(TNS) — The Idaho Department of Education wants to revamp science standards to emphasize problem solving and hands-on work.
If approved, changes could take effect during the 2016-17 school year.
Idaho's public schools started using Common Core Standards — which emphasize critical thinking — in 2013. Those cover English/language arts and math, but not science.
"We would like to match that level of rigor with the science standards," said Debbie Critchfield of Oakley, a member of the Idaho Board of Education.
A state committee — which started meeting in March — is working on revisions, the Idaho Department of Education announced last week. It's part of a regular review process that happens every six years.
Science coordinator Scott Smith wasn't available to comment Monday.
Committee members compared Idaho's kindergarten through 12th grade standards with a National Science Foundation framework.
Their conclusion: The Gem State's standards aren't challenging enough and need to include more lab experiences.
Another goal is to prepare students to be competitive in a global economy, said Wiley Dobbs, superintendent of the Twin Falls School District.
"It's an idea designed at getting students involved at an early age with science, technology, engineering and math," he said.
The Idaho Board of Education will review the proposed changes later this year.
Members of the public will also have a chance to provide feedback. Then, state legislators will review the proposal in 2016.
Across Idaho and nationwide, there's a push to improve science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.
This spring, legislators approved about $650,000 to create a STEM action center. Once it's up and running, it will coordinate education and workforce needs in science and technical fields.
In Twin Falls, several elementary schools already have a block of time each week devoted to science lessons, including experiments.
"Time is always a factor, but the more of a hands-on approach we can take with science, the more the kids are going to like it," Dobbs said.
Each year, Twin Falls elementary schoolers also participate in a science day.
If science standards are revamped, public schools will receive a document to help with adopting new science materials.
But for many school districts, money is a big obstacle. In Twin Falls, it can often costs $750,000 to $1 million to replace materials for one subject area districtwide.
At Twin Falls middle schools, some science textbooks are 12 years old.
Many school districts are putting off new curriculum adoption. That's partly due to a lack of materials aligned with Common Core Standards, secondary programs director L.T. Erickson told the Times-News in February.
And many districts rely on supplemental levies to pay for basic operating expenses, such as buying new books. Schools have gone without state money specifically for textbooks since 2010.
"Across the state," Dobbs said, "money for curriculum materials has just been lacking."
©2015 The Times-News (Twin Falls, Idaho), distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.