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Final Science Standards Issued: Let the Debate Begin

The final version of the Next Generation Science Standards was publicly unveiled yesterday. You can find detailed analysis and early reaction in this Education Week story.

Two big questions now are what kind of reaction will they generate and how many states will ultimately adopt them. The 26 "lead state partners" in helping to craft the standards have all pledged to seriously consider adoption. And as I reported earlier this year, a number of other states have been keeping a close eye on the endeavor. In fact, several states, including Florida, Louisiana, and Wisconsin, assembled teams to provide feedback on earlier drafts.

The science standards have an ambitious goal of reshaping both the focus and delivery of science instruction. That's no small task. And as most educators (and many of those involved in writing the standards) will tell you, standards alone can't accomplish that kind of change. A lot of other things also must happen.

Adoption itself may be a tricky matter in some states. For one, the standards wade into some politically sensitive terrain, namely the teaching of evolution and climate change. Indeed, I noticed that stories in both The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times pay considerable attention to climate change. (In fact, the Los Angeles Times headline says, "New Teaching Standards Delve More Deeply Into Climate Change.")

Also, the balance between learning essential science content and the standards' strong push for engaging in scientific and engineering practices is sparking some debate. In addition, the standards aim to reduce the sheer volume of content students are expected to learn, in favor of having time to study fewer topics in greater depth. Don't be surprised if a lot of folks have misgivings about what was left out.

As a reporter at Education Week, I've had the opportunity to cover this process from the very beginning (more than three years ago). With the final standards now in hand, it'll be fascinating to watch how this process and debate unfolds. Stay tuned for more coverage in coming days, weeks, and months.

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