Florida’s science standards: I’m confused

Back in May, the State Board of Education talked for a few minutes about the state’s science standards woes. The science standards developed and approved in 2008 simply aren’t the best. I provided a lengthy summary of what the Board decided to do, even though that decision was rather hazy.

There are currently 23 states joining together to create a set of Next Generation Science Standards. We here at Florida Citizens for Science have been encouraging the DoE and State Board to join that effort. It appears that Florida Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson at least partly agrees. His recommendation to the Board is to temporarily patch up our state standards while waiting for the national standards effort to produce a final product. The Board could then consider at that time adopting the National Standards in place of our state standards.

During the meeting, the Board seemed to go along with this recommendation. Bridge to Tomorrow also discussed the temporary patch job and reminds us that the next time the Board is expected to talk about this is Monday and Tuesday, July 16-17 (however, I don’t see any mention of this subject on the meeting agendas).

So, I’m feeling might confused by what I read in a story today in the Tampa Bay Times. Educators aim to excite students in science.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a national education think tank in Washington, D.C., found Florida’s standards did a good job at the primary level. But they were weak in the higher grades as a result of “poor organization, ambiguous statements and basic errors,” the report said.

More criticism has followed since the recent release of results on a national science test for eighth-graders that showed Florida lagging behind the national average.

The findings have some local education advocates calling for the state to join the national effort to develop Common Core State Standards in science.

Florida Department of Education officials, however, recommend sticking with plans to adopt the state’s Next Generation Science Standards in 2013-14.

“A lot of assessments and curriculum are already built around it,” said Gerry Meisels, director of the Coalition for Science Literacy at the University of South Florida.

It would be too costly, officials said, to rewrite instructional materials and retrain teachers — especially since the two standards are so similar.

“And, frankly,” said Meisels, a chemistry professor who helped write Florida’s standards, “teachers and students need some stability. You can’t keep changing things every year.”

What? Does this mean that someone in Tallahassee changed the May recommendation decision? Can y’all help me figure out what is going on here?

About Brandon Haught

Communications Director for Florida Citizens for Science.
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4 Responses to Florida’s science standards: I’m confused

  1. Jonathan Smith says:


    Getting any real answers from the FDOE or the FBOE is like pulling teeth I’ve been trying for several months now. My understanding was that we were to “patch” the old standards (which I spent several hours on survey monkey doing) and look to adopt the National Standards. I don’t see where this adoption would be any more expensive than repairing the current ones in terms of text book and teacher upgrading, but I could be wrong. Upgrading the current standards may will be less controversial (not open for public review) than the National Standards. Election time is at hand don’t forget.

  2. Joe Wolf says:

    The plan seems to be to fix the current standards. I personally think that is a good idea. After that and the national standards are finished, I would like to know what the difference between the 2 standards are. Can we bring the current standards (or a reversion of them) up to a Fordham A? Which will fit Florida’s students better? Which will give them the opportunity for a better science education?

  3. Paul Cottle says:

    Hi Joe: Despite the victory FCS orchestrated on evolution education in 2008, Florida remains far behind in the science literacy of its students. The best measurement of science literacy for graduating high school seniors is the ACT science section, and we are ranked 50th among the states (including DC, so there are 51 ranked entities – only Mississippi is behind us). NAEP science shows us behind the national norms at the 4th and 8th grade levels as well. Florida’s educational leaders have decided to have the state compete at the national level in math and language arts by adopting the Common Core Standards in those fields and joining (and leading!) one of the two big assessment consortia. But we are still refusing to compete at the national level in science. What’s best for Florida’s students is for the state to take on the challenge of competing with other states, and then set the priorities and make the investments necessary to do so successfully. To date, we haven’t done that. In addition, the agonizing Next Generation Science Standards process has taken on many of the really difficult questions that we didn’t have the time to address in our state process. Narrow example: How much nuclear physics should every high school grad know? I had that argument with the President of the American Association of Physics Teachers a month ago (she argued more, I said less, by the way). The closest we came during the Florida process was my shouting at Tom Jordan from the back of the meeting room that he was nuts to think that every high school grad should understand field theory. I agree with you that it is prudent to wait until we have the finished NGSS product in our hands. But in the end, if we are honest with ourselves, it is almost certain that going national will be best for our students.

  4. Debra Walker says:

    It’s tougher to get the adults interested in science in Florida than it is to inspire the kids, who take to science with glee in early elementary years. This is because science has been neglected for generations in Florida. Shall we say science aversion is a disease endemic to the peninsula? If so, what’s the cure?

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