Iowa Commits to New Science Standards, Exams


The Iowa State Board of Education has decided to adopt new science standards as well as committing to the implementation of new Smarter Balanced exams.

The new Next Generation Science Standards, which include modernized teaching practices in the areas of science and engineering, will be adopted by the state as a result of a unanimous vote by the state board. The standards are meant to refocus how science is taught in an effort to aid in students' application of the practices they learn. The most current research will be taught and applied to real-life situations.

The standards have already been implemented in several schools across the state to better prepare students and teachers for the transition.

"The Next Generation Science Standards are more of a blended approach to the sciences and how you incorporate those kind of in life or different places and businesses that kind of thing," says T.J. Jumper, director of Educator Quality with the Mason City School District.

Teachers who need extra help in the execution of their new lessons can look to the Area Education Agency, which will offer help from education experts in the restructuring of lesson plans.

"We really want students to have real world knowledge and expertise in science. With STEM being so important and students wanting to pursue careers in science and engineering, we want them to have the knowledge and background to be able to do that successfully," says Beth Strike, Site Superintendent with AEA 267.

A statewide survey on the subject shows similar results from the public, with 69% of participants saying they felt the new standards better prepared students for college and the workforce, writes Katie Huinker for KIMT.

In a separate unanimous vote, the board approved a rule-making process in order to allow the state to adopt new exams, which will be offered for the first time in the 2016-17 school year, as a replacement for the annual Iowa assessments, writes Holly Hines for The Iowa City Press-Citizen.

The new exams will be offered online in the areas of reading and math and will take about five hours to complete. Students will be required to show what they have learned in new ways, including completing research in a number of areas and writing essays.

While a number of districts report being prepared to implement the new science standards, they added that they are concerned with the cost of the accompanying exams. Becky Furlong, Iowa City's Chief Academic Officer, said the new exams cost more than the tests currently in use in the state, and districts may have a difficult time with the bandwidth required to administer them. In addition, some students who are not familiar with online exams could be at a disadvantage.

Furlong added that she hopes the Department of Education will offer districts time, funding and professional development in order to allow for successful implementation of the new exams.

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