By March 27, 2014 Uncategorized 17 Comments

In case you missed it, earlier this week the Oklahoma State Board of Education adopted a new set of academic standards for science. The exciting announcement merited this article by Silas Allen of The Oklahoman:

The state Board of Education on Tuesday adopted a new set of academic standards for science.

The standards are a product of more than a year of work by a committee of more than 60 members, said Tiffany Neill, the state Education Department’s director of science education.

The academic standards lay out subjects students in each grade level are expected to have mastered. They don’t dictate what curriculum districts should use to reach those thresholds, meaning decisions about how the standards should be taught are left up to local districts and teachers.

The standards are separate from the Common Core standards that have drawn fire among conservative groups and in the Oklahoma Legislature. The Common Core standards address math and English, but don’t include standards for science.

During a meeting Tuesday, Neill told the board the state’s science assessments won’t be aligned to the new standards until the 2016-17 academic year, meaning districts will have time to tailor their instruction to match them. Education officials will begin working next year with districts to implement the standards.

During Tuesday’s meeting, state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi praised the committee for its efforts.

“I think these are going to be noted throughout the country in terms of the quality and the way they’re done,” Barresi said.

Wow, this is great news, right? We finally have a rigorous set of science standards developed and written in Oklahoma by Oklahomans. As explained by Tiffany Neill, these standards are completely divorced from any association with those nasty federal Common Core standards. These are all OURS, baby!

While we making exciting announcements, I thought it would be a good time to announce the long-anticipated release of my very first novel. Here is the cover:

My novel, A Story of Two Towns, deals with the major themes of duality, revolution, and resurrection. The story in set in late 18th-century London and Paris, as economic and political unrest lead to the American and French Revolutions. The main characters: Doctor Alexandre Manette, Charles Darnay, and Sydney Carton—are all recalled to life, or resurrected, in different ways as turmoil erupts. I will share the first paragraph with you to give you a taste of the narrative.

It was the worst of times, it was the best of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of stupidity, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.

I assure you that any similarities between the above paragraph and the beginning of Charles Dickens completely different book, Tale of Two Cities, are merely coincidental.  Admittedly, I did make extensive use of Dickens’ novel to “inform” my work, but that’s the extent of it. In fact, if you are an avid reader of British Literature, I am certain you noticed several majochanges in my rewrite of the introduction to this classic story.

As with our new science standards, my novel represents the combined efforts of nearly 60 editors and expert contributors who met once in a while to create this original piece of literature for the people of Oklahoma. We also made extensive use of Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram in the creation of our masterpiece.  This book is unlike any literature found outside the Great State of Oklahoma and we were extremely careful to protect the integrity of our working group from any federal intrusion. Other than the 99.8 percent of the novel that was copied directly from Charles Dickens’ original text, this book is entirely the result of my efforts and those of my collaborators.

Similar to Dr. Barresi, my editor says:“I think Rob’s book is going to be noted throughout the country in terms of the quality and the way it’s been done.”

If you recall, I wrote a previous post on the topic of our new “Oklahoma” science standards (“Disingenuous By Design”) back in December. I don’t typically revisit topics about which I have already written; however, after reading the state department’s press announcement, I was thinking the same thing as Joe.

In the introduction to the new standards on the state website, we are told that even though our state’s science standards were last updated in 2011, an another revision was needed to transition Oklahoma to “more rigorous standards.”To accomplish this, the State Department of Education’s Science Director convened a committee of educators and industry leaders from throughout the state to review the previous Priority Academic Student Skills (PASS) Standards for Science and to update them. We are then told that “the Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science presented here reflect the strengths of the previous PASS Standards, as well as some new content and literacy skills that prepare students for more rigorous requirements in the future.”

Pure and utter malarkey. Our new science standards are simply the product of a “copy and paste” operation using the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as the source document. Similar to ‘my’ novel , the finished product is about 99.8% NGSS and zero percent Oklahoma PASS standards.

In 75 pages of the Oklahoma science standards I reviewed side-by-side with the NGSS in December, I found two small differences. Other than these two deletions, the NGSS were copied verbatim. And by verbatim, I mean word-for-word, paragraph-for paragraph, page-for-page.

For example in the middle school standards, the only difference between the NGSS and our new Oklahoma standards was the deletion of these two standards:

1. MS-LS4.A-2: Anatomical similarities and differences between various organisms living today and between them and organisms in the fossil record, enable the reconstruction of evolutionary history and the inference of lines of evolutionary descent.

2. MS-ESS3.D: Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

I could find NO instance in the middle school standards where we added any unique science standards for our state that were not in the NGSS—we only took away.

The state department is correct is saying that common core state standards have only been developed for Math and English Language Arts. What they neglect to mention is that the development of the Next Generation Science Standards was managed from start to finish by Achieve Inc., who based their work almost entirely on the Framework for K–12 Science Education developed by the National Research Council.

Achieve Inc. is the very same “independent, nonpartisan, nonprofit education reform organization” which partnered with NGA and CCSSO to develop the Common Core State Standards. In short, they have now moved beyond just setting standards for Math and ELA and have added science to their portfolio.

At least Achieve states at the bottom of each page that certain components are “reproduced verbatim from A Framework for K-12 Science Education…and reprinted with permission from the National Academy of Sciences.”

No such citations exist in the Oklahoma document even they copy directly from Achieve and the NGSS.

For the OSDE to say that our standard setting process was “informed” by these national standards is akin to me saying my novel was “informed” by Charles Dickens.

This is not a criticism of the standards themselves. As a former science educator, I believe the NGSS are a significant improvement over the previous PASS standards. So, again, why is the OSDE being disingenuous?

When a state agency repeatedly tries to pull the wool over our eyes, they lose our trust and we become increasingly skeptical.  If these 60 professional educators from our state were truly involved in this review process and consequently endorse the adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards for our children, let’s be honest and just say so. The people of Oklahoma deserve better than a bunch of malarkey from their state leaders!

That’s all for tonight. I need to get back to work on my next novel. It’s called “Monty, the Big White Angry Whale.” It’s going to be great. Just call me Ishmael!

This Post Has Been Viewed 2,030 Times

Share this: