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Maryland Adopts Common Science Standards by Unanimous Vote

The Maryland state board of education today voted 11 to 0 to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, bringing to four the number of states to take such action. It joins Kansas, Kentucky, and Rhode Island. (In Kentucky, the board's vote on adoption is still subject to a regulatory process that includes legislative review.)

All four were part of the larger coalition of 26 "lead state partners" that teamed up with several national organizations to craft the science standards.

[UPDATE (3:15 p.m.): I just got word that Vermont's state board of education also voted today to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards.]

The new K-12 standards were issued in final form in April. Key tenets of the standards include providing a greater emphasis on depth over breadth in science education and asking students to apply their learning through the practices of scientific inquiry and engineering design.

In a phone interview, Dr. S. James Gates, a member of the Maryland state board and a physics professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, praised the new standards as holding great promise to transform science education for young people, and to better engage students in the subject.

"It's an approach where we are trying to make sure not just a few people have access to science," said Gates, who this year was awarded the National Medal of Science and serves on the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. He said the development of the standards was informed by a careful review of research on how young people learn. "This whole set of standards was designed around using all this modern knowledge about how the brain works."

At the same time, Gates emphasized the involvement of scientists and educators in crafting the standards.

Organizers of the science-standards effort have urged states to take a "go slow" approach to implementation, and Maryland intends to take that approach, said Charlene Dukes, the president of the Maryland board of education.

"That was part of our discussion today" at the state board meeting, she said, noting that the state aims to fully implement the standards by the 2017-18 academic year. "It's a four-year process."

Dukes, who also is the president of Prince George's Community College, notes that the state has plenty of work ahead in developing a scope and sequence for science courses, offering instructional models, looking at assessments, and providing technical assistance.

"We want to move forward, but we want to be thoughtful and deliberate in this implementation process," Dukes said.

Below is a handy map of the states that have voted to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards so far.

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