SHERIDAN — The days of memorizing vocabulary out of a science book will soon be gone.
On Sept. 24, the Wyoming State Board of Education adopted new science standards for Wyoming schools. School districts will have until the 2020-2021 school year to adjust their science curriculum.
A complete overhaul of curriculum is no small task. So how will local districts make that transition?
Assistant Superintendent Mitch Craft said that on Oct. 12, during the district’s in-service day, Sheridan County School District 2’s secondary science teachers and administrators held a three-hour collaboration concerning ways to approach the new science standards.
Craft emphasized that in the future, there will be several meetings between teachers and administrators. These will be done primarily using the professional learning community format.
Yet, Craft said that wasn’t the first time teachers have taken a hard look at the new standards.
“Our teachers have honestly been examining it since word got out that there were going to be new standards,” Craft said. “So, they’ve been making that transition for several years.”
At the September SBE meeting, Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Jillian Balow said that around half the school districts in the state have already shifted their curriculum to the new standards. Sheridan County School District 1 is one of those districts.
During the 2013-14 school year, SCSD1 wrote its new science curriculum in anticipation of the new standards. SCSD1 administrators examined the Next Generation Science Standards, ACT and Proficiency Assessments for Wyoming Students benchmarks in this process.
“Our teachers liked the focus and format of the Next Generation Science Standards, so we used those standards to guide us in the development of our own curriculum,” said Sara McGinnis, curriculum director at SCSD1.
Since the new standards have been approved, SCSD1 will convene its science subject area committee to ensure alignment between its curriculum and the new standards.
The largest shift in standards is the three-dimensional focus on teaching science. Those dimensions include cross-cutting concepts, disciplinary core ideas and science and engineering practices. It also includes portions that resemble the NGSS and primary science subject areas such as physical science, life sciences, earth and space, engineering technology and applications of science.
There are bound to be a few challenges for districts along the way. At SCSD2, teachers will likely have to take classes during the summer in order to prepare themselves. Craft said because of this, the district may have to use extra funds in order to pay for the training.
“We might have to invest in paying our teachers to work during the summer,” Craft said. “We want to be able to pay them for their time.”
McGinnis said that challenges should be minimal in her district.
“I think our teachers may have to make some minor revisions to make sure there is alignment between our curriculum and the new standards, and then revise their common district assessments accordingly.”
Craft said the new standards will ultimately enhance student learning in his district.
“What is great is that science teachers have been doing this type of teaching for a long time,” Craft said. “These standards add cross-cutting concepts, they add engineering and just a much richer way to teach science.”
“We have our work cut out for us to implement it, but we know that it is going to be a great benefit to our students,” he added.
The new standards must be approved by Gov. Matt Mead before it goes into effect. Mead has 75 days to act on the new standards.