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Draft of Common Science Standards Coming This Week

The first draft of common standards in science will be released for public comment this Friday.

Twenty-six states are playing a lead role in developing the Next Generation Science Standards, which organizers of the effort hope will eventually be adopted by all—or at least most—states.

I just checked with Texas and Virginia, two of the holdouts on the Common Core State Standards in English/language arts and mathematics, about their plans. Education officials in both states say they are not planning to adopt the science standards, though in Virginia, the education department spokesman said that when the Old Dominion next revises its science standards in 2017, the common standards would be "reviewed" and "taken into account."

For their part, the 26 states leading the effort are not bound to adopt the standards, but as lead states, they have committed to give "serious consideration" to doing so.

Top priorities in developing the standards are to promote greater emphasis on depth over breadth in understanding science, as well as more coherence in instruction across topics and grade levels. In addition, there will be a strong push for young people to continually engage in the practices of both scientific inquiry and engineering design. Organizers also promise that the standards will be "internationally benchmarked."

The deadline for submitting comments is June 1, though there will be at least one additional round of public comment later on. The effort is being facilitated by Achieve, a Washington-based nonprofit that also was involved in developing the common-core math and ELA standards.

You can find answers to a set of frequently asked questions about the standards here.

The states spearheading the science standards span the country, from California and Arizona to South Dakota, Iowa, Illinois, Tennessee, Maine, and Georgia.

The states are working in partnership with the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to develop the new standards. Last summer, an NRC panel of experts wrapped up work on a framework to guide the development of the standards. The framework identifies the core ideas and practices in the natural sciences and engineering that all students should know by the time they graduate from high school.

(Meanwhile, the NRC also is starting work on a related effort to develop a framework for new science assessments.)

The target for finalizing the standards is the end of 2012, though organizers have already hinted that this date might slip well into 2013.

Stay tuned for an analysis of the draft standards.

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