The new science education standards are based on a framework developed by the National Research Council.

Arizona is one of 26 states leading a nationwide initiative aimed at improving science education by requiring a deeper understanding of key concepts and incorporating science and technology in all subjects.

The first draft of the K-12 Next Generation Science Standards was released for public comment earlier this month after vetting by educators and business leaders in Arizona and the other states.

“We gave a lot of feedback along the way, and we had great conversations as a state,” said Janey Kaufmann, head of the science curriculum in the Scottsdale Unified School District and a member of the state committee that reviewed the science education standards.

Next Generation is intended to address a critical shortage of workers in the science and technology industries by beefing up science education, which has been lagging.

Newly released test scores in the Nation’s Report Card showed that Arizona’s eighth-graders were among the lowest performers in the country, with 44 percent lacking basic science knowledge.

“There are fewer concepts but deeper learning. Instead of learning something for a few weeks, that learning will occur over years, with more rigor at an earlier age,” Kaufmann said of the science education standards.

For example, concepts about electricity and magnetism now are taught in fourth grade, but the new guidelines move that to third grade.

The new science education material also touches on newer topics such as neurology and the brain, climate change and nuclear energy.

The new science education standards are based on a framework developed by the National Research Council with input from the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

The science education standards were then reviewed by a committee in each of the participating states, made up of representatives from Grades K-12, higher education, and the science and business communities. The Arizona Game and Fish Department, the Arizona Science Center and Intel Corp. were among the partners that participated.

After the public-comment period ends June 1, the groups will work on a new draft, to be released in November, followed by more public comment and a final draft in February.

Then each state will tweak the science education standards before adopting them.

The science education standards are separate from but align with the new Common Core State Standards that Arizona will implement in English and math.

All subjects will be much more interrelated, with more non-fiction, science-based reading and writing.

Read more of this article by Mary Beth Faller