Another bite at common core science standards

My apologies. This is the longest I’ve gone without posting since starting up this blog. A visit to family has been extended to include a funeral, and I’ve slackened off my internet surfing to attend to family issues. But I thought I’d quickly share this interesting article about the proposed common core science standards.

The author’s biggest problem with the standards – the absence of required laboratory experiments – is summarized in the last two paragraphs.

What we see is repeated use of “Develop a representation …” or “Construct an explanation …” or “Use models to support …” or “Evaluate the merits ….” These are not bad by themselves but have pushed out the soul of science by completely taking over the new standards, at least in chemistry and, in my reading, all of the other topics as well. Where do students measure? Where do they see with their eyes the nature of the materials that they’re studying?

Putting aside my bias for chemistry, which owns only ten of the nearly 100 topics, I am not happy with abandoning the laboratory and replacing it with engineering projects and “think” science almost entirely. I hope that this situation changes but feel a juggernaut bearing down upon our science courses and suspect that we are helpless to stop or even deflect it.

This is NOT an area where I have any expertise. But I will note that the science course I remember best from my frankly rather unscientific education was an eighth grade honors physical science class centered almost entirely on experiments. The course was something of an experiment for my junior high, and I have no idea how long it survived . . . probably until the next educational fad came along. But I vividly remember getting a beaker full of brown-colored liquid, with instructions to figure out its composition. I do NOT remember whether my lab partner and I got the ingredients right, although he went on to become a renowned physician and laboratory scientist. Still, I retain vivid images of boiling, condensing, weighing, and head-scratching. It’s the closest I got to real science. I’m assuming the fudge cooling experiments my kids and I conducted in home school (modeling fast versus slow cooling lava) don’t count.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from those of you who know this world much better than I do.


  1. Oak Norton

    Ze’ev Wurman reviewed the science standards here:

    Here’s the condemning conclusion:
    “Suddenly it all became clear. This framework does not expect our students to be able to do any science, or to be able to solve any science problem. This framework simply teaches our students science appreciation, rather than science. It expects our students to become good consumers of science and technology, rather than prepare them to be the discoverers of science and creators of technology.”

    It’s time Utah did better than Common Core.

  2. Harry Keller

    The people behind these standards claim that they are not standards but rather are assessment criteria. Yet, they do have at least one place where students are supposed to collect data. They cannot have it both ways.

    Besides, why do they call them standards if they’re criteria?

    I’m not knocking the people, who I know are making a great effort and have to work by consensus. I think that the NGSS are not really ready for prime time, at least in the high school portion that I reviewed.

    The NGSS leave out lots of important science. When I pointed that out, the response was that these are guidelines, and teachers will fill in the rest. If you can fulfill the guidelines, why would you invent more work for yourself and your students? This semi-rhetorical question has an obvious answer but still focuses on the issue of what to do when, for example, the mole concept is missing. If you meet the standards, you’re good to go — even if you’ve left out the heart of chemistry.

Leave a comment encourages a civil dialogue among its readers. We welcome your thoughtful comments.