With the release earlier this week of Governor Scott’s statement on the implementation of the Common Core Standards in Florida and the development of the PARCC testing program, the state is now looking forward to the retirement of the FCAT programs in math and English language arts in 2014-2015. The only remaining FCAT-branded tests will be those in science at the 5th and 8th grade levels. And with the reluctance of Florida’s educational leaders to join the effort to develop the Next Generation Science Standards, there will likely not be a jump to PARCC-equivalent assessments in science.
But even the 8th grade science FCAT is becoming less relevant. Some middle schools are now teaching the first high school biology class, Biology 1, to their strongest 8th graders and administering the Biology end-of-course exam to them. These students don’t take the 8th grade science FCAT and so they are never assessed on their knowledge of physical science. Hence, the middle school physical science standards have been rendered moot, just as the high school physical science standards have been ever since they were first written.
Here’s the brief letter I wrote to Governor Scott this morning:
Dear Governor Scott,
The Common Core Standards and the PARCC testing consortium have one very important flaw – they don’t include science. You understand that the most economically viable careers of the future will involve science, and I’m sure you believe that our schools and universities should be increasing their emphasis on science. However, by focusing our schools on the Common Core and PARCC, we will be reducing their emphasis on science. There is a Common Core equivalent being developed by Achieve for science called the “Next Generation Science Standards”. While 26 states have joined the effort to develop these standards as “lead state partners”, Florida has declined to do so. Indeed, the FDOE leadership has invested considerable effort in patching the state standards, which were panned in a recent review by the Fordham Institute. If we are to take science seriously in Florida, we must become an active participant in the Next Generation Science Standards project and plan to adopt the standards when they become available early next year.