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Fordham Institute gives Colorado science standards low marks

Colorado’s science standards got a D grade in a review of 38 states released this week by a national education think tank.

The report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute found “a serious lack of clarity, depth and sufficient content” in the standards.

Officials at the Colorado Department of Education didn’t seem overly perturbed by the rating, saying it stems from Fordham’s preference for highly detailed content standards, almost bordering on curriculum.

“They tend to favor a certain type of education standards that tends to be very detail-oriented … much like a curriculum,” said Melissa Colsman, CDE executive director of teaching and learning.

A conservative-leaning think tank, Fordham’s leaders have long advocated for academic standards as a way to improve schools. But they have criticized states for not setting their standards high enough.

The group’s regularly released ratings of standards grade the documents on two main criteria: “clarity and specificity” and “content and rigor.” Fordham gave Colorado’s science standards low marks on both accounts.

Colsman said all Colorado academic standards, adopted in 2009, are designed to be “concept-based,” meaning they’re focused on the broad skills Colorado students need to have mastered by the end of each school year.

The standards are intended to guide districts as they flesh out the details of instructional plans and curriculum.

Fordham rated science standards in 38 states that it deemed on par with or “clearly inferior” to the proposed Next Generation Science Standards being developed by the National Research Council and other science groups. (Some 26 states are involved in that process, not including Colorado.)

Fordham doesn’t think much of the Next Generation standards, giving them only a C. The think tank praised science standards in the District of Columbia, Massachusetts and South Carolina, which all got A minus ratings.

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