervention services has been a challenge. Additionally, student test scores are lower than they were under the old standards; a dip I feel confident will rise as students and teachers become more familiar with the new standards.

Despite these challenges, the Kentucky Core Academic Standards present overwhelming positives for our students and state:

• The standards are aligned with college- and career-readiness expectations, and are internationally benchmarked. Prior to the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, only a third of Kentucky students were ready for college or to enter the workforce. Today, with the standards taught in all Kentucky classrooms, the percentage of students deemed ready for college or a career has increased from 34 percent to 47 percent.

• The Kentucky Core Academic Standards are more rigorous than prior standards and represent the minimum of what students should know and be able to do. The standards require students to think more critically and develop 21st-century job skills such as communication, collaboration, and problem solving – the skills employers say are needed for today’s jobs.

• The Kentucky Core Academic Standards recognize local control over curriculum and teaching methods. The standards dictate “what” students need to learn, not “how” the standards will be reached. Districts establish their own curriculum.

• The standards were developed through an open, inclusive, state-led process based on the best research available with input from higher education, employers, teachers and the public, including those from Kentucky.

• The development and adoption of the standards was an efficient and economical way to meet the mandates of Senate Bill 1. No money was appropriated for Kentucky to develop standards, so we joined with 47 states in an initiative spearheaded by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers to develop new, more rigorous standards.

Senate Bill 1 set out a clear mandate that called for the development of rigorous standards that will better prepare our students to succeed after graduation. We have successfully implemented those new standards in reading, writing and arithmetic in every classroom in Kentucky, and have begun to see positive changes. Having been involved in the standards development and the implementation of Senate Bill 1, I am convinced that this is the right thing for Kentucky students, the business community and for the economic future of the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Next Generation Science Standards for Kentucky
If the Kentucky state board of education adopts Next Generation Science Standards at their next meeting, the Bluegrass State will replace standards which earned a D in 2012 with A-quality standards. Unfortunately, these strong new standards are under attack. The vote is expected to come next Wednesday, June 5. The board must hear from you now.
Over the last few years, Kentucky joined with 25 other states to draft these shared standards, using a framework developed by the nation's scientific advisors, the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences.

 These new standards are designed to deepen students' understanding not just of what science has discovered, but how science works. Of course, core scientific concepts like evolution and climate change are given the central positions they deserve. 

The Kentucky state board of education will vote to adopt these standards next Wednesday. Sign up below to learn more about how to support honest, accurate standards in Kentucky.

Unfortunately, religious and political ideologues in Kentucky are gearing up to fight these NGSS. Answers in Genesis frontman Ken Ham, creator of Kentucky's Creation Museum, smeared NGSS as an "effort by the secularists to impose their anti-God religion on the culture." The Kentucky Senate's Education Committee chair attacked the standards as well, citing long-discredited claims by creationists and climate change deniers. He called for the standards to be reworked to allow "open and objective discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of multiple theories," opening the classroom door to these same debunked claims.

Will you join NCSE and your fellow Kentuckians for science education in fighting for honest science education, without any taint of religious or political ideology? Sign up with NCSE here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Who cares about evolution, what about Bigfoot, Martians and Bermuda Triangle?