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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on the Revision Process for the Massachusetts Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
January 14, 2011

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Purpose

State law directs the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education periodically to review, update, and improve the curriculum frameworks. (Mass. Gen. Laws c. 69, s. 1E.) The purpose of this memorandum is to brief you on our work to revise the Commonwealth's Science and Technology/Engineering (STE) Curriculum Framework (the Framework). Additionally, I would like to outline our engagement with several national organizations, including the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the National Association of State Boards of Education, and Achieve, Inc., to develop model science and engineering standards that states could consider adopting or adapting.

Background

The Board last adopted Pre-K to high school STE standards in 2001, and subsequently adopted a minor revision of the high school standards in 2006. In January 2009, I notified the Board of the Department's intent to start the revision of the Framework. During the spring of 2009, the Department released a public comment survey to solicit feedback on the current Framework. Results from the survey Download PDF Document  Download Word Document, which represent responses from teachers, higher education faculty, administrators, students, and members of professional associations, articulated strengths of the Framework and included suggestions for improvement. Concurrently, members for the Review Panel were selected. A summary of the selection process was presented to the Board in June 2009. (The list of Review Panel members is attached to this memo.)

Summary of Proposed Recommendations

The Review Panel participated in five full-day meetings through the fall of 2009; they drew upon the results of the public comment survey and recommended a number of changes to the Framework. Recommendations include:

  • enhancing progressions of STE standards across grade spans;
  • integrating STE skills (such as predicting, analyzing data, or modeling) with STE concepts (such as density, the function of proteins in cells, or electrical circuits) in the standards;
  • presenting STE standards as grade-span standards with recommendations for grade-by-grade standards;
  • incorporating the new English Language Arts standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects; and
  • promoting STE career and college readiness.

The Review Panel's full recommendations are described in Attachment 1: STE Progress Report Download PDF Document  Download Word Document.

For additional background I have also attached the following documents:

  • Attachment 2: Organization of the Current Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework;
  • Attachment 3: Overview of the STE Review Process to Date, summarizing the various meetings and public forums conducted with the Review Panel, including sessions to solicit input from the Board's Advisory Councils for Mathematics and Science and Technology/Engineering; and
  • Attachment 4: STE Review Panel Members.

Since the Review Panel began its work in 2009 there have been additional recommendations for enhancements to the Framework that align with the work of the Review Panel including:

  • the 2009-2010 reports of the Board's Advisory Councils for Mathematics and Science and for Technology/Engineering recommend that the revised STE standards emphasize scientific skills and the engineering design process more than is currently done, promote a progression of learning over time, articulate clear linkages between STE and mathematics, and encourage classroom inquiry and design projects;
  • the Governor's development of A Foundation for the Future: Massachusetts' Plan for Excellence in STEM Education, recommends that the revised Framework increase expectations for scientific skills and classroom inquiry, promote technology/engineering opportunities, and support academic coherence through purposeful relationships with mathematics; and
  • a draft document by the National Research Council, A Conceptual Framework for New Science Education Standards, to be released this spring, recommends the use of learning progression research to inform sequencing of science and engineering standards, as well as the integration of scientific skills into standards. The Review Panel's progress report (Attachment 1) responds to the recommendations of each of these reports.

Next Steps

Department staff, working with the Review Panel members and additional experts, have begun to use the progress report to guide the development of a first draft of the revised Framework. I expect that we would bring the draft to the Board sometime in 2012, so that we can dovetail our efforts with the initiatives of several national organizations - Achieve and the National Research Council in particular - to develop model science and engineering standards. This will allow us to compare our draft revised standards with the model standards, to inform the Board as you deliberate on adopting an updated Science and Technology Curriculum Framework in 2012. Achieve intends to convene state and national groups to facilitate the development of the model standards, using the Conceptual Framework developed by the NRC as a starting point this spring.

Finally, with respect to assessment, the Department will continue to administer STE MCAS tests in grades 5 and 8 and at the high school level based on the existing STE Framework. Once revised STE standards are adopted by the Board, we will transition the assessments to ensure alignment with the new standards. Please note that while Massachusetts is participating in the Partnership for the Assessment of College and Careers (PARCC), assessments developed by that initiative will focus on the areas of mathematics and English language arts/literacy only.

Jeffrey Nellhaus, Deputy Commissioner, and Jacob Foster, Director of Science and Technology/Engineering, will be at the January 25th Board meeting to answer your questions.

Enclosures (4):

Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Attachment 1: STE Progress Report
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Attachment 2: Organization of Current Science and Technology/Engineering Curriculum Framework
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Attachment 3: Overview of STE Review Process to Date
Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Attachment 4: STE Review Panel Members


Last Updated: January 18, 2011
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