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August 27, 2014

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Education:

Nevada to consider adopting controversial ‘Next Generation’ science standards for K-12 students

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Steve Marcus

Students from Western High School read directions on how to assemble a robot kit during the annual HerWorld workshop at the Henderson Convention Center Thursday, March 14, 2013. About 230 students attended the workshop, sponsored by DeVry University, intended to introduce female high school students to careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

Updated Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 | 6:55 p.m.

The Nevada Board of Education will hear public input next month on a more rigorous, but controversial set of new science standards being adopted by some states.

The Next Generation Science Standards are a new set of academic standards that outline science concepts that should be mastered by students at every grade level, from kindergarten to 12th grade. The new standards puts greater emphasis on problem solving and focuses on engineering, cause and effect and modeling solutions to scientific problems.

The new standards complement the Common Core State Standards, a more rigorous set of academic guidelines that govern what English and math concepts should be mastered by students at every grade level. Forty-five states, including Nevada, have adopted the Common Core, which is scheduled to be fully implemented next school year.

If the new science standards pass muster at the state school board’s Oct. 4 meeting, the Silver State would become an early adopter of the Next Generation Science Standards, joining Maryland, Kansas, Kentucky, Rhode Island and Vermont.

Other states have been slow to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards amid growing criticism of national academic standards.

Critics argue new national standards, like Next Generation, are inferior to some existing standards, because they omit some concepts such as covalent bonding in chemistry and computer science programming. The Fordham Institute, a conservative Washington-based education think tank, graded Next Generation standards “C”; although Nevada’s science standards fared a worse “D.”

Other opponents have criticized the standards as a cookie-cutter approach to education, one that undermines local control over education. Some state leaders have backed away from the Common Core after balking at its proposed cost, including the increased cost of computerized testing.

Proponents of Next Generation argue the new standards are more rigorous than Nevada’s current standards and would help prepare students for 21st century careers.

If the Next Generation Science Standards were adopted, the state education department must come up with a new science curriculum and tests to determine how students measure up to those standards.

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that the state school board adopted the science standards. It voted unanimously to hold public hearings on the standards next month.

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