HARRISBURG — The Independent Regulatory Review Commission approved the Pennsylvania State Board of Education’s proposed updated standards for science education that emphasizes engineering, STEM learning and crosscutting concepts across scientific disciplines.
Structured standards, college and career readiness, skills and Pennsylvania context were points of emphasis most sought by 934 stakeholders whose input was gathered during a series of public meetings in 2020.
“In response to the rapid growth of science knowledge, newer standards emphasize core disciplinary ideas versus lists of science facts that can become rapidly outdated. Further, newer standards include broader concepts, often referred to as crosscutting concepts, which apply across the science disciplines. Standards documents also specify skills, ways of thinking, or habits of mind that better reflect the nature of modern science,” scientific researchers wrote in an overview of the feedback received from Pennsylvania stakeholders.
Pennsylvania last adopted science education standards in 2002. There haven’t been any updates since, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Education. A formal review found the current standards — Science and Technology, and Environment and Ecology — critically lacked the capability for learning progression and integrating engineering practices.
Updated standards do just that and are designed to blend learning across different scientific disciplines. They apply from kindergarten through 12th grade but won’t be implemented until 2025.
The new standards are split in three sets: Pennsylvania Integrated Standards for Science, Environment, Ecology, Technology and Engineering (Grades K-5); Pennsylvania Integrated Standards for Science, Environment and Ecology (Grades 6-12); Pennsylvania Technology and Engineering Standards (Grades 6-12).
Local school boards and administrators exercise control over curriculums, but those curriculums must adhere to academic standards set by the state.
A science education framework developed by the National Research Council influenced Pennsylvania’s new standards. Since 2013, at least 44 states and the District of Columbia instituted new standards along similar lines.
Pennsylvania had 60 education professionals volunteer for a content committee and another 18 volunteers for a steering committee to drive the development of draft standards that ultimately were approved by the State Board of Education in September 2020 and referred for approval by the Independent Regulatory Review Commission. The independent commission voted unanimously on May 19.
“These new science standards will support our educators, students, and school communities using transparent, updated language that enables high-quality learning in an ever-changing world,” Dr. David Volkman, acting deputy secretary for Elementary and Secondary Education, said. “In line with these efforts, the Wolf administration supports the initiative to modernize science standards and align them with best practices so our students can compete in the workforce of the future.”