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Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Disparity Among Standards

By Heather Smelser, M.Ed., NBCT

Teacher Consultant for the STEM Education Center

In an article today by the Star Tribune from Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota, Norman Draper and Allie Shaw report that “Student scores on the Minnesota state science test continue to improve, but at a slower pace than last year.” They cite the fact that in Minnesota’s schools the students do not have to pass the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment (MCA) II Science Tests to graduate but their educators say, “the science tests have an importance that goes beyond scores and passing rates.” The article states that the teachers realize that science is a field where students in the US must excel to keep up with our technological advances and to compete globally. See the complete article here: http://www.startribune.com/local/99283559.html?page=1&c=y.

Minnesota’s school systems, like systems nationwide, are seeing the importance of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineerying and Math) Education. From that knowledge the states have developed standards that they hope will lead their students in the right direction to keep up and compete.

As a Teacher Consultant for the STEM Education Center, I have been able to compare the standards developed by each of our fifty states. Access our findings here. What we found was a disparity among state standards in the breadth and depth of what is expected from each state’s teachers and students.

Written standards range from one state’s expectation that 6th through 9th grade, “Students can understand and apply concepts related to mechanics, forces, and motion” to another state’s standard that says, “The student will investigate and understand basic sources of energy, their origins, transformations, and uses. Key concepts include potential and kinetic energy; the role of the sun in the formation of most energy sources on Earth; nonrenewable energy sources (fossil fuels including petroleum, natural gas, and coal); renewable energy sources (wood, wind, hydro, geothermal, tidal, and solar); and energy transformations (heat/light to mechanical, chemical, and electrical energy).”

It is glaringly obvious that the states are paying attention to basic concepts in what they want their students to be able to know and do but when standards are written in such different formats what exactly will the student be learning and how is the teacher supposed to assess what they have done?

This is but one example of state standards but shows the obvious disparity in how states are trying to achieve that STEM Education.

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