Inverse Relationship between Common Standards & Innovative Science Teaching?

Is there an inverse relationship between the use of common standards and innovative and differentiated science teaching?

I saw a former science education student today as I walking into the local Home Depot.  He is currently teaching physics at a local high school.  He earned his second master’s degree in science education in the TEEMS teacher preparation program at Georgia State University and was also a research assistant for the Global Thinking Project.

He told me that the Common Core State Standards were being implemented in his school district, and he said that there was disconnect between the district’s pressure to differentiate instruction and use innovative methods with the students and these common standards.

As a teacher he also knew that the only thing that mattered to school officials was how the students in his class did on the Georgia high-stakes tests, the CRCT.  On the one hand teachers should differentiate instruction, but on the other they have to be sure that all students reach proficiency on the same set of standards.

Right now the Next Generation Science Standards are available for public review.  There are slightly more than 400 standards in the NGSS divided amongst Earth and Space Science, life sciences, physical sciences and engineering.  Georgia is one of the lead state partners in Achieve’s effort to nationalize the science curriculum, and there is a very high probability that Georgia will adopt the science standards.

Why are we supporting the notion of a single set of science standards which has been done in mathematics and language reading/language art?  We live in a democracy.  One the of founding principles of education is that elected school board members for the more than 15,000 school districts are charged with making decisions for each local school district.  What are we thinking?

The move to nationalize the curriculum in American schools raises more questions than it answers.  And there is little research to support movements to require a specific set of standards for the entire nation.  Here are some points made by a group to oppose the call for a nationalized curriculum.

  • There is no constitutional or statutory basis for national standards, national assessments, or national curricula.
  • There is no consistent evidence that a national curriculum leads to high academic achievement.
  • The national standards on which the administration is planning to base a national curriculum are inadequate.
  • There is no body of evidence for a “best” design for curriculum sequences in any subject.
  • There is no evidence to justify a single high school curriculum for all students.

Perhaps the frustrating issue for those of us who are studying the Next Generation Science Standards is that there is no evidence that the 400 statements of what students should know and be expected to do are any better than what already exists out there in state standards, science textbooks and ancillary teaching materials.

But I was hopeful when this 14 year veteran teacher said when we parted: “when I close the door, its the kids in my class and me.”

What is your opinion on the effect of common standards on differentiating instruction and innovative teaching?

But he said as we parted,

About Jack Hassard

Jack Hassard is a writer, a former high school teacher, and Professor Emeritus of Science Education, Georgia State University