- The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) gives states more flexibility regarding educational goals, and states are now examining ways to strengthen science education as part of their new assessment strategies, according to eSchool News.
- Some 16 states that have already submitted ESSA plans to the U.S. Department of Education are approaching science education under the new guidelines by setting clear achievement goals and assessment models to improve science education outcomes.
- States are using this new opportunity to focus resources on STEM education and to try to close long-standing gaps in STEM access and knowledge in order to improve STEM equity,
Though the importance of science education has been long acknowledged in education and business circles, the focus on the field has lagged behind other important educational issues such as literacy and math. Science assessments have received little or no attention in previous accountability plans with the unintended consequence of sometimes diverting time and resources from science education.
As states reflect on their needs and goals while they develop their own ESSA plans, they are seeing the need for stronger science programs. Some states are now leveraging ESSA to build up science programs within their school systems and improving STEM equity within the schools. New accountability models are reflecting this priority.
Though the focus on science education seems like an easy sell to states, it will likely also spark some controversies. Even the definition of science can be a highly charged topic ripe for political debate. In recent years, for instance, Wyoming, West Virginia and Idaho have had debates over how climate control should be addressed in the classroom. The new attention to ESSA plan development will likely bring such hot-button issues to the forefront of discussion in many states.