New state science standards in Pennsylvania

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"A state regulatory review commission on Thursday approved an updated set of K-12 science standards that will guide future instruction for Pennsylvania in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, areas," PennLive reported (May 19, 2022). The new standards (PDF) replace a set adopted in 2002, the oldest state science standards in use in the country.

A late development was the addition of a fifth domain for Environmental Literacy and Sustainability — incorporating agricultural and environmental systems and resources, environmental literacy skills, and sustainability and stewardship — to the original domains of physical science, life science, earth and space sciences, and technology and engineering.

Overall the standards are broadly similar to the performance indicators of the Next Generation Science Standards. Further elements of the NGSS, such as cross-cutting concepts, science and engineering practices, and disciplinary core ideas, will be provided by the Department of Education in the form of implementation guidance.

The old standards received the grade of A for their treatment of evolution at the high school level (in a 2009 study by NCSE's Louise S. Mead and Anton Mates published in Evolution: Education and Outreach) and at the middle school level (in a 2017 study by Bertha Vazquez published in the same journal).

But the old standards received the grade of F for their treatment of climate change in "Making the Grade?" — the 2020 study by NCSE and the Texas Freedom Network Education Fund — apparently owing to their age. The 2002 standards failed "to address the presence or reality of climate change in any form," one reviewer observed.

"This is a great step forward," Jeff Remington, a Penn State STEM outreach liaison, told PennLive. "These standards will mark a new era in Pennsylvania's science ... education." But he cautioned, "Proper, intentional implementation of these standards will be very important. It will require a collaborative group lift."

Glenn Branch
Short Bio

Glenn Branch is Deputy Director of NCSE.