Fordham Fails Texas Science Standards
The Thomas B. Fordham Institute regularly reviews the state standards for all 50 states in all the major subject areas. Fordham’s recent report, The State of State Science Standards, included a “C” grade for Texas, a state that has historically exerted a large influence on educational materials nationwide (although that may be changing as Texas districts are now able to adopt materials other than those on the state approved list). This is an improvement from the failing grade the state received the last time its standards were evaluated, in 2005, but it shouldn’t be viewed as anything other than disappointing. In comparison, several other populous states did well. California’s standards received an “A” while New York managed a “B+”.
Looking deeper into the grading, Fordham essentially failed the Texas Chemistry, Physics, and Life Science standards thanks to serious omissions and outright errors. The errors included the statement that biological traits are inherited “gradually” and the expectation that students complete calculations about the properties of light using only two fundamental constants. This isn’t far from asking students to add 1 and 2 and come up with something new each time.
Unfortunately, much of the reaction has centered around the controversial edits to the high school Biology standards made by the State Board of Education in 2009. In fact, those edits neither added rigor as some have claimed, nor did much harm other than further decreasing the clarity of the standards. The rhetoric flying from both sides is disappointing, because it distracts from the larger issue: the overall poor quality of the standards. Had all parties involved in the writing and adoption of these standards focused more on overall quality and sound science, Texas students would have a much more solid roadmap for their education today.
As the Austin-American Statesman has noted, Texas needs to do better. With elections for the state board approaching, Texas citizens have the opportunity to show that they expect more.
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