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National Science Standards Too Late for N.C., State Chief Says

While proponents of the effort to develop new, national science standards are hopeful that they will be adopted by states across the country, I've just learned of at least one state where that apparently won't be happening: North Carolina.

The issue, it seems, is not any objection to common standards in science per se, explained state Superintendent June Atkinson in an interview today. Indeed, North Carolina did adopt the common-core standards in mathematics and English/language arts. Nor is it necessarily any discomfort with the final framework issued last month by an expert panel of the National Research Council to guide the development of the science standards.

The main problem is that the national standards, which are expected to be completed next year, will just be too late.

"The timing is not good for us, because we spent months in developing tool kits, materials that teachers can use with the standards we've developed in science," Atkinson told me. "If this had happened earlier, maybe, but our teachers will be responsible for using the standards effective in 2012-13, so we don't have time to go back."

The state recently revamped all its standards, including in science.

(I was speaking with Superintendent Atkinson for a separate story on STEM education when I decided to pop the question about the science standards. I have not had a chance to pursue this question with other states yet.)

The nonprofit group Achieve is just now getting started in working with a set of states, as well as outside experts, to craft the science standards over the next year.

It said that about 6-8 states will be directly involved in that process, but that there will be ample opportunity for feedback from a wide range of stakeholders.

I have no idea how many states are likely to embrace the new standards once they're completed, though officials involved with crafting the science framework tell me some have deliberately postponed their own work to approve new science standards in light of the national effort.

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