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Florida's science standards among the worst nationally, Fordham review finds



imgres.jpgFlorida might get top marks for its education policy from some of the nation's accountability-focused groups. Not so for its science standards.

The Fordham Institute, headed by former Reagan education official Chester E. Finn Jr., has issued a new report assessing state's science standards, and Florida fares poorly.

The group gives the Sunshine State a D for its guidelines (along with 10 other states), earning only four of 10 points in the areas of content, rigor, clarity and specificity:

"Florida’s standards evoke a split personality. The document starts out well at the primary level, but in the higher grades it weakens into poor organization, ambiguous statements, and basic errors. One has the impression that the writers were pushing the limits of their scientific expertise at the higher grades. Taken as a whole, the document does not provide a solid foundation for a rigorous K-12 science curriculum."

It offers examples of the errors that it refers to: 

"(I)n fourth grade, two benchmarks that address heat flow are listed under a Big Idea that addresses waves. In fifth grade, two benchmarks that concern electric current flow are listed under that same Big Idea. Sadly, none of these is a wave phenomenon, and the standards that follow them are therefore a confused mess."

Florida State University physics professor Paul Cottle, who helped write the standards and has been a state watchdog for improving science education, addresses the report on his blog.

"How did I let that slip by? With the benefit of hindsight and the lessons learned from watching the people working on the NRC Science Framework doing it right, I can tell you how I let that slip by:  We didn’t have enough time (our 9 months or so vs. the NRC’s 18), we didn’t have a big enough staff, and we didn’t have the high-powered design team that the NRC program had."

He proposes that the state join that national Common Core effort that several other states have already signed on for, in order to keep Florida's science education moving ahead positively.

(Times file photo)

[Last modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 9:31am]


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