Chalkbeat: A year after Common Core, the next battle could be Indiana’s new science standards

May 15, 2015 5 Comments

Chalkbeat’s article on the criticisms of the Next Generation Science Standards, being considered for adoption by the IDOE, is very revealing.

Regardless of the fact that the Fordham Institute judged the standards as a “C” and blasted them for their lack of content, Jeremy Eltz, a science specialist with the department who is heading up the adoption, isn’t concerned.

“One criticism is that they don’t have enough content in chemistry or physics to actually construct a high school course,” Tuttle said. “There isn’t enough material there.”

Eltz agreed with Tuttle that the new national science standards are lighter in content. But he doesn’t necessarily think that’s bad. The standards’ emphasis on skills and scientific practice is important for students, too, he said. Indiana’s science standards now are fairly content-driven, he said.

Are the Indiana science standards too content driven- if there is such a thing?  Are they lacking the “process or practices” standards so widely covered in the NGSS?  No,  the Fordham review found that the IN process standards are “nicely integrated into the content matter and is presented at reasonable length and depth, and is never used as a hand-waving mechanism to hide the absence or paucity of content.”

On the other hand, the Fordham report concluded that the scientific practices  included in the NGSS  are “forced, ill-conceived, and detract from the essential content needed in order for a student to actually engage in the practice of scientific inquiry.” The IDOE doesn’t agree:

“You really want your students to be able to perform the practice of a scientist and an engineer,” Eltz said.

He fails to realize that a scientist “performs” the way he or she does because of the extensive content knowledge learned over many years. I guess the IDOE finds that unnecessary- just grab a beaker,  put on a lab coat, and do a group project- BAM you’re a scientist!

Check out more from the Chalkbeat article here. The IDOE representative is actually quoted as saying that less content is OK because teachers are spending less class time teaching science than they used to do. Go figure.


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  1. bobmontgomery says:

    ” – just grab a beaker, put on a lab coat, and do a group project- BAM you’re a scientist!” Well, what’s wrong with that? After all, they’re telling third-graders to write an essay on ‘hurting the Earth’ and BAM, they’re environmental climatologists. Or write a paragraph on ‘bullying’ and BAM, they’re clinical sociologists. It’s all good.

  2. SchoolDad says:

    If Indiana didn’t get Math and English/Lit. correct this last go-around, why would any sane person think they are going to get Science correct too?

  3. teacherparent says:

    First, I would like to know the credentials of those who are so upset about these standards. The science standards team is composed of teachers, parents, business partners, and higher education officials. They are the ones writing the science standards. Most are the experts in this field. I appreciate the advocacy for teacher rights, here, but I am perturbed by the condemnation of the process. Besides, many like to complain but how many get involved when the opportunity arises? I have been involved in several science standards development committees and I can tell you the lack of public response is shameful when it was open to public comment. Get educated about standards, what they mean for our students, and how they are developed, then join a committee and post informed comments before blasting the process. IDOE is many people and many of them have our students at heart and are experts in their field. Do not confuse state enforced policy with the desires of individuals who want to do the best they can with their hands tied behind their backs. I have a few Masters degrees in education and I take my work on the committee very seriously and spend hours pouring over standards and looking at alignment and vertical articulation. I will make the best informed suggestions for these standards that is possible. Don’t start a fight and judge the work before it is completed – then please make informed, educated comments about them that can make them better. Back it up with solid evidence, just as any good scientist would do. Yes, we DO teach that along with content. By the way – if you really care about science education, work to get it on ISTEP. Did you know that administrators have told teachers NOT to teach science because it doesn’t count toward AYP? I HATE our current assessment requirements – do not get me wrong – but the problem here is state enforced.

    • Erin Tuttle says:

      Thanks for your comment. You write about the Science Standards Committee who are working on the standards, but a list of the members isn’t available online or the IDOE website. If you could post a link or submit the list via email that would be great. You also asked about the credentials of those opposing the standards- the authors of the report are below:

      1. Paul R. Gross (Lead Author)
      Paul R. Gross was educated in Philadelphia public schools and at the University of Pennsylvania. He held a senior postdoctoral fellowship of the U.S. National Science Foundation at the University of Edinburgh and was awarded an honorary doctor of science degree from the Medical College of Ohio. Now professor emeritus of life sciences at the University of Virginia.

      2. Douglas J. Buttrey received a BS in biology from Wayne State University and an MS and PhD in chemistry from Purdue University. He held a SOHIO postdoctoral research fellowship in physical chemistry at Cambridge. After eighteen months as a visiting professor jointly in chemistry, physics, and materials science and engineering at Purdue, he joined the faculty in chemical engineering at the University of Delaware. He is currently the associate chairperson in chemical and biomolecular engineering at the University of Delaware and is a member of the university’s Center for Catalytic Science and Technology.

      3. Ursula Goodenough (Biology)
      Ursula Goodenough is a professor of biology at Washington University. She received her PhD in biology from Harvard University, and she previously served there as an NIH postdoctoral fellow and both an assistant and an associate professor.

      4. Noretta Koertge (Philosophy of Science)
      Noretta Koertge is professor emeritus in the department of history and philosophy of science at Indiana University, where she continues to teach in the Hutton Honors College.

      5. Martha Schwartz (Earth and Space Science)
      Martha Schwartz has taught science and mathematics from seventh grade through early graduate school. She is also experienced in teacher training and professional development. She holds a BS in mathematics from Arizona State University, a teaching credential from UCLA, a master’s degree in geology from California State University, Long Beach, and a PhD in geophysics from the University of Southern California. She is a member of the Assessment Review Panel in science for the state of California and has worked on school improvement, standards, and testing for a variety of organizations.

      6. Richard Schwartz (Chemistry)
      Richard Schwartz holds a BS in chemistry from Arizona State University, a teaching credential from UCLA, and a master’s degree in environmental science from California State University, Dominguez Hills. He taught secondary science for thirty-four years, the last thirty-two of which at Torrance High School in Torrance, California. He is a former member of the California Curriculum Commission and a 1995 recipient of the American Chemical Society’s regional award in chemistry teaching

  4. Leon dixon says:

    Given that K-12 Education Reform experts advised that the single best thing we could do to improve K-12 in Indiana would be to close down the ability of our schools of education to issue undergraduate degrees I think dumbing down of our former standards is a great dis service. I’d pour something over the heads of those who have masters degrees and Phd’s in that field as well. I have pored over many transcripts of folks seeking a well paying superintendent position but none of them had impressive academics. It was almost a wonderful thing to see how broken down high school coaches improved their grades while working for a master’s degree in something or other and then became stellar scholars for the next increment of financial reward. Pretty much a scam but we are approaching the area where we can’t dumb down any more.

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