A decade ago, a group of scientists and science educators at the K-12 and postsecondary levels were working to assemble world-class science standards for Florida’s K-12 classrooms. In February of 2008, the tumultuous process reached a climax when the State Board of Education narrowly voted to adopt the standards recommended by the committee.
After the SBOE vote, thirty-nine of these committee members signed a letter to Commissioner Eric Smith sharing a vision for a world-class science education program in Florida’s public schools. The proposals in the letter were largely ignored, but there is value in seeing the direction that these thirty-nine experts thought the state should take.
February 27, 2008
Dr. Eric J. Smith
Commissioner of Education
325 W. Gaines St, Suite 1514
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0400
Dear Commissioner Smith:
As members of the Science Standards Framers’ and Writers’ groups, we first want to acknowledge the tireless work that the staff of the Office of Mathematics and Science (OMS) did to advocate for the tremendous progress we achieved in the standards. The standards that were adopted will allow Florida’s science educators to move forward in helping their students achieve a bright future.
However, we realize that the development of excellent standards is only one step in establishing Florida as a world leader in science education. During our deliberations, we identified a list of steps that we believe are necessary for Florida’s science education program to lead the nation and the world.
In arriving at our recommendations for action steps listed below, we have consulted with the International Advisory Board of the Florida Center for Research in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. Our recommendations to follow the successful completion of the new standards include:
1) Ensure the alignment of curriculum, instructional methods, assessment and pedagogy with these new standards.
2) Require four high school science credits for graduation.
3) Adopt the 2003 National Science Teacher Association teacher preparation standards.
4) Establish a permanent panel of scientists, business leaders and educator-leaders that advise the Commissioner of Education and the State Board of Education on science education issues.
5) Support the development and adoption of research-based instructional materials, including laboratories and authentic field experiences.
6) Commit at least $100 million per year to professional development of science teachers that is based on the best research about how students learn this subject.
7) Provide an immediate differential pay structure that will increase salaries of science teachers by 20%, and provide full state funding for this. This step is recommended in the report “Teachers and the Uncertain American Future” issued by the College Board’s Center for Innovative Thought. We believe that all the recommendations in this report should be implemented in Florida.
We understand the budget difficulties that the state government is presently facing, and that the program we are recommending would require an extraordinary commitment on the part of the people of Florida. However, better knowledge of science and the analytical and problem-solving skills it teaches are essential to Florida’s long-term competitiveness in an increasingly technological society. A citizenry better educated in science will help attract high technology industry to Florida.
We stand ready to assist your efforts to improve science education in Florida. Please let us know what we can do to help.