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California Considers New Science Education Standards

California could be the sixth state to adopt new voluntary, national guidelines for teaching science.

This week, California could become the sixth state in the country to adopt new national guidelines for science education.

While California students today might learn about water molecules in chemistry class one year and erosion in earth science another year, under the Next Generation Science Standards, they might have a unit about water systems that starts at that molecular level and works up to ecosystems.

That’s how Nancy Taylor, executive director of San Diego Science Alliance, describes the shift the new standards would set in motion for California. She was part of the group that reviewed the standards for the state and made recommendations on how to tailor them for California classrooms.

She said the multidisciplinary approach the standards encourage is in line with how scientific research is done today.

“We see some other trends right here in San Diego," she said, "where there is a cross disciplinary approach in developing medical and health technologies, sports technology, biotech and communications.”

Understanding methods and skills that are used across scientific disciplines is another focus of the guidelines, which outline core scientific ideas — including human impacts on climate and the principals of evolution — that students are supposed to learn about with increasing complexity as they progress from elementary to high school.

Many education nonprofits and business groups have endorsed the new standards but some argue California's current science standards, which focus more on specific things students should know at each grade level, are stronger than the new guidelines.

The state’s board of education will consider adopting the voluntary national standards at its meeting Wednesday. Members of the board, however, could wait until November to make a final decision. The guidelines would roll out in classrooms in 2015.

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