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Regents approves plan for new statewide science learning standards

In January, the New York State Board of Regents approved a strategic plan to enhance science instruction for students in grades K-12. According to the plan, updated state standards in science are critical for developing “scientifically literate citizens who are better prepared to pursue college and career pathways.”

The state’s new Statewide Strategic Plan for Science and P-12 Science Learning Standards was created as a guide for how to develop and implement new science standards; it is not the standards themselves. It also does not outline when such standards would go into effect. Instead, the plan provides goals and objectives for identifying new state science standards with input from stakeholders such as K-12 teachers and school administrators, higher education and industry representatives, parents, students, professional associations and government officials.

“The mission of the Statewide Strategic Plan for Science can only be realized if all of the stakeholders are involved in its implementation,” reads the plan outline from New York State Education Department Deputy Commissioner Ken Wagner.

Standards are essentially a set of educational goals and expectations for what students should be learning in school. School districts create curriculum based on the state’s learning standards, and then teachers develop classroom lesson plans based on this curriculum. The state’s existing science standards were adopted in 1996.

The plan calls for a review of the current state science standards along with what are known as the “Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).” Released in 2013, these internationally-benchmarked science standards were developed by 26 states (including New York) based on a framework established by The National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the non-profit education group Achieve. They are meant to incorporate modern advances in science, which are not necessarily reflected in existing state standards, into today’s classrooms – and take into account research on how students learn and what skills they require to be college and career ready.

Aside from standards, the state plan outlines goals and objectives for science curriculum, professional development, assessments, materials and resource support, and administrative and community support.

A timeline for this process is still in development.