The Thomas B. Fordham Institute says the Kansas is replacing some of the nation's strongest science standards for public schools with weaker, multi-state guidelines. The education think tank released its findings today.
Educators from 26 states, plus the National Research Council, worked together to develop the new standards. The Kansas Board of Education voted to adopt just this week.
The institute acknowledges that the new guidelines--known as the Next Generation Science Standards--are superior to standards in many states, but they scrimp on detail about which key concepts students need to learn, citing chemistry and physics standards as examples.
"We think that the ones you are ushering out the door are superior," Chester Finn, the institute's president, said. "I hope you give them a very nice going-away party."
Supporters acknowledge the new standards have a narrower focus in terms of the topics they cover. Yet they contend the guidelines will encourage a deeper knowledge of key concepts, such as evolution and climate change, and help schools do a better job of training students to think like scientists. Several teachers told the BOE that emphasizing hands-on experiments will excite their students.
"What I'm struck most by is the focus on skills instead of rote memorization," said Scott Sharp, a biology teacher at DeSoto High School.
Kathleen Porter-Magee with the Fordham Institute says while teaching students how to conduct experiments and think like scientists is important, so is mastering facts.