Science in U.S. schools needs to be more comprehensive, hands on and rigorous to produce more engineers, doctors and inventors to help the U.S. compete, according to groups that are promoting new education standards.
The Next Generation Science Standards, developed by organizations such as the National Research Council and the National Science Teachers Association, were released yesterday. Twenty-six states, including California, New York and New Jersey, took part in drafting the voluntary guidelines and will consider adopting them for state curriculums.
The science guidelines follow a similar effort to create uniform expectations in math, writing and reading, called Common Core State Standards, issued in 2010 and which have been adopted in 45 states. The science standards were devised in part by looking at what is taught in countries that lead international tests, such as Singapore, South Korea and Finland. The U.S. ranked 17th in science and 25th in math in a 2009 assessment, according to the Next Generation Science Standards website.
“The U.S. system of science and mathematics education is performing far below par and, if left unattended, will leave millions of young Americans unprepared to succeed in a global economy,” the group said.
The new science standards are organized around teaching scientific ideas and using them to investigate or solve problems through engineering. Students will also learn concepts that cut across different scientific disciplines.
The standards have performance expectations for each grade level, from kindergarten through 12th grade. Fourth graders, for example, should know and demonstrate that energy can be transferred from place to place, while high school students are expected to understand concepts such as DNA and climate change.
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