Sunday, May 31, 2015

Utah Schools and Science Standards

Guest Post:

From my daughter who is a Junior High Biology Teacher and a Davis District Science Administrator (sorry, I forget her exact title, but she was the Science Mentor for her Mom when her Mom went back to teaching Jr. High Physical Science).

For whatever reason, public school Science remains controversial in Utah and many other parts of the country. This email message may help clarify the purpose of Utah Science Standards:
Hi L ______,

I'm happy to answer your questions.

1. With the myriad of standards that are available for states to use, how did Utah decide on using the NGSS [Next Generation Science Standards]?

The NGSS standards are based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education ( This happens to be the most up-to-date, research-based resource for science education that exists. NGSS has taken scientific content knowledge and organized it into appropriate levels for students in elementary, middle school and high school. NGSS has also taken into account the most current cognitive research (for how students at all ages learn) and incorporated science and engineering skills and practices that real-world scientists and engineers use. NGSS is comprehensive, rigorous and is intended to provided students the opportunity to think and act like scientists. Other than the Framework and NGSS, there is nothing as comprehensive and appropriate for student learning out there.

2. How is it that aside from some numbering changes that Utah's use of each standard is exactly the same as NGSS?

Were there no efforts to change wording or to clarify wording or to possibly remove certain standards?

Are there specific standards you are concerned about in terms of wording? The writing team actually created a Utah clarification statement and a SAGE [Student Achievement Guarantee in Education] boundary statement to help clarify each standard. Those statements are not on the draft standards because the state school board wanted a simplified document. However, the intent is to include those clarifications as ancillary materials for teachers when the standards become official. I would certainly add comments on the available survey about the standards you feel need more clarification ( Now for the NGSS standards themselves, they are based on the most current, evidence based science and rewording them in many cases would change the science, which then would make the standards obsolete.

3. Can you explain to me what the following standards mean?

So all three of the standards you stated are engineering standards. That is going to be something new to science teachers, and there will definitely be a learning curve. As the 'E' in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Science], engineering is something that has been overlooked in most K-12 education. The standards given are real components of what is supposed to be practiced in the engineering field, so we want to make sure students have the opportunity to experience those as part of their education. Engineering is where science meets real-world problems and seeks to find appropriate solutions. Students would be designing something that deals with the laws of motion or how gravity impacts structures (as a biologist, this is not my strong suit - however, my mom would be fantastic!). It's going to take some ingenuity from science teachers, and most likely collaboration with engineers, to come up with ideas for classroom use.

Again, the vagueness of the standards will be addressed in the intended ancillary materials provided to teachers. The Utah State Office of Education, universities in the state, and many of the school districts are partnering to develop training materials and professional development for teachers to roll out when the standards are ready so that there is support for the new ideas.

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions. I know that USOE [Utah State Office of Education] is working on a FAQ page, NGSS also has a great FAQ page if you have questions about its development.

[My Daughter]

Watch this space. There may be updates to this.

1 comment:

  1. May I just add that the idealistic and practical purpose of free public school education funded by taxation (with representation) is to help establish an informed electorate for a free people to govern themselves. We need to do better. Destroying the public schools with legislative imposition of religion-based science, lack of funding, inequitable funding in lower income (less taxable) school districts, excessive testing-based quality judgments, and general disdain for the honorable civil service of dedicated teachers (the vast majority of them), are not helping.

    I bear witness that my wife and daughter work harder at their jobs and put in more hours than any entrepreneurial corporate success story. They are not respectfully treated nor adequately compensated in our warped system of money-based values.


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