Kentucky schools to implement new science standards this fall, report says

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comJune 3, 2014 

C. ALUKA BERRY — The State/MCT

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday plans to announce Wednesday at the state school board meeting that the new Next-Generation Science Standards will be implemented in the fall.

Holliday discussed details of the announcement in his commissioner's report, which was included on the agenda for Wednesday's Kentucky Board of Education meeting.

"The goal is to begin teaching the new standards immediately; however, development of a new test for elementary and middle school will not take place until after the 2014-15 school year," the report said.

The standards establish the science concepts and skills Kentucky students would be expected to know in grades K-12. They were drafted cooperatively by Kentucky and 25 other states.

Science teachers across Kentucky will spend the year designing curriculum, developing new units and teaching the standards to students, according to the report. There is at least a one-year delay between the standards and the test because the only test available in 2014-15 measures out-of-date standards, the commissioner said. He said to continue using the out-of-date test would not meet state and federal guidelines that call for a test to measure the current standards.

Once the new test is built to match the new science standards, testing will resume, Holliday said.

David Helm, Fayette County Public Schools' science learning innovation specialist, said Tuesday that Fayette County had been reviewing the standards for the past year and would be ready to begin implementing them in August. Teacher training will occur this summer and throughout the year, he said.

"It's a huge shift for us," said Helm.

By implementing this decision, Holliday said two important outcomes occur: Teachers receive a clear message to teach the new science standards immediately; and Kentucky saves a substantial amount of money — by not administering the science tests — that can be instead spent to support the development of the new science test. State education staff is working on the new science test, he said.

The science standards have been controversial in Kentucky.

Gov. Steve Beshear decided in 2013 to implement the new science requirements even though a legislative review subcommittee rejected them as "deficient."

Opponents have criticized the standards on several fronts, including that guidelines overemphasize global climate issues while ignoring other areas of science. But the Kentucky Board of Education has approved the standards twice, and they've been endorsed by numerous science groups.

Legislative efforts to eliminate the science standards failed in the 2014 General Assembly. Holliday has said previously that he expected the rollout to occur this fall.

Helm said it could take three to five years for students and teachers to become fully comfortable with the standards.

The biggest difference that parents will notice, said Helm, the Fayette County science educator, is that students will be doing more active learning, practicing their science knowledge versus "just learning science ... content."

Valarie Honeycutt Spears: (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears

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