Fordham Institute trashes Florida’s science standards, awarding the state a grade of “D”

Update (9:30 am):  And now a report from Gradebook

Here is Leslie Postal’s post at School Zone on this breaking story.

Here is the media release from the Fordham Institute, listing grades for all states plus DC.  Florida is not alone in receiving poor grades.  California and DC are the only ones to have received grades of straight “A”.

And here is the Florida-specific report.

I worked on the K-8 physical science standards with a very distinguished group of K-12 folks, and as I went through the Fordham report on Florida I had a few “How did I let that slip by me?!” moments:

…in fourth grade, two benchmarks that address heat flow are listed under a Big Idea that addresses waves. In fifth grade, two benchmarks that concern electric current flow are listed under that same Big Idea. Sadly, none of these is a wave phenomenon, and the standards that follow them are therefore a confused mess.  Further, students are asked to “describe heat as the energy transferred by convection, conduction, and radiation, and explain the connection of heat to change in temperature or states of matter” (high school physical science). But that doesn’t define heat at all; it is no more illuminating than if one were to write “define money as the stuff transferred by sales, loans, and gifts.”

How did I let that slip by?  With the benefit of hindsight and the lessons learned from watching the people working on the NRC Science Framework doing it right, I can tell you how I let that slip by:  We didn’t have enough time (our 9 months or so vs. the NRC’s 18), we didn’t have a big enough staff, and we didn’t have the high-powered design team that the NRC program had.  And remember – that 18 months the NRC took to produce the framework was only the first part of the project.  The actual standards-writing – which will result in “Common Core” science standards to go with the Common Core math and language arts standards already adopted by Florida and most other states – is now being done by Achieve.

As Leslie Postal quoted me, “Cottle said Florida should join in since the national effort, run by the reform group Achieve, can bring more expertise to bear, and spend more time devising standards, than the state could.”

What I find inexplicable is this:  Florida’s educational leadership had the sense to adopt the Common Core standards in math and language arts.  Yet the School Zone post quotes FDOE spokesperson Cynthia Sucher saying the state “will take a very critical look at this report and take immediate steps to improve in areas that need improvement.”

No, Commissioner Robinson, Mary Jane and Todd, don’t take “immediate steps to improve,” just give it up.  Let’s join the Common Core science standards development effort that 26 other states have already joined and demonstrate, at least in this one small way, our commitment to teaching science well in the State of Florida.

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