Tuesday, July 8, 2014

A New STEM Curriculum Signals Need for an Assault on NJ's Core Standards

It is time for an all-out assault on the Core Content Curriculum Standards and the HSPA exam, or whatever it is being called now, if New Jersey is to properly navigate into the future and provide an education that properly meets the needs of its students personally, professionally, and civically.

Two recent and somewhat related articles articulate the direction we need to take. An Op-Ed in the Trenton Times, “Prepare Today’s Students for Tomorrow’s Science” points to the need to design a science curriculum that provides depth rather than breadth, and that emphasizes new STEM standards guided by the Next Generation Science Standards. These standards integrate science and engineering and seek to prepare students for the challenges created by a modern world. As I’ve pointed out on numerous occasions, today’s CCCS require students to learn too many chunks of information, which invariably becomes a futile exercise in teaching given the real time necessary to both teach and assess to make sure that true learning has taken place. This doesn’t mean courses like Chemistry and Biology won’t be taught, but maybe they should no longer be identified as the required coursework in science. Kids who need those courses for college will undoubtedly take those courses as electives, while all students will now learn the content that is most important for their futures.
A second story focused on the Boys and Girls Club of Mercer County and their “More Than Hope” campaign to provide “a safe place for students to learn when they are out of school.” The campaign plans to build a STEM Center to enrich children’s’ understanding of STEM concepts. This commitment to SEM learning is a great indication that stakeholders in the business and non-profit communities are ready to drive this new emphasis on science that is firmly linked to our future needs.

What is now needed is a concerted effort by education reform PACs in New Jersey to pressure our legislators to revamp our State mandated curriculum in science and, frankly, across the entire spectrum of our schools’ course offerings. Change is needed in not just STEM courses but in social studies, Language Arts, and health.
I am personally interested in social studies, and would like to start a new political action committee dedicated to a new curriculum that emphasizes financial literacy and economics, health, nutrition, and fitness, the Declaration and Constitutional rights, the 20th Century (interdisciplinary), the Civil War, computer literacy, and essential reading, writing, speaking, and research skills. If anyone is interested in joining this effort or simply want to offer some ideas, please contact me at nlbrwn15@gmail.com . It is only through pressure that we will be able to draw attention to the huge failure that exists in our required high school programs and its assessment.

Personally, I think the curriculum itself may be part of the reason why our inner city students do so poorly in terms of testing and graduation rates. Students see and internalize the disconnect between what they are required to learn and what they perceive as their needs, and that in turn weakens the culture of learning every school needs.
I hope to hear from you, and I hope that we can affect change soon. Our children’s futures are at stake

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