The Poway Unified School District has made multiple curriculum changes over the past few years, starting with Common Core, which was implemented in the 2013-2014 school year, and changed the way teachers and students interacted with old material. Common Core involved more critical thinking and application. English teachers were encouraged to use more non-fiction texts to supplement their coursework, and math and science teachers made students solve problems that mimicked real-life scenarios.
These similar concepts were kept in mind when middle schools and high schools in the district began to integrate their mathematics programs by combining different categories of math, like statistics, geometry, and algebra, into one class, called Integrated Math. This also strived to help students not only learn the math skills that they needed, but to also learn how to apply them.
College Board has also been changing its curriculum for many of their AP Classes so that they place a greater importance on application over rote memorization. Similar changes are being made to RB High’s regular science courses through the Next Generation Science Standards.
Lori Brickley, an AP Biology teacher at RB High, said that these changes in the science curriculum are very similar to those College Board made to the AP Biology course in the fall of 2012.
“Everything is changing, like AP Biology did, from rote memorization, or things you can look up on the phone to how would you think to solve this problem,” Brickley said. “To me, it is so much better because it is teaching people to think as opposed to teaching people to recall information.”
Brickley adds that while it is important for students to learn the book material, it is also important for students to know how to use the information in a creative way.
“Not that you don’t need information to make good thoughts and decisions on how to solve problems,” Brickley said. “It places more emphasis on creativity, thinking out of the box, and changing your paradigm and go into science practices.” Learning the key concepts and facts of any science course remains important, but under the Next Generation Science Standards, students must also understand how they relate to all disciplines of science. For example, students will know why it is necessary to understand chemical processes behind life processes to learn biology.
Similar to the other changes, Next Generation Science strives to help students become better adapted for careers that are becoming more dependent on technology. The new standards also strive to help American students catch up to other countries with higher rates of success in STEM courses.
According to Next Generation Science Standards, teachers will have to combine science practices with the disciplinary core ideas and crosscutting concepts. This change is similar to the new AP Biology course, which forces students to connect the ideas from each of the four main ideas.
“These ideas permeate everything you do,” Brickley said. “It’s like a fungus that just permeates the entire foundation.”