Research & Commentary: Common Core Draft Science Standards

Published July 16, 2012

A consortium of consultants and science educators has released a draft of what they plan will become national education standards for K-12 science.

Forty-five states have already adopted math and language arts Common Core standards, grade-by-grade lists of what each student must know to be deemed proficient by the government in each subject. Most states rushed to adopt them in 2009 and 2010 because the federal government required this to win a Race to the Top grant.

Common Core proponents say their nearly national spread allows families to move between states and maintain curricular stability, and allows for comparing student achievement across states using the same measures. It also prevents states from degrading their standards, since they no longer control them. Clear, uniform, high-quality standards are necessary to create the proper expectations for schools and teachers to aim towards.

Individual liberty advocates counter that centralization for education is as foolish as centralizing the economy. They note the ideological tendencies of science education towards politics as a substitute for actual science, particularly in the area of highly debatable global warming alarmism, which is falsely cemented as reality in these draft standards. The standards also promote a simplified understanding of science and are themselves incoherent, according to several sets of reviewers.

The following documents offer more information about the draft Common Core science standards.


School Standards Wade into Climate Debate
The new set of national science standards brooks no debate over climate change, instead aiming to teach it to children in all grades as a settled fact, reports the Wall Street Journal. The topic is highly controversial, sometimes leading to criticism from all sides when it arises in classrooms. Students taught under the draft Common Core standards would learn that humans are the major source of global warming and that it has disastrous consequences for the earth.

Draft of Common Science Standards Draws Friendly Fire
Two respected organizations have lodged complaints about the draft Common Core science standards, with the National Science Teachers Association saying they lack “clarity and coherence” and the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation lodging concerns about content and emphasis, reports Education Week. Both call for significant revision on a number of points, including the standards’ omission of science history and  need for clear expectations for schools, teachers, and students.

Commentary & Feedback on Draft I of the Next Generation Science Standards
Since less than one-third of eighth graders ranked “proficient” on the latest National Assessment of Educational Progress science exam, strengthening U.S. science education is imperative, write a team of science educators in their comments on draft Common Core science standards for the Thomas B. Fordham Institute. As it is, the team writes, the standards omit essential science content in favor of an overemphasis on scientific “practices” and align poorly with Common Core math standards.

A Science Teacher’s View: The Backward-Engineered Common Core Science Standards
The Common Core science standards were designed to narrow the scope of education to skills that can be tested easily, writes a chemistry teacher, who participated in creating the standards in her state, under a pseudonym for Education Week. The Common Core was forced on her state, as on many others, by the federal Race to the Top program before the Core had even been developed and published. “Through ignorance, arrogance, or the narrowness of their self-interest, politically connected corporatists…will do long-term damage to the very foundation of our scientific and technical infrastructure, while they devour our local and state education tax money,” she writes.

Teaching Global Warming in Kindergarten
The draft Common Core science standards more fully integrate global warming alarmism into public school curriculums as early as kindergarten, writes Joy Pullmann in the Washington Times. The otherwise vague standards clearly state that children should be taught that humans negatively affect the planet and massive government spending and intervention is required to prevent penguins from dying and other evil consequences, none of which has been proven and detracts from the real work of basic science education.

Constructivism in Science and Mathematics Education
Constructivism says reality is not objective or stable enough to be studied, so scientists have to construct their own reality using progressive ideology including global warming alarmism and radical environmentalism. This theory is dominant in teacher colleges and K-12 education as well as national education standards, documents Michael Matthews for the University of Chicago. Students learn to construct “their own personal meaning” during science classes, which is heavily influenced by ideology rather than traditional scientific practices of trial and error. This teaches children to be swayed not by reason, tradition, and discovered truths, but by emotions and political pressure.


Nothing in this Research & Commentary is intended to influence the passage of legislation, and it does not necessarily represent the views of The Heartland Institute. For further information on this and other topics, visit the School Reform News Web site at, The Heartland Institute’s Web site at, and PolicyBot, Heartland’s free online research database, at

If you have any questions about this issue or The Heartland Institute, contact Heartland education policy research fellow Joy Pullmann, at 312/377-4000 or [email protected].