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Maryland Educators to Help Lead Effort to Development New Science Standards

Maryland has been selected to help lead a broad-based effort to strengthen science education for all students.

The State is one of 20 states leading the development of what are known as the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which will be designed to clearly define the content and practices that students will need to learn from kindergarten through high school.

The NGSS will be based on the “Framework for K-12 Science Education,” developed by the National Research Council, the staffing arm of the National Academy of Sciences, and released in July.

Maryland was an early supporter of the new Common Core State Standards initiative, which is bringing stronger K-12 standards in reading/English language arts and mathematics to schools over the next three years. The NGSS work dovetails with Maryland’s involvement in the Common Core.

“The need for improved science education is not in dispute, and Maryland must be part of that effort,” said Interim State Superintendent Bernard Sadusky. “Our graduates simply must be prepared for the rapidly changing world in which they will be living.”

Joining Maryland as a lead partner are Arizona, California, Georgia, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

NGSS development is a two-step process. First was the construction of the framework that identified the core ideas and practices in natural sciences and engineering that all students should be familiar with by the time they graduate. The 18-member National Research Council (NRC) committee, made up of leading scientists and educators, identified this summer key scientific ideas that all students should know by the time they receive a high school diploma.

The NRC framework, sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, specifies core ideas in four disciplinary areas—life sciences; physical sciences; earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology, and the application of science. The framework also identifies crosscutting concepts that have explanatory value across much of science and engineering, such as “cause and effect,” and “stability and change.”

Today begins the second step is the development of science standards based on the outline provided by the committee. Maryland, as a lead partner, will guide the standard writing process, gather and deliver feedback from state-level committees, and come together to address common issues and challenges. Maryland and its partner states also have agreed to commit staff time to the initiative and, upon completion, consider adopting the NGSS on a Statewide basis.

Maryland’s NGSS effort will be informed by the involvement of a Statewide committee of local system educators, college and university professors, scientists, and business leaders. NGSS leaders hope to complete their work by December 2012.

American students lag internationally in science education, according to several measures, making them less competitive for the jobs of the present and future. A recent U.S. Commerce Department study revealed that employment growth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields will be three times greater than non-STEM fields—a trend expected to continue in the coming decade.

The NGSS process is being managed by Achieve, an education reform nonprofit that Maryland has worked closely with for more than a decade.

“The lead state partners will provide important leadership and guidance throughout the development of the Next Generation Science Standards and are to be congratulated for making a strong commitment to improving science education,” said Michael Cohen, president of Achieve. “This will be a collaborative process that will lead to a set of standards that provides America’s students a strong foundation in science and supports colleges and career readiness for all.”

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