Popular science standards omit basic scientific knowledge in the name of equity

K-12 science content standards developed through a multi-state effort (including Minnesota) are failing students, according to a new report “Climbing Down: How the Next Generation Science Standards Diminish Scientific Literacy” released by the National Association of Scholars.

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which Minnesota was involved in developing and which the state’s 2019 science standards are based on, omits basic tenets of science, including the scientific method, the report details.

Twenty states and the District of Columbia have adopted NGSS, with 24 additional states adopting science standards influenced by NGSS’s predecessor, making NGSS “the most powerful force shaping American science education—and shaping it for the worse.”

The report outlines “how the NGSS, a mediocre-to-incompetent set of national science standards, channel politically-charged, flawed science into American public education—science so badly taught that high school graduates will be unprepared for introductory college science courses.”

Unfortunately, the NGSS will not help students prepare for careers in any field, STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) or otherwise; rather, it will be a severe hindrance to gaining even basic knowledge and understanding of critical science concepts. A bold claim? Not at all, if you read the NGSS…

The report’s authors share several specific examples of omissions and inadequacies in the standards, including errors in facts, errors in concepts, and politicization.

  • The scientific method is absent from standards, only “given a nod” in the appendices; over-reliance on models instead, which “leads to the repeated acceptance of errors and incorrect conclusions as fact”
  • Inadequate mathematics preparation; math is replaced “by a preference for subjective judgment in critical areas”
  • Physics is largely absent, “with the occasional rudimentary nod to a physics principle”
  • Lack of biology in life science standards; content omissions including whole-body systems, cell and tissue types, cell division (mitosis and meiosis), bacteria, virus, recessive and dominant genes, to name a few
  • Missing physical science content, including Newton’s first law, energy, thermodynamics, inertia, magnetism, to name a few
  • Earth and space science content replaced with climate change content; standards’ climate sequence is heavily politicized, such as placing “an emphasis on activism to reduce pollution, etc., rather than disinterested inquiry into the nature of climate science”
  • Engineering content “consists overwhelmingly of ‘global issues’ such as environmentalism and social welfare, rather than any preparation for building bridges, offshore oil rigs, fiberglass, electronics, or space elevators”
  • Disproportionate amount of attention given to evolution “at the expense of more essential science content, such as the human body, electrical systems, or chemistry”

The report’s authors also note that the NGSS’s commitment to “diversity and equity” results in reduced content knowledge, and substituting process knowledge in its place “to aid ‘non-dominant groups’ who cannot be assumed otherwise to possess an interest or capacity in science.” It also results in the standards devoting “an astonishing amount of time to ‘activism’—astonishing not least because the proper amount of ‘activism’ in science education is ‘zero.'”

The full academic impact of the NGSS will not be known until a generation of students has completed its K-12 education, the report’s authors conclude, but given the “content errors, numerous omissions, imbalance in content, feasibility concerns with the implementation of integrated standards, obvious political dogma, and major shift in pedagogy,” continuing to use NGSS is a “dangerous educational experiment that is a disservice to all high school students.”

Science is not the only subject area with concerning academic standards. Other subject areas as well have been inundated with progressive vocabulary, political advocacy, and the push to train students into progressive activists. Follow American Experiment’s “Raise Our Standards MN” campaign to learn more about how such efforts are evident in the revision process of Minnesota’s K-12 social studies standards.