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Topic: California: Science Standards Approved for Schools
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 13,619
Registered: 12/3/04
California: Science Standards Approved for Schools
Posted: Oct 10, 1998 7:10 PM
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Note: Just in from a colleague on the West Coast ... .]
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"Standards Set In 2 Core Areas: Science, History Outlines OK'd"

By Janine DeFao, Staff Writer

Sacramento Bee -- October 10, 1998 --

The state Board of Education unanimously adopted science and history/social
science standards Friday, praising them as academically challenging but
acknowledging that they are a first step in an uphill battle to improve
student achievement statewide.

With Friday's action, California now has its first standards ever outlining
grade by grade what students should learn in the four major subject areas:
science, history/social science, math and language arts.

"It's a new era of opportunity in California," said state board President
Yvonne Larsen. "We think (the standards) will go a long way toward rigorous
academic achievement."

Larsen said the standards will let parents statewide know exactly what
their children should be learning, and when, and will enable them to work
more closely with public school teachers.

While the standards are voluntary for local school districts, they will be
the basis for adopting textbooks at the state level and will be reflected
in the content of the annual statewide achievement test. New textbooks in
the four core areas are scheduled to be adopted between next March and
March 2000.

Of particular concern are the new science standards, which Superintendent
of Public Instruction Delaine Eastin said "exceed anything previously
taught in California public schools."

For instance, atomic structure and the periodic table of the elements are
introduced in third grade. The standards recommend three years of high
school science instead of two, and each middle school year has a specific
focus -- with earth science in sixth grade, life science in seventh and
physical science in eighth.

In fact, the science standards came under fire from a coalition of national
science organizations, which argued that the 36-page document crams in too
many facts at the expense of conceptual understanding and experimentation.

But the state board turned down a request from coalition representatives --
including former Stanford University President Donald Kennedy and former
astronaut Sally Ride -- to rewrite the standards and instead adopted them
largely unchanged from the draft submitted by the Commission for the
Establishment of Academic Content and Performance Standards.

Larsen said the commission's recommended standards -- crafted under the
leadership of Nobel laureate Glenn Seaborg -- represented a compromise
between those who stress a fact-oriented, back-to-basics approach and those
who favor "hands-on" science to stimulate interest and learning.

While the standards are heavy on facts, Larsen said board members still
"endorse, applaud and encourage as much lab work and experimentation as
possible. ... We know teachers will bring (science) alive and make it
provocative for our kids."

To aid in that effort, Eastin said Friday that Kennedy and Ride have agreed
to serve on a task force that will draw up a supplement to the standards,
focusing on hands-on applications for the classroom.

The history standards have been less controversial and more closely
parallel the state's current curriculum framework, on which textbook
adoptions are based.

As in science, the state board made few changes to the standards
commission's history/social science recommendations, a significant
departure from last winter, when it significantly reworked the commission's
math recommendations before adopting the math and language arts standards.

The changes made in the history/social science standards "strengthen the
treatment of" contributions by women and minority groups in state, U.S. and
world history, said state board Executive Director Bill Lucia.

For instance, a standard focusing on American Indian settlements, including
their systems of government, was added to the fifth-grade U.S. history
standards.

Lack of representation of women and minorities was the major complaint the
board heard during public hearings on the proposed standards. But standards
supporters said they successfully balance the contributions of women and
minorities with those of traditional white male heroes.

For instance, second-graders studying "people who make a difference" will
learn about George Washington Carver, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, Albert
Einstein, Abraham Lincoln, Jackie Robinson, Sally Ride and Sitting Bull.

Leslie Fausset, chief deputy superintendent of the state Education
Department, said that while "the passage of standards is a starting point,"
she believes some benefits will be immediate.

"As a parent, I would have loved that information when my children were
growing up," she said.

***********************************************************
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610 USA
Fax: (618)453-4244
Phone: (618)453-4241 (office)
E-mail: JBECKER@SIU.EDU





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