Pennsylvania's science ed standards could get rewrite

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science and chemistry classees at school

YORK, Pa. (AP) — A group of educators from throughout the state aims to overhaul some of the country’s oldest standards for science education, all while avoiding a protracted political dispute over climate change and evolution.

Pennsylvania’s science standards haven’t changed since 2002, and repeated efforts in the past to overhaul them stalled during the review process — which involves an independent commission with input from the state Legislature.

The state has different hurdles than some others, as its standards are not approved directly by the Legislature, though that body can veto them if it disapproves.

In this June 20, 2019, photo, Dr. Greg Foy, left, and his wife Leigh Foy discuss their upcoming climate change workshop during an interview at their home in Spring Garden Township, Pa. (Dawn J. Sagert/York Dispatch via AP)

YORK, Pa. (AP) — A group of educators from throughout the state aims to overhaul some of the country’s oldest standards for science education, all while avoiding a protracted political dispute over climate change and evolution.

Pennsylvania’s science standards haven’t changed since 2002, and repeated efforts in the past to overhaul them stalled during the review process — which involves an independent commission with input from the state Legislature.

The state has different hurdles than some others, as its standards are not approved directly by the Legislature, though that body can veto them if it disapproves.

“We want to make sure we’re pushing the students,” said Eric Wilson, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment at Red Lion Area School District.

Wilson is one of two educators from Red Lion on a 60-member committee tasked with the rewrite.

He and fourth grade teacher Carrie Lankford, who has 10 years of experience in environmental science, were chosen out of more than 200 applicants by the state Board of Education.

This summer’s review will include a look at the Next Generation Science Standards — a 2013 effort at national standards developed by 26 states out of a framework from the National Research Council.

Next Generation standards focus on scientific inquiry and “cross-cutting” concepts that stretch across academic disciplines.

“It’s really the way of thinking, ” Wilson said, noting that knowing how to think like a scientist is useful throughout the workforce.

Christine Royce, professor of science education at Shippensburg University, said observation, asking questions, collecting information and analyzing it are all scientific practices that can be applied to any situation.

States with Republican-controlled legislatures, such as Wyoming and Oklahoma, were among the first to reject the Next Generation standards. But since then, all but six states, including Pennsylvania, have accepted some version of them.

In Pennsylvania, the state Legislature could stall the initiative with a bill to block the implementation of the standards. But overcoming a veto by Gov. Tom Wolf, who has backed overhauling the standards, would prove a more difficult challenge.

Florida, North Carolina, Idaho, Texas and Virginia also have set their own standards without Next Generation input.

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