Maryland became the fourth state to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, a new set of voluntary, internationally benchmarked K-12 standards that are said to be a huge leap in science education.

The  Maryland State Board of Education on Tuesday voted unanimously to adopt the standards, which were released in April after two years in development with the aim of spelling out practices and content that all K-12 students should know to be college-and-career ready after high school. Full implementation in public schools in Maryland is expected to be complete in time for the 2017-18 school year.

Also on Tuesday, Vermont became the fifth state to adopt the standards, Education Week reported, joining Rhode Island, which was the first, and Kansas and Kentucky.

There is likely to be controversy over the standards, which are designed to make science learning from grade to grade more cohesive, and which emphasizes both hands-on learning and critical  examination of scientific evidence. Some of the content areas imbedded in the standards involves the teaching of the science of climate change and of evolution as the animating principle of modern biology. (It is, of course, but evolution deniers in state legislatures want creationism taught as an alternative in science class). Some states may seize on this to reject the standards.

The new standards were developed by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve Inc., an organization that promotes standards-based education and was instrumental in the creation of the Common Core State Standards. Twenty-six states were involved in the process as well.

For years, states have been using either the the National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council and Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). There has been a great deal of scientific discovery since those were developed about 15 years ago.

S. James Gates, a University of Maryland physics professor and director of the school’s Center for String and Particle Theory, is a member of the state board and said in a statement:

Until now, in-depth science education has been for an elite few.  These standards will make it an integral part of education for every student. These standards provide the foundation for the jobs of tomorrow.  They can be the key to unlocking the American dream.