One Parent’s Perspective on the Next Generation Science Standards Task Force Meeting

Below is a guest article from a parent, Emily Rouse from SW Iowa, who sat in on the last Next Generation Science Standards Task Force meeting.  Like me she was less than impressed with the format and the “transparency.”

By Emily Rouse

Eight states have adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Iowa is currently one of the states considering the NGSS. The Iowa Department of Education (DOE) hand-picked twenty-eight Iowans to review and make recommendations to the State Board of Education (BOE). These twenty-eight individuals make up the NGSS task force. There have been three public NGSS task force meetings. The stated purpose of this meeting was to come to a consensus of whether or not to recommend the NGSS to the State BOE. However, the true purpose of this final meeting was to convince all task force members to cast a ‘yes’ vote to recommend that the State BOE adopt these standards for Iowa. This was achieved by only having experts speak that supported the NGSS. My first concern is that the NGSS task force meetings were never designed to let the members hear from a variety of experts who supported AND opposed the NGSS. These meetings were one-sided. One presenter, Sarah Deery, energetically supported the NGSS because they would allow students to be taught “how to evaluate truth.” The task force members where never given the opportunity to hear differing viewpoints on the NGSS at the meetings, and thus half of the truth was hidden from them.

Colleen Anderson presented on the Implementation, Assessments and Cost of the NGSS. She stated upfront that schools would be in charge of buying all NGSS aligned textbooks. Assessment costs would also fall into the school district’s and taxpayer’s lap. The current cost of Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which is a fixed form test, is $3.50/student. Students are tested in science in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades. There are approximately 37,000 students per grade in Iowa. This equates to Iowa school districts spending $388,500 for students to be tested in science. The NGSS fixed form test will cost approximately $25-27/student in 5th, 8th, and 11th grades or $2,775,000 total. I reiterate, we the taxpayers and school districts will be footing the majority of the bill. The financial cost is not the only burden that we, as a state will carry; with the possible adoption of the NGSS, we will also be carrying the heavy burden of a generation of people who do not know how to problem solve without the use of technology. One of the task force members raised the concern that there is “too much focus on technology and engineering, which gives kids a false belief that all problems are solved with technology.” He went on to further say that “science is no longer the emphasis and has been replaced with engineering.” He was told, along with the other task force members, to write up a one page summary of concerns, questions, etc. to be submitted to the State BOE. It came as a surprise to most task force members and myself that, as the meeting was drawing to a close, a vote would be taken. I say a surprise, because it appeared a discussion was just beginning to take place among the task force members about the NGSS. Only 20 of the 28 members were still present. Up until this point only the pro-NGSS viewpoints had been offered from the presenters.

The final question was this: Do you recommend the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards?

a.) Yes, without reservation

b.) Yes, with some reservation

c.) No

The results were a.)11  b.)7  c.)1

One member chose not to vote and there were 8 members not present. (Editor’s note: State Senator Amy Sinclair said to me that she was told she was not eligible to vote since she was considered an “ex-officio” member.)

One member remarked that the way this was carried out seemed very “anti-climatic”. Another task force member said of the NGSS, “They are a ship with many leaks, we need to make good implementation of this process.” Yvette McCulley, the Science Consultant of the IA DOE remarked that “it appears that the majority of task force members believe that the NGSS meets the needs of Iowa students.” I don’t believe this was the case. Eight votes were not taken and the whole process was rushed. Voting was the unwritten purpose of this meeting, but it was NOT included on the written agenda and the ONLY viewpoint presented was that from a pro-NGSS bias.

I am in agreement that we need to have high academic standards in the sciences and ALL areas of education, however the NGSS are not best solution. The Iowa Core was adopted in 2008. How have our students been faring with these standards? Also, do we need to look to a nationalized set of standards that are untested? Wouldn’t it be smarter to seek out states such as California and Indiana, which received an A and A- rating from Fordham Institute on science achievement, and adopt those state standards as our own? NGSS only received a C rating from Fordham Institute. We do need to have better science assessments, but why build a whole new test which is very costly (it cost $200 million to develop the Smarter Balanced Assessments). Why not use what we have but make it better? I support better education, I support our children, and I support local control.  I do NOT believe that the NGSS have these three items at the top of their list if they are on their list at all.

About Shane Vander Hart

Shane Vander Hart founded Iowans for Local Control in 2012 which later merged with Iowa RestorEd. Shane also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts and the founder and president of 4:15 Communications, LLC, a social media & communications consulting/management firm.  You can connect with Shane on Facebook or follow him on Twitter and Google +.

Comments

  1. David Michael Pierce says:

    I assume Common Corpse will at some point enthusiastically endorse the Science Standards…some new MATH Standard..History.. Keep the people’s heads craning like the fans at a Superman v. The Flash tennis match.
    . We must put a stop to this confusing bombardment designed to distract us from our goal: Less government intrusion and indoctrination of us and our children.

  2. Mike Wedge says:

    I feel as though I am repeating myself (or talking in a vacuum), but I feel compelled (again) to comment on this post in the hopes that it might serve to set the record straight.

    Ms. Rouse states she “sat in on” the last meeting. So…did she partake in any of the table discussions? She states that “the true purpose of this final meeting was
    convince all task force members to cast a ‘yes’ vote.” This is not the case. As an ACTUAL taskforce member, we all got a
    chance to thoroughly discuss all the aspects of the NGSS and its implementation. Without actual evidence, she is making a
    baseless claim, totally unsubstantiated by facts. Did she attend previous NGSS symposiums, like myself and many others did?

    She’s bothered by the lack of cons of the NGSS. Did she miss the first meeting and the
    meeting from the previous May in which the researchers and curriculum writers
    presented the mountain of evidence and cognitive research that went into
    writing the NGSS? We also sifted through
    all of the comments from Iowas from the NGSS survey. What other concerns were not brought to
    light?

    I encourage Ms. Rouse and others to read “Above C Level”, a book that documents a
    major problem with the educational system in this country: how we spend so
    little assessing students. She’s unhappy
    that the state would pay more than the $3.75 per student…that’s part of the
    problem. A real assessment (such as, but not limited to “smarter balanced”)
    will dig deeper into what students actually know. It requires them to write and analyze. Those tests take more time and money. You get what you pay for…ITBS is about as cheap as you can get and they provide the most superficial evidence of learning. How many workshops has she attended on assessments and cognitive research? I’m not suggesting you have to have a phD in education (I don’t) to offer insights or engage in a debate about educational topics, but she should be better informed.

    The Iowa Core, yes was adopted in 2008, and I was on the implementation
    committee in my district (for science).
    A major problem (one that all educators are aware of) is that Iowa Core
    science only has grade bandwidths i.e. Grades 3-5, 6-8. This poses a major issue as the standards on
    motion (for example) are in grades 3-5…Iowa Core states (in essence) someone
    should teach motion in either grade 3, 4
    or 5. So, a third grader would learn
    about motion if he’s in Smithtown School, but 10 miles down the road, motion
    might be taught in 5th grade.
    In addition, Iowa Core is quite vague as to what specifically should be
    done with motion. NGSS offers specific
    developmental guidelines, learning progressions, cross-curricular insights. At the second NGSS meeting, the writers of the
    Iowa Core said they couldn’t do a lot of what they wanted to do.

    What it really boils down to is “local control” is an
    obstacle to education. The state needs a
    framework to use, built by experts and researchers i.e. NGSS. With that framework, teachers, district
    curriculum directors and AEA consultants can help decide what activities to use
    and how to implement it. The author of
    this blog would suggest that local teachers not only write the curriculum (without proper training or research) AND
    implement it. As I communicate with
    teachers across the state, the consensus is that we WANT a state curriculum and
    we’ll do the rest. Moreover, if Iowa
    adopts NGSS, we can work with other states to develop assessments (and share
    the costs) as well as design activities and lesson plans. Right now, Iowa science teachers can not do
    this. But, these are “oversights” that
    people with little to no actual experience with teaching do not realize. It seems to me that it’s much easier to throw
    wrenches into the system and lay landmines.

    I am quite honest about the public educational system’s
    shortcomings, faults, problems, etc.
    But, a coherent curriculum is not one of
    them. Adopting NGSS is something that needs to happen.

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