Last month, Maryland became the fourth state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, according to the state Board of Education.
The standards combine scientific practice with the basic concepts of engineering, technology, and life, physical, earth and space sciences, according to the NGSS website.
The new public school science guidelines aim to strengthen analytical skills and prepare students for college and careers in science-related, or STEM, fields.
Frederick County Public Schools officials are looking at how current curriculum might already comply with the standards. The state plans to fully implement the NGSS by the 2017-18 school year.
Elementary science specialist Kimm Mazaleski said the county isn’t starting from scratch and revamping its entire science curriculum.
“We’re taking our time and going easily and looking at what changes we need to make ... for best practices,” Mazaleski said. “We won’t throw teachers into anything.”
A curriculum cannot have “too much STEM,” Mazaleski said, adding that science and technology concepts can enrich all areas of learning.
Next Generation standards do not replace the Common Core State Standards for science literacy. While Common Core focuses on reading and writing about specific subject areas, Next Generation dictates the content of a science curriculum thought to be outdated.
“Most of the scientific community is saying ... it’s time to reform,” Mazaleski said. “We stayed fresh and tried to keep up with what’s current, but the research (that state guidelines are based on) is much older.”
Brett Stark, a curriculum director for the county, said Frederick needs to take ownership of the standards and make it relevant to students and teachers.
“The good news is it’s 2013 and we have until 2017 for full implementation,” Stark said. “That’s a good amount of time to put together a plan for professional development and community outreach. ... We’ve learned a lot from language arts and math standards.”
Twenty-six state governments partnered with the National Academy of Sciences’ National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and Achieve to create the standards.
A committee of 18 experts in science, engineering, cognitive science, teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment, and education policy wrote an initial framework on which the standards are based, the NGSS website stated.
The Framework for K-12 Science Education “describes a vision of what it means to be proficient in science” by presenting the connections between scientific practices, concepts across scientific areas and the core ideas within each area.
Each state will decide whether to create assessments aligned with the new standards, according to the Maryland State Board of Education.
Mazaleski said state officials haven’t yet shared with the county how they plan to test students.
Curriculum is always evolving, and patience is the key to moving forward, Stark said.
“Change happens in education, and change is good in education,” Stark said. “If we need to update students to follow what’s happening in the business field, then we absolutely need to update (what we do in the classroom).”
Follow Rachel S. Karas on Twitter: @rachelkaras.