This week, the National Association of Scholars and Freedom in Education released the Franklin Standards, model academic content standards designed to restore rigorous education in the hard sciences for K–12 students. The John Locke Foundation’s Center for Effective Education is pleased to join the coalition of organizations and individuals endorsing the standards.

The Franklin Standards are designed “to inspire America’s state education departments to provide science standards that teach American students to claim their country’s scientific and technological heritage as scientists, engineers, and informed citizens—much like Benjamin Franklin himself.”

The standards promote clear, content-rich instruction in the Physical Sciences, Life Sciences, and Earth and Space Sciences for grades K–8 and move through courses in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Life Sciences, and Earth and Space Sciences for high schoolers. Throughout each grade or course, the standards also offer strands covering Scientific Inquiry, Technology and Engineering, and the History of Science to further enrich students’ study of science.

The standards have many positive aspects, including:

  • Academic Rigor — North Carolina law (G.S. § 115C-12(9c)) requires academic content standards to be rigorous, specific, sequential, clear, focused, and measurable. The Franklin Standards are thorough and comprehensive.
  • Sequentiality — Also in alignment with North Carolina’s statutory requirements for content standards, the topics within the Franklin Standards build upon themselves from grade to grade and from course to course.
  • Specificity — The draft standards give specific examples for many objectives to show what teachers could cover to help students master that content area. The standards do not, however, limit teachers’ ability to design lesson plans. For example, to help students learn that “lines of code are written in different computer languages,” teachers can — but don’t have to — discuss C++, Python, R, and Java (p. 74).
  • Promotion of Twenty-First Century Skills — North Carolina mandates that high school courses “include the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue further postsecondary education or to attain employment in the 21st century economy” ((G.S. § 115C-12(9c)(b)). One way the Franklin Standards accomplish this is by including content on computer technology (pp. 73–74). Although that material is included in the standards for eighth graders, it could easily be adapted for high-school use in North Carolina.
  • Factual Sex-Ed Coverage for Later Grades — North Carolina covers sex ed in its Healthful Living standards, a new version of which was recently approved by the State Board of Education on June 6. Nevertheless, the Franklin Standards could serve as a model for other states. What content there is on human reproduction is factual, starts in later grades, and does not mention gender identity or related issues, which are improper topics for academic standards.
  • Emphasis on the Scientific Method — When North Carolina revised its K–12 science standards in 2023, standards writers did well to incorporate material on the scientific method, but the material in the Franklin Standards on that topic is even more thorough and comprehensive. The Franklin Standards do an excellent job of incorporating instruction on the scientific method in the “Scientific Inquiry” strand throughout.
  • Balanced Coverage of Controversial Topics — Unlike the one-sided coverage of certain issues in North Carolina’s recently adopted science standards, the coverage of controversial topics in the Franklin Standards is balanced and includes multiple perspectives. For example, on the issue of climate change, the Franklin Standards acknowledge that “Earth’s climate has never remained constant” and even state that “[t]he Earth’s climate has varied greatly” at certain times, but they also note that “[h]umans are just one of the many influences on Earth’s climate” and that “[c]omputer models of climate are simplified simulations of the real world, and make prognostications that are inherently uncertain” (p. 121).

The Center for Effective Education endorses the Franklin Standards because doing so aligns with our commitment to promoting strong content standards and academic excellence. Although the Tar Heel State isn’t scheduled to revise its science standards again for another five to seven years, when it comes time to do so, the Franklin Standards would serve as a valuable starting point that could be easily tailored for use in North Carolina to promote excellent science education in its K–12 classrooms.

Read the Franklin Standards here.