Updated March 23 at 12:28am

Rhode Island on forefront of science standards in U.S.


While standardized testing has generated much heated debate in Rhode Island this year, a sweeping change to the public school approach to teaching science seems to have passed with little controversy.

Rhode Island was the first state in the nation to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, with approval by the R.I. Board of Education on May 23. So far, two other states have adopted the standards – Kentucky on June 5 and Kansas on June 11, according to the National Center for Science Education website.

Many states have been involved in developing the new national roadmap for science education and are expected to approve the new standards, said Rhode Island College assistant professor of science education and coordinator of secondary science education Rudolf Kraus.

The new standards make official the changes in science curriculum and methods of teaching that have been developing nationally for many years, said Kraus, who will teach a class at RIC in the fall to train teachers on how to align their teaching with the new standards.

“In the last 15 years, we’ve had two major changes,” said Kraus, “A lot of educational research has been done on how students learn science, so the content of what’s taught is informed by that research,” said Kraus. “And science itself has made progress in that time. We know more about genetics and climate change, for example.”

A major focus of the new standards is getting students engaged in and doing science.

“It is no longer going to be acceptable for a science teacher to just talk about science and give a lecture followed by another lecture followed by a third lecture,” said Kraus.

“For at least one-third of the time, students should be doing science themselves. They should be collecting data. They should be deciding what it means and whether they need to re-do something to get better results,” said Kraus. “That way, they’re going to understand not just what the answer is, but how it was arrived at. … This is a big change from what used to be done.”

One example of a good high school next-generation-type science program Kraus has seen was around the issue of fossil fuels.

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