State BoE kinda, sorta talks about science standards

The Florida Board of Education met today and discussed a wide range of subjects for several hours. One of the topics for discussion was the current status of the state science standards. Our standards did poorly on a review by the Fordham Foundation. They initially were graded as a D, but then were bumped up to a C (pdf document). Nonetheless, the standards are not the high quality, world class standards we wanted. So, the big question lurking around the halls of the Department of Education was: what do we do?

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 (pdf document) 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. We here at Florida Citizens for Science would prefer that Florida had jumped into the National effort earlier so that we would’ve had a stronger say in the documents’ creation, but the Commissioner’s recommendation is one we can live with.

Today the State Board spent a whopping seven minutes talking about science. It’s a weird thing to watch. A DoE representative spends a few minutes essentially rehashing the Commissioner’s recommendation and announces that folks have already been moving forward with the suggested work under the assumption that the Board was going to go along with the recommendation. However, the Board never overtly states their agreement. It’s only implied in some of the statements made.

Then about halfway through, the conversation suddenly veers off into a new direction as Board members start talking about today’s release of the NAEP (the Nation’s Report Card) 8th grade science assessment results. (For more on the NAEP results see The Gradebook, DoE press release, Bridge to Tomorrow, and Orlando Sentinel.)

The bottom line is that there seems to be an unspoken agreement that the Commissioner’s recommendation was accepted and that the standards would be discussed at some undetermined time in the future. Additionally, the Board liked the upward direction that Florida’s 8th graders achieved on the NAEP, even if it wasn’t anything spectacular.

I’ve grabbed the 7-minute video clip for your viewing pleasure. You can also read through my usual paraphrased summary of all the wackiness below. Let me know if you feel it was as disjointed as I think it was.

0:00 — Gerard Robinson: says a written document about the science standards is in the Board members’ packets. A person from DoE will now provide overview about current science standards and update about Next Generation Science Standards and then finally talk about NAEP results.

0:31 — Jackie Speake: In response to Fordham report the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction reviewed the A states’ science standards  and compared them to Florida standards. They came up with options as far as identifying and working on weaknesses pointed out by Fordham. One option is to use the writing committee’s clarification statements that were designed in the original document and to pull from the A states to write clarification statements specifically for Physics and Chemistry, which were areas identifying by Fordham. This would allow us some time to review the national standards which were released on Monday evening. We’ve have a copy of that draft for you. At first glance they integrate the engineering concepts, the scientific process skills. They also incorporate the Common Core and a lot of cross cutting concepts. They have been released only to the states. The public review will be released tomorrow. So, you have that advanced copy. We now have the writers and the Florida Association of Science Supervisors along with chemistry and physics teachers designing those clarification statements in anticipation that might be the move you want to go in so that we have some time to review the National Standards for recommendation in the future. She then is asked to introduce herself, Jackie Speake, Science Curriculum Specialist with the Bureau of Curriculum and Instruction, Office of Math and Science.

2:25 — Kathleen Shanahan: What’s the timeline? We’re on a path of addressing our science standards. (Speake confirms that statement). So, what is the timeline?

2:45 — Speake: We can have the clarification statements for the high school science benchmarks in place for the start of the school year and the K through 8 shortly thereafter. The second draft release is scheduled for the Fall of 2012, and the final release of the national standards would be early 2013.

3:07 — John Padget: We’ve been waiting for these standards that you say we will get. Are they here? (Speake confirms they are there in the room.) So they are hot of the press, then? If I read the report that was under this topic in our papers, the question was should we tinker with the current standards or should we adopt those national standards more or less wholesale. And I understand that you haven’t had a chance to look at them or just minimally. Would it be possible for you to come back on the July board meeting and having digested everything and checked with Fordham and whoever else and give us an action plan at the July meeting of what is the plan for Florida …

4:17 — Shanahan: I don’t want to start assigning topics to meetings. Let’s just figure out the timing working back from the 2013 deadline. (To Speake) Understanding that it is your priority.

4:30 — Padget: I’m happy with that.

4:33 — Shanahan: I think if I’m reading this, these are not public yet, is that right? (Speake confirms that.) I’m trying to interpret all the news here. We’ve got new news here. From my perspective it says Florida public school students  — can I say this out loud — that from 2009 to 2011 we had a five percent increase where the national only had a two percent increase.  Is that correct?

5:01 — Unidentified woman joins Speake at the podium: That’s correct.

5:04 — Shanahan: At least we’re headed in the right direction.

5:06 — Sally Bradshaw: (Can’t hear first part of what she’s saying.) Two percent is statistically significant which is what this says and we fell in reading and math and I don’t want that forgotten while we’re celebrating the great numbers on NAEP on science.

5:21 — Roberto Martinez: (asks for clarifications on what the bars on the graphs represent.)

5:44 — Robinson: Point of clarity, the information regarding the national standards is hot off the press, this was just released, it was embargoed and now it is public. And since we’re talking about science we wanted to make sure we released this to you as we’re talking about it.

5:58 — Shanahan: It also says the percentage of students eligible for the national school lunch program scored at or above proficient significantly higher, 18 percent versus 13 percent in 2009. So, we have pretty good results.

6:17 — Speake: May I also add that we did identify the gaps from the NAEP test in the grade 4 and grade 8 course descriptions that you’ll be seeing for the July board meeting. It’s not that we don’t teach them. We absolutely do teach all the topics in the NAEP frameworks. It’s just that some of those topics are taught in 2nd grade and 3rd grade so we just wanted to make those 4th grade teachers aware that these may be assessed and were taught at this grade level and the same with grade 8.

6:46 — Shanahan: Will the department be releasing this from a Florida perspective and doing a press release and doing all of that today? (Speake confirms that.)

5 Responses to “State BoE kinda, sorta talks about science standards”

  1. kmlisle Says:

    You gotta realize the pull of test scores, especially of improved test scores, for any level of the education system because that’s whats driving everything. So of course the NAEP scores also drive the agenda of the BOE. This is a much bigger threat to high quality science (et al) education than what standards we are using.
    Brandon, you did good as usual.

  2. Pete Dunkelberg Says:

    The Wall Street Journal reports “pushback” vs the national standards for English and math. ALEC is pushing. Will ALEC like national science standards? I doubt it.

  3. Pete Dunkelberg Says:

    rats! I omitted the link.
    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303630404577390431072241906.html?mod=googlenews_wsj

    OT another item:
    http://www.chicagonow.com/white-rhino/2012/05/if-you-teach-or-write-5-paragraph-essays-stop-it/

  4. Pierce R. Butler Says:

    Nice job of summarizing a rather unfocused discussion, Brandon.

    Somebody (FDoE?) put some real effort in recording that meeting: 2, maybe 3, cameras, and some careful editing afterwards. A pity so few were in the audience, and that only Robinson and two members of the board had anything to say.

    Did the remainder of the meeting have a major topic for which this was a sideshow, or did they sleepwalk through the whole session?

  5. Pierce R. Butler Says:

    From Pete D’s Wall St Journal link: “… more controversial areas such as science.”

    The only time the word “controversy” in any form was used in that piece. *sigh*

    I had previously thought the Fordham Institute was “middle of the road”, but the WSJ article describes it as “right-leaning” (which, coming from a Murdoch venue, puts it closer to what many of us would call plainly partisan). Given that the corporate wing of the Republicans has (partial) incentives to want strong science education, while the more populist & ideological factions seem more inclined towards pseudo-science, that leaves me puzzled as to what influences Fordham’s evaluations.