Archive for January, 2012

Darn those unofficial reviews!

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

As I stared at our science standards’ new D grade from the Fordham Foundation, I had vague recollections that a couple of Fordham’s reviewers had looked over the standards back when they were being revised. They were quite enthused by what they saw then, I thought. So, I dug through my archives and turned up those comments from a few years ago. Lawrence Lerner said the standards looked like a B to him.

Evaluated with the same methods he has used to assess science standards for over a decade, the current draft would earn a high B. Lerner is delighted: “This draft already represents a dramatic improvement across the board. With a little bit of extra effort, Florida could bring that up to an A.”

Paul Gross didn’t offer a grade, but did say he liked what he saw (from St. Petersburg Times 11/30/07 article):

Gross agreed to review the standards as an individual and not as a Fordham representative. But as a scientist, he was impressed: “Clearly, the writing committee, whoever they are, have taken to heart all the arguments that have been made about lousy standards,” he said.
“The organization of the plan is entirely respectable, and it pays attention to all the national models,” said Gross. “There’s not a lot of fluff in it.”

Darn. I guess we needed to be cautious in our enthusiasm over unofficial reviews.

Meanwhile, at Paul Cottle’s blog Bridge to Tomorrow, he takes some personal responsibility for letting mistakes slip into the Florida standards. He was on the writing committee and is now slapping his forehead as he reads through the current Fordham report. But he also notes that both time and resources were in short supply during the standards writing process. This then leads Cottle to recommend that Florida seriously consider joining other states in the common core science standards project. Those folks have taken the time necessary and have the proper resources to get the job done right. I completely agree. But Cottle doesn’t seem hopeful that it will happen.

Education Week’s Curruculm Matters blog has a good summary of the Forham report. At least Florida gets credit for treating evolution right, including human evolution.

The report indicates that only four states—Florida, New Hampshire, Iowa, and Rhode Island—openly embrace human evolution in their current science standards.

Dept of Education responds to D grade

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

The education reporters at the Orlando Sentinel are on the ball. They already have a reaction to Thomas B. Fordham Institute’s review of our state science standards, which gave the standards a D grade.

The Florida Department of Education called the grade ”disappointing” but said it ”will take a very critical look at this report and take immediate steps to improve in areas that need improvement.”

The statement by Cynthia Sucher, a department spokesman, noted that Florida had devised the standards with help from outside experts, including some recommended by the Fordham group. She also said  that Florida is pushing a “strong emphasis on science,” including new high school requirements that all students take biology and, starting in 2013, that all students also take either chemistry or physics.

“Prior to this requirement Florida will take action to adopt and implement strong standards in both these areas to ensure our students are competitive with top states and nations,” she wrote in an email.

FSU physics professor Paul Cottle has been suggesting Florida should join the national “common core” standards effort. Currently, the state hasn’t shown any interest. Will this low grade change any minds?

Florida science standards: D

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

Florida’s science standards were dismal. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute regularly reviews/grades all states’ science standards and for the entire life of that report Florida’s standards were given F after F. This year is the first time our standards are being reviewed after a complete overhaul in 2008. I know everyone felt great once the standards were finally approved by the State Board of Education — over the vocal protests of those who didn’t like seeing evolution in the document.

So, how did we do this time? We moved up the grade ladder, but not by much. We got a D. From the report:

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.

What do you folks think?

DARWIN DAY SEMINARS–FEBRUARY 9-11, 2012

Monday, January 30th, 2012

The Department of Integrative Biology at USF  will be hosting the 2012 Darwin Day Seminars February 9-12. The seminars cover a series of events examining evolution and its role in science, education and politics. Guest speaker will be Dr. Eugenie Scott, Executive Director of the National Center for Science Education,a close friend to FCS. A flyer for the event lists Dr Scott’s agenda. I was happy to see the Hillsborough County Schools  under Larry Plank, are incorporating workshops for Students and Teachers into this event.

The Importance of S T E M

Friday, January 13th, 2012

Astrophysicist Neil de Grasse Tyson discusses the importance of STEM education and it’s influence on the future of the US economy. There are some great lines in this video. Tyson argues that the lack of STEM education in America could seriously harm our ability to keep pace with the rest of the world and ultimately destroy our economy

Not exactly earth-shattering

Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Pastors unconvinced about evolution, LifeWay survey shows; but they’re split on earth’s age:

Pastors overwhelmingly believe that God did not use evolution to create humans and think Adam and Eve were literal people, according to a survey by LifeWay Research.

The survey of 1,000 American Protestant pastors, released Jan. 9, also found that ministers are almost evenly split on whether the earth is thousands of years old.

When asked to respond to the statement, “I believe God used evolution to create people,” 73 percent of pastors disagree, with 64 percent strongly disagreeing and 8 percent somewhat disagreeing. Twelve percent each somewhat agree and strongly agree. Four percent are not sure.