The Boston Herald has jumped into a nascent controversy regarding the new NRC K-12 Science Education Framework – and it’s not the one you would have expected.
So far, there is no public argument regarding the inclusion of evolution in the Framework.
Nope, the controversy is about math.
In an editorial published last week, the Herald supported the argument made by Silicon Valley technology executive Ze’ev Wurman that the Framework, which is intended to be the basis of standards that would apply to all high school graduates, should require the use of “analytical mathematics” for understanding science, especially the physical sciences.
The editorial said that
Wurman could find only one equation in all 280 pages of the proposal. A careful reading of the 29 pages of the physical sciences section, where equations would be most important, found none at all.
This is baffling. Mathematics, to which the authors devoted much praise, is the language of science. Wurman’s conclusion, which we share: The document “simply teaches our students science appreciation.”
Herald blogger and think tank director Jim Stergios expressed the same complaint about the Framework earlier. In response to my objection that requiring any kind of mathematical competency in science even from the weakest students was unrealistic , Stergios responded,
Agreed that not every student will become a scientist, but in Massachusetts one of our core problems is that we have good performance (on int’l tests) in science but we have half the percentage of high performers that Singapore and South Korea have. Increasing the focus on “literacy” is not going to address that. Instead, keeping the focus on highly quality content-based standards introduced only a few years ago will, together with testing to ensure that teachers and principals are focused on science instruction.
And in that comment one can see more than a hint of what is going on here. Massachusetts is number one in the nation on any measure of science education, whether it’s science literacy – as measured by the recently released ACT science section scores – or the preparation of high school students for undergraduate programs in science and engineering and subsequent careers (as measured by the Science and Engineering Readiness Index). While Florida is looking from back in the pack toward nation-leading Massachusetts, Massachusetts is ambitiously looking toward the world leaders – Finland, Singapore, China, South Korea.
It’s a reminder of just how much catching up Florida has to do.