We’ve always thought Massachusetts should stay out of national curriculum standards in math and English because our standards were better, but the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education signed up anyway. We did say national standards were bound to be an improvement for many states. Now we’re no longer so sure.
An influential body has proposed new science curriculum standards (“frameworks” in education jargon). The state board plans to align the Massachusetts standards with whatever national ones emerge. Both the board and the national organizations sponsoring the “Common Core” project should reject this bewildering effort from the National Academy of Sciences.
We were alerted to this by Ze’ev Wurman, a software expert who helped develop California’s standards and who commented critically on the new Massachusetts standards. In his blog comment on the Academy’s proposal he said: “The framework does not expect students to use any kind of analytical mathematics while studying science.”
The document only expects students by grade 12 to be competent in recognizing this and expressing that, and in using “simple mathematical expressions’” to see if something “makes sense,” Wurman wrote.
Wurman could find only one equation in all 280 pages of the proposal. A careful reading of the 29 pages of the physical sciences section, where equations would be most important, found none at all.
This is baffling. Mathematics, to which the authors devoted much praise, is the language of science. Wurman’s conclusion, which we share: The document “simply teaches our students science appreciation.”
The size of the document is a disqualifier, too. Teachers and principals need a concise document that will tell them what students need to know and how to learn it, not endless streams of sludgy prose.