New national common science standards may soon be implemented in public schools across the country, but it is not likely they will be taught to Texas public school students anytime in the near future.
The Next Generation Science Standards are intended to provide a common science curriculum for students in kindergarten through high school in every state. The standards are expected to be complete early next year.
But in Texas, where the state scored a “C” average for overall science curriculum in a 2012 study conducted by the Thomas Fordham Institute, the new standards will likely not be put into effect anytime soon.
The study points out “evolution is all but ignored from kindergarten to fifth grade.” According to the Institute, the word “evolution” is not used in the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) standards Texas currently uses.
“One of the sticky points of the common core science standards is how evolution is handled,” said Michael Soto of the State Board of Education, District 3 representative. “It is a politically touchy subject.”
Soto said the Thomas Fordham Institute is a fairly conservative think tank.
“When you have conservatives giving Texas low grades in science for injecting politics into the curriculum, you know that something is taking shape that’s not about education,” Soto said. “It’s all about politics.”
Other political issues have surfaced as reasoning for rejection of the Next Generation Science Standards. The state sets its own standards for education because the Texas GOP opposes too much national government control, said Chris Elam, spokesman for the Republican Party of Texas.
Elam said the control of Texas schools and education should be kept in the state.
Common core state standards were developed in collaboration with teachers, school administrators and experts to provide a clear and consistent framework to prepare children for college and the workforce. There are only five states that have not adopted the common core standards, Texas being one of them.
“It’s a lot of political posturing,” Soto said. “The common core standards are incorrectly perceived as another version of federal intrusion. The Republican Party is pretty dead set against anything like that in Texas.”
Sandra West Moody, program faculty of biology at Texas State, said the areas of scientific engineering practices and cross cutting concepts seen in the Next Generation curriculum are two new dimensions of standards not seen in the current TEKS objectives.
West was on the 2009 TEKS writing team, focusing on science curriculum. The State Board of Education updates its curriculum every eight years, so with the current TEKS objectives being fairly recent, West said the Next Generation standards and curriculum are not needed.
Soto said no one in Texas is pushing for the Next Generation standards. He believes Texas students will be missing out on educational opportunities if the new science standards are not adopted.
“Publishers are going to invest a lot of effort into developing really fantastic online content for the common core standards,” Soto said. “It’s just going to be so much more of a step up in the high end development of great products to teach common core standards than there is here in Texas.”
However, since Texas educates 1-in-10 American public school students, Soto said some of the new materials and learning mediums will probably leak into the Texas school systems and students will be able to benefit from them.
“I think it’s always worth redoing something if you can end up with a better product,” Soto said.