No 'silver bullet' for science standards

Apr 18, 2013
An article in Science by Michigan State University's Suzanne Wilson argues that America's K-12 teachers are not prepared for the Next Generation Science Standards. Credit: Michigan State University

America's K-12 teachers are not fully prepared to meet a new set of science standards, a Michigan State University education scholar argues in Science.

Writing in the April 19 issue, Suzanne Wilson said the landscape for teachers is woefully inadequate to handle the Next Generation . The voluntary guidelines, unveiled this month by the Achieve in collaboration with 26 states, call for more hands-on learning and analysis and cover fewer science topics but in greater depth.

Science in U.S. classrooms already has been de-emphasized in favor of math and reading, Wilson noted, and suddenly the new standards turn up the proverbial Bunsen burner on .

"Science has been marginalized by the No Child Left Behind Act, so less science has been taught in schools, not more," said Wilson, University Distinguished Professor and chair of the Department of . "And now these standards are coming out that not only call for a renewed focus on science teaching, but the kind of science that many teachers haven't taught and many teachers haven't experienced."

While there is a wealth of teacher training options in the United States, Wilson said, the programs do not accommodate the depth of the new standards.

"When it comes to professional development for science teachers, we simply don't have the knowledge base," Wilson said.

Effective professional development should bolster teachers' and their ability to teach students the subject matter and develop the students' critical thinking skills. It should also help teachers reach all students, including , Wilson said.

Getting to that point will require a major investment to develop the right instructional materials and the tools to support teachers and students in using those materials, she said. That includes harnessing new technologies and social media to make high-quality training available to all teachers.

"We must realign the considerable resources spent on professional development with the demands teachers will face with the new standards," Wilson said.

The process could take years.

"Though some might hope for a silver bullet, education reform that leads to fundamental change, such as that envisioned with the new standards, requires time," Wilson said.

The standards are designed to fuel students' interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) and prepare them for college and careers. The states that helped write the new standards range from Michigan to California and Maine to Georgia.

Explore further: Developing nations ride a motorcycle boom

More information: "Professional Development for Science Teachers," by S.M. Wilson, Science, 2013.

Related: "Teacherpreneurs: A Bold Brand of Teacher Leadership for 21st-Century Teaching and Learning," by B. Berry , Science, 2013.

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User comments : 4

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gwrede
3 / 5 (2) Apr 18, 2013
to teach students the subject matter and develop the students' critical thinking skills
How on earth will the teachers achieve that when so many of them don't have these Critical Thinking skills themselves?
machinephilosophy
1 / 5 (1) Apr 18, 2013
In the eyes of those being taught, the most ignorant people in their lives are their parents, their teachers, and school and government administrators. The schools and the government avoid all the philosophical questions just like their parents.
Picard
not rated yet Apr 19, 2013
In the eyes of those being taught, the most ignorant people in their lives are their parents, their teachers, and school and government administrators. The schools and the government avoid all the philosophical questions just like their parents.


How do you think it got to be like this?
Porgie
1 / 5 (1) Apr 22, 2013
Its so easy to blame "No child left behind", but when you have unionized teachers getting more for doing less, the real problem is very apparent. The city schools are a cultural wasteland of "barely enough" as the norm. Rotate teachers through suburban schools an see how many last 2 years. More math is the best answer, but you have too many teachers with tenure that only know the bare minimum. If we are going to pay them set a tough minimum standard for math and science. NO child left behind was the best that ever was when implemented. We spend too much time carrying the under achievers. Face it! Everyone is not a capable of exemplary achievement.

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