Banfield: Here comes the junk

Education reformers have given us Mastery Learning, Outcome-Based Education, Goals 2000, Careers Act (School to Work), No Child Left Behind, and now Common Core. If federal involvement in education worked so well, wouldn’t we have met the threshold by now? After 40+ years, bureaucrats who’ve spent billions to improve public education have little or nothing to show for it. Maybe the focus should be on returning control over education to the ones best able to make those decisions, the local community.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are the next round of dumbed down standards to be implemented in classrooms across New Hampshire. Governor Hassan’s Department of Education will be conducting a speaking tour in the next few months.

The first stop was in Derry New Hampshire. Unfortunately parents in Derry are telling me, they never heard about the event. That might explain why it was attended by mostly teachers and administrators.

Public forums will be conducted in the following towns:
September 8 – Derry. 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Pinkerton Academy – Academy Builidng Lecture Hall)
September 20 – Concord, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Concord High Media Center)
September 22 – Plymouth, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Museum of the White Mountains, PSU)
September 26 – Keene, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Keene State College Student Center)
September 29 – Hanover, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Hanover High Library)
October 17 – Groveton, 6:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m. (Groveton High School)

According to the NH DoE’s web site, “The following information should be of help to teachers, parents, and students. One of the greatest problems in science education centers on this lack of understanding by the general public. Science teachers teach about science concepts in their classrooms, but rarely do they take time to help students understand what science is and what it is not.”

That’s a pretty critical remark to make about the public and science teachers in New Hampshire, especially since they’ve been required to teach to the NH Science standards for years. If they are lacking effectiveness, shouldn’t the DoE point some of that blame at themselves? After all, the current NH Science standards are not considered the best in the country. (New Hampshire’s were ranked at a “D” level) Many other states were using superior science standards. (California was ranked at an “A “level) (Next Generation Science Standards are ranked at a “C” level) All indicators are showing Governor Hassan, Commissioner Barry and the New Hampshire Board of Ed., are fully behind the C level Next Generation Science Standards.

Bureaucrats directing our schools and teachers always seem to lay the blame for poor performance on the ones following their directions.

Schools across the state of New Hampshire aligned their curriculum to the New Hampshire Science Standards. When the U.S. Department of Education offered grant money and waivers from No Child Left Behind to adopt the NGSS, all of a sudden, the NGSS were the ones we had to adopt.

We are now being told that the New Hampshire Science standards were too heavy on academic content and the NGSS will move away from academics and focus more on the process.  This is an important paradigm shift to critique because it has the potential to lower the literacy rate in science education. How?  Look at an example of how getting the right answer in math is no longer important.  What’s important in Common Core is knowing the “process.”

 

Since the NH Science Standards do not rise to the level of the old California Science standards, there certainly is room for improvement. But is it wise to move away from standards focused on content that were in need of improvement, to standards that dilute academic content?

Common Core’s roll out has been one big bungled implementation. It’s so bad that the NH DoE refers to our Common Core standards as “College and Career” readiness standards.  Changing the name doesn’t mean the quality improved.

The NGSS are simply Common Core for Science. These are the national standards the Federal Government is again, trying to push on our local schools. If the NH Dept. of Education uses an assessment based on the NGSS, that will certainly drive the standards and curriculum in the classroom. This is called teaching to the test and that certainly hasn’t improved since No Child Left Behind.

There are many problems with the NGSS that cannot be compiled in one blog post. However, there are glaring problems with the NGSS. None of this critical information has been offered to teachers, administrators or parents by the NH DoE. Those who profess support for teaching your kids to think critically, manages to deny the public critical information on their latest education fad: NGSS.

I attended the public forum in Derry and went in concerned about the NGSS and how that would look in the classroom. After listening to the teachers and administrators, I’m even MORE concerned. The theme during the discussion focused on how the NGSS will focus less on academic content and more on applying knowledge or the “process.” But how do we know students have mastered the academics first? How can you successfully build a house if you do not have a foundation of knowledge in place first? A teacher discussed how time consuming the projects and process takes by following the NGSS. This slows down the learning process which is why studies have shown it does not work, especially in science.

Standardized testing in New Hampshire has shown that proficiency scores drop when students get to high school. On average about half of the students in New Hampshires public high schools score below proficient in math and science.

We also know that the academic content in the NH Science Standards were not at the quality as other states like California. Now there will be less academic content in the science standards instead of an improvement on the quality of the academics in the NH science standards.

We have a real opportunity to adopt high quality science standards for our local schools and children. We should expect the best, not what the federal government is pushing and the New Hampshire DoE is facilitating.

Standards that are heavy on content can be taught using teaching methods the teacher believes will be successful. The NGSS integration of science “practices” constrain and distort pedagogy by mandating classroom activities instead of identifying student outcomes.

A few people in the audience voiced their concerns that graduates do not have the basic knowledge in the core academic subjects. So why are we diluting the academic content instead of working to improve it?

Modeling and Global Warming
Modeling versus actual science facts, is a key component of the NGSS. This will guarantee a dumbing down of science education and reflect the political bias behind it.

These new science standards rely on models at every grade level including kindergarten. In the early grades they are mostly pictorial but they do increase in complexity as the student gets older. By the time the students reach high school, critics are warning that the large amount of math, using complex models, go beyond the cognitive ability of most high school students. Because the Common Core math standards are also inferior, this puts the high school student at even a greater disadvantage than students well educated in mathematics.

Models can certainly help students understand complex relationships and the pictorial models in the lower grades make sense given the fact that their cognitive skills have not been fully developed. The problem arises when the models become complex mathematical constructs required in the NGSS.

While the NGSS will be sold as a way to get kids to think in these complex terms, experts are warning, it will not happen.

In the Weather and Climate section of the High School Standards, students are supposed to:
Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

There is an assumption that the climate models will accurately show what is happening in the real world. Students will not be able to do that.

The Standards go on to require the student to construct models by
building on k-8 experiences and progresses to using, synthesizing, and developing models to predict and show relationships among variables between systems and their components in the natural and designed worlds.
Use a model to provide mechanistic accounts of phenomena.

The student is then required to then analyzed the data:
and progress to introducing more detailed statistical analysis, the comparison of data sets for consistency, and the use of models to generate and analyze data.
Analyze data using computational models in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims.

Students are supposed to meet these science standards, however experts in this field have failed to predict future temperatures. Experts warn that these kinds of models should be used sparingly and never as a final proof to prove man-made global warming.

The NGSS do call for empirical evidence which is good. Empirical evidence is real, observable relationships and data, but the models are not empirical evidence.

There is a conflict between the over use of models and science, based in empirical evidence. When there is a reinforcement of possible errors, there is a real potential to create incorrect conclusions. When that is reinforced year after year through the NGSS, it is hard to correct that in adults.

This is especially concerning to those looking at the bias in the Disciplinary Core Ideas of the Human Sustainability : Weather and Climate
Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

Temperature data shows the opposite of the Disciplinary Core Idea
1) Is there global warming? This answer, rests in unsettled science.
2) Can it be modeled with routine success? No and those who were skeptical of the models are proving to be a wiser than the elitists who once ridiculed them.

The NGSS also include standards on sustainability at each grade level. This is a political term, not a scientific term and requires the student to believe there is a need to live sustainably. Two decades ago, no one had ever heard the term, sustainability. Critics argue that instead of learning real science, the standards show a bias towards a political outcome.

Kindergarten students are taught tocommunicate solutions that will reduce the impact of humans on the land, water, air and/or other living things in the local environment.” This has the potential to lead to pantheistic beliefs that man is no better than plants or animals.

This political theme goes on throughout the NGSS by requiring middle school students to understand how to:
Apply scientific principles to design a method for monitoring and minimizing a human impact on the environment. ” Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.

Since the focus is on the negative impacts of human beings, the standards can be compared to dogma. This is a worldview on sustainability and requires human activity to be regulated in order to stop the damage.

Most of us understand the need to be good stewards of the earth, however the NGSS are riddled with political overtones. The NGSS is viewed more as an indoctrination than valid science standards used to elevate science literacy.

Property Rights
Property rights are even under attack in the NGSS. When human beings are the problem, property rights must also be restricted and possibly eliminated.

“Urban planning” HS-ESS3-3. is included in the standards to reduce human impact. Urban planning is a way of controlling property rights through growth boundaries, high-density housing, fewer cars, and more public transportation. This puts the government in control of development and land use. If New Hampshire is going to use political dogma as science standards, there should be an emphasis on the importance of private property rights too.

With the emphasis on carbon dioxide emissions and how it relates to the economy, the NGSS makes carbon dioxide and urban planning a tool, to prevent global warming. These are social and political goals, but NOT science. By having students focus on social issues, the NGSS are used to indoctrinate students into a political ideology. The solutions are having the federal and state governments exercise control over the economy and our lives.

Public schools will graduate students with a new world view but they will not be prepared for a career or college in the science field.  As this science educator of 24 years says, “The Next Generation approach is designed to develop “global citizen” awareness and ignores the needs of high achieving and most average students at the secondary level who already have clear career goals in mind.” The Common Core Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards are low-level standards that will teach your children some academic content, but will not give them the quality they need, if they have higher aspirations.

Several states had superior science standards prior to Common Core. New Hampshire students are being short changed when our Commissioner and Department of Education does not even talk about higher quality science standards for our children.

The old and superior California Science Standards were developed with the assistance from Glenn Theodore Seaborg, one of the foremost scientific minds of the twentieth century. If we really want our kids to be able to compete in the world or for admissions to our top colleges, we need to stop settling for mediocrity and demand better. Parents need to start demanding that from their local school boards and elected officials.

In conclusion, having a child who is in the science field working as a nurse, there was a heavy focus on academic content in the nursing program. If your child aspires to work in a field requiring academic content in the science field, you need to advocate for quality science standards and curriculum.

One teacher at the forum mentioned that we can now “google” content. I heard this from Rep. Mel Myler (D) during education hearings in Concord too. I can assure you that if your child attends a nursing program in college, they will not be allowed to google content during tests or when they sit for the board exams. This notion that it’s ok to dilute academic knowledge because “google” is at our fingertips promotes illiteracy and there is nothing good about that.

Over and over I heard at the forum in Derry how the teachers were going to move away from teaching the academic content. As a parent, this is deeply troubling. While we all want our kids to one day apply their knowledge in the real world, we need to make sure the academic foundation is mastered. As a former math tutor, this is critical no matter if they go to college or a career. Teachers need to be free to use methods that engage the students but that doesn’t mean it should come at a cost to science literacy.

I do NOT have confidence in the NGSS and it’s unfortunate that no one seems to be talking about academic excellence and science literacy in this discussion.  No one brought forth the California science standards or did any comparisons to them at the Derry forum.  If you aren’t looking at and comparing these standards side by side, how can we have confidence in your decision to educate our children with the NGSS?

For more information on the many problems with the NGSS see the resources below:
Next Generation Science Standards Fall Flat : Addresses the lack of chemistry in the NGSS

Study: Draft Science & Technology/Engineering Standards Should be Withdrawn : Science standards have significant and unacceptable gaps in science content.

Iowa Adopted Subpar Standards for Science : Addresses the addition of “engineering” in “science standards” and why they should be kept separate by an Engineer.

Next Generation Science Standards: A Model of Mediocrity: Explains how the NGSS are performance rather than content standards. Actual knowledge of academic content is not the goal. High School Physics standards are absent.

Next Generation Science Standards: Junk Science for Wyoming Schools : Highlights the errors in the standards and includes sources.

Chem-Teacher: A Science Teacher’s View: The Backward – Engineered Common Core Science Standard : The goal all along was an instrument to market both teaching and assessment products to a captive education system, not to provide a framework for good teaching of the sciences.

Ann Marie Banfield currently volunteers as the Education Liaison for Cornerstone Action in New Hampshire. She has been researching education reform for over a decade and actively supports parental rights, literacy and academic excellence in k-12 schools. You can contact her at: [email protected]