Rhode Island Science Scores Drop After Next Generation Science Standards

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The Providence Journal reported this week that only three in 10 Rhode Island students were considered proficient in science despite adopting the Next Generation Science Standards three years ago.

Now you would think this would prompt calls for a  review of the standards, but you would think wrong. No, it’s the test’s fault.

No school district and no groups of students made significant improvements in science in 2016, according to the Rhode Island Department of Education. In fact, this year’s results continue a four-year decline in science proficiency.

Meanwhile, the achievement gaps between white and minority students, middle-class students and those from low-income families are wider today than they were in 2008, when the science portion of the New England Common Assessment Program was introduced.

“First, you can’t ignore the results,” said state education Commissioner Ken Wagner. “We have to do better. These results call for urgency.”

The disappointing test results arrive at a time when Governor Raimondo has turned computer science into the centerpiece of her K-12 education reform plans. Last year, she announced an initiative to bring computer science to every school by December 2017. On Wednesday, Microsoft’s Corporate Vice President Fred Humphries will join Raimondo during a coding class at Central Falls High School.

Wagner said there is a reason for the poor showing. In 2013, Rhode Island adopted the Next Generation Science Standards, developed by a consortium of 26 states and several science-education groups, which ask students to think like a scientist and call for more hands-on, investigative work. But the NECAP is much more focused on subject matter, so the test no longer reflects what students are learning in the classroom.

“There is a mismatch between our test and our new standards,” Wagner said Tuesday.

So the NECAP actually expects a mastery of the subject matter and the Next Generation Science Standards calls for kids to “think like a scientist.” Don’t they actually have to have content, knowledge and facts in order develop that kind of thinking?

The fallacy with Next Generation Science Standards, as well as, Common Core is they believe students can be taught to think critically without actually having knowledge to back this up. Learning skills doesn’t do any good if there isn’t foundational knowledge.

But yeah, go ahead and blame the assessment.