By December 16, 2013 Uncategorized 8 Comments

Late Friday afternoon, the State Department issued a bulletin announcing the long-awaited release of the Proposed Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science (OASS). In the announcement, the OSDE posted a link the 238-page document (HERE) for review and public comment through January 14, 2014.

I’m ready to comment.

I have loved science since I was a child. I took eight different year-long science courses in high school (five as electives) and earned my bachelor’s degree in Geology from Oregon State University. I taught middle school science for nine years prior to becoming an administrator.

Over the past few days I have taken several hours to thoroughly review about 75 pages of the revised middle school science standards. From my perspective, the new Oklahoma Science Standards are excellent and much superior to the previous PASS standards. However, to label these new standards as the “Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science” is like calling the famous landmark in New York Harbor the “Oklahoma Statue of Liberty.”

I am not certain why the OSDE is being so coy (lying) about the origin of these new standards. I take that back—yes, I do. I will come back to this in a minute.

Here is what the OSDE stated in their press release and in the subsequent introduction to the standards:

Writing and draft teams of more than 50 representatives from K-12, higher education, scientists, engineers, parent and community members from throughout the state developed and provided feedback on the standards, meeting multiple times. More than 500 educators throughout the state were involved in reviewing the standards.

The Oklahoma Academic Standards in this document were informed by the Frameworks for K-12 Science Education by the National Research Council (NRC), Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), Science Frameworks by the National Association for Educational Progress (NAEP), and the 2011 Oklahoma Priority Academic Skills for Science (PASS).

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. 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 for more rigorous requirements in the future.

Isn’t that nice? However, noticeably missing from the list of sources for these standards was the Next Generation Science Standards. From the NGSS website: Through a collaborative, state-led process managed by Achieve, new K–12 science standards have been developed that are rich in content and practice, arranged in a coherent manner across disciplines and grades to provide all students an internationally benchmarked science education. The NGSS is based on the Framework for K–12 Science Education developed by the National Research Council.

Do you recognize the name Achieve?

Achieve 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.

The new Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science are simply a copy, paste, and delete operation using the NGSS as the source document.

In 75 pages of the OASS I reviewed side-by-side with the NGSS, 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.

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 copied directly from Achieve.

For the OSDE to say that our standard setting process “was informed” by these national standards is a gross understatement at best.

As I stated earlier, I think the new standards are very strong. While I have not reviewed the entire set of standards for all grades, I believe that the majority of science teachers in Oklahoma will find them to be greatly improved over PASS. So, again, why is the OSDE being disingenuous?

If the OSDE wanted to be truly transparent, here is what they would have written to accompany their release of these new science standards:

“We brought about 50 important people together a couple of times this year to provide the illusion that we were actually creating and writing a new set of science standards of our own.

In actuality, what we did was have these folks read the new Next Generation of Science Standards developed earlier this year by Achieve Corporation. These are the new national science standards to accompany the CCSS for Math and ELA. We like them—well, most of them anyway.

Since Governor Fallin and Superintendent Barresi have said repeatedly that our state would be developing our own academic standards and not letting the Feds tell us what to do, we have to come up with a new name for our plagiarized set of standards.

Oops, did we say plagiarized? We meant to say that our process “was informed” by the NGSS standards.

If you take the time to look, you will notice quickly that the NGSS “informed” us a LOT! In essence, all we have really done is copy and paste about ninety-nine percent of the New Generation Science Standards (NGSS) verbatim into our document. We were hoping that people wouldn’t notice.

But, we have made a couple critical changes to ensure these new science standards reflected our Oklahoma values. For example in the middle school standards, we have deleted the following two standards (for obvious reasons):

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.

Other than these two standards, which you will clearly agree are junk science and should never be discussed in academic settings with impressionable kids nearby, we have copied the middle school standards word for word.

You are certainly welcome to send us public comments. As long as you’re not asking us to delete anything else or add these two standards back to the list, we will give your recommendations significant consideration. Please do double-check our spelling, we do have challenges with that.”

Here’s my final thought: I am tired of politicians and those in position of power who treat us like we are stupid.

Plain and simple, the new Oklahoma Academic Standards for Science are the National CCSS for Science. There is no vestige of PASS left behind so this effort was much more than an “update.” There is no “reflection of the strengths of PASS,” rather they have been eradicated.

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. If you have read the entire set of standards and found any new unique Oklahoma standards not based on NGSS, please comment back on this post.

I do know this—If a student in our school performed this level of plagiarism on a major project and took credit as his or her own original work, he or she would likely receive an F and be suspended!

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