Why We Should Reject The Fordham Institute’s Opinion of the Next Generation Science Standards

In this post I am going to give evidence that the Fordham Institute’s evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards should be rejected.

The Thomas Fordham Institute is a conservative advocacy think tank which issues opinion reports written by “experts” on science education (other education issues as well).  I have reviewed earlier reports released by Fordham, and have critiqued their reports on the basis of their obvious bias against science education, especially against professors of science education who advocate an inquiry approach to teaching science.

Fordham Review of State Science Standards

letterDIn 2012, the Fordham Institute published a report, State of the State Standards, which was a rating of the science standards written by the states.  They graded  the state science standards using A – F rankings, and according to their criteria, most states earned a D or F.  You need to understand that they, like many of the other conservative think tanks, believe that American science education “needs a radical upgrade.”  Their review of the state science standards was flawed, yet the media reported the results as if they were factual, and they are not.

When I first reviewed Fordham’s evaluation of the state science standards, I was shocked when I read the criteria that they used to analyze science education. In the Fordham report there is a section of Methods, Criteria and Grading Metric in which the authors report that they devised content-specific criteria against which the science standards in each state were evaluated. The authors divided the science content into learning expectations through grade eight (lists of statements divided into Physical Science, Earth and Space Science, and Life Science) , and learning expectations for grades nine through 12 (lists of statements for physics, chemistry, Earth and Space science, and life science).

The Fordham list of science content is a sham, and for states to be held to their standards is not only unprofessional, but a disgrace.

I found that the Fordham standards are low-level, mediocre at best, and do not include affective or psycho-motor goals. I analyzed each Fordham statement using the Bloom categories in the Cognitive, Affective and Psycho-motor Domain.  Ninety percent of all the Fordham science criteria fall into the lowest levels of Bloom’s Taxonomy in the cognitive domain. Indeed, 52% of the statements are at the lowest level (Knowledge) which includes primarily the recall of data or information. Twenty-eight percent of the Fordham science statements were written at the Comprehension level, and only 10% at the Application level. What this means is that the authors wrote their own science standards at a very low-level. In fact of the 100 statements only 10% were at the higher levels. No statements were identified at the synthesis level, which in science is awful. Only one science standard was found at the highest level of evaluation.

I also compared the method that Fordham used in their “study,” to the standards for educational research established by the American Education Research Association (AERA).  The Fordham report is a type of evaluation research, but does not meet the standard criteria for a research study.  In fact they only met two of the eight AERA principles.

When you assess the Fordham evaluation of the state standards, their report barely gets a grade of “D,” and perhaps should be graded “F.

They’re At It Again: Evaluation of the NGSS

The Fordham Foundation’s science Gang of Seven has released it’s “Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards.”  The same gang that evaluated the state science standards is at it again.  This time they have applied their flawed research method to evaluate the Next Generation Science Standards.

Image 7-5-13 at 5.50 PMThe Gang of Seven does not seem to have 20/20 vision when it comes to research.  Instead they have an unchanging fealty to a conservative agenda and a canonical view of science education which restricts and confines them to an old school view of science teaching. Science education has rocketed past the views in two earlier reports issued by Fordham about science education standards, as well as the NGSS.

Cognitively, the Fordham standards are not much to write home about. And it is amazing, given the low-level of the Fordham standards that any state would score lower than their own standards.

You can read my earlier reviews of Fordham’s lack of knowledge about science education here and here.  For Fordham to continue its effort to promote an honest discussion of science education is a sham.  According to this final report, the Gang of Seven used the same criteria used to evaluate the state science standards.

The Gang of Seven has consistently kept to this mantra, and in this final report of the NGSS, they find that science education is in peril.  They grade the NGSS gets a grade of C+.  What this means is that most of the state standards are inferior to the NGSS, and of course to the Fordham science standards.  Using a color coded map of the U.S., Fordham reports that:

  • 13 States are Clearly Superior
  • 22 States are Too Close to Call
  • 16 States are Clearly Inferior

First of all, you need to realize that Fordham has their own set of science content standards (General expectations for learning).  Follow this link to Fordham’s Final Evaluation of the NGSS, and then scroll down through the document to page 55, and you will find their standards listed on pages 55 – 61. .  Then they used the same criteria to check the final version of the NGSS.  In my earlier analysis I gave the Fordham science standards a grade of D. For them to use these criteria to judge the NGSS is absurd.

Yet, they keep saying that science education is inferior, and after a while, people begin to believe them.  For me, the gang of seven is not qualified to evaluate science education.  Yes, the Gang of Seven have credentials in science and engineering, but they are woefully inadequate in their understanding of science curriculum development, or the current research on science teaching.  Many of the creative ideas that emerged in science teaching in the past thirty years represent interdisciplinary thinking, the learning sciences, deep understanding of how students learn science, and yes, constructivism.

The Fordham group appears to have had their eyes closed during this period.  Anything they have to say about the NGSS should be rejected.

Is the Final Evaluation of the Next Generation Science Standards by the Thomas Fordham Institute junk science?  I’ll offer an answer in the next post on this blog.

In the meantime, what is your opinion of the Fordham methods used to evaluate the Next Generation Science Standards?



About Jack Hassard

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