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Jan 21

Reviewing the Next Generation Science Standards

NGSSlogo The second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards is open for review and feedback until January 29th, so you have just over a week to read and comment. if you are a science educator, scientist, engineer, or just all around science lover interested in the advancement of science education, I highly recommend you read through the new standards and leave feedback.

The final standards are due out in March. The timeline for implementation by the states seems to be an individual decision. I teach in Georgia, which is a “lead state”, and even with that I can find very little information about when these standards might go into effect. Your state may have additional information on it’s DOE site. It appears from what I have found that the earliest these standards might be adopted and implemented by states is the 2015-2016 school year.

I am just beginning to really wrap my head around what is in store with these standards, but overall it is very exciting. The focus is on creating, modeling, exploring, engineering, and doing science. The science is meant to spiral and build as students move from kindergarten to high school but to limit repetition of concepts. One of the standards for middle school Earth surface systems reads:

MS-ESS3-g Apply scientific knowledge to evaluate and revise engineered solutions to mitigate the effects of natural hazards that result from surface geologic and hydrologic processes.

This is the cool stuff that we have not focused on in the past. Not just what hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, etc. can do to the Earth, but how to minimize their effects on us. Each standard group also includes science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts – pulling everything together. The standards are also aligned with the existing Common Core math and ELA/literacy standards.

The standards also represent a shift in thinking. It would be impossible for students to do what is asked of them in the standard if they are not exploring and discovering, trying and failing. It is not a set of standards that lecturing would be sufficient to cover. I would think that especially in the elementary grade areas, much teacher training would be necessary in order for teachers to feel comfortable teaching in this new way.

One great thing about the standards, at least in Georgia, is that Earth and Space Science standards are included through high school. Currently, we teach Earth science in sixth grade, and that is the last time a student sees it unless they take an elective in high school.

Of final note are the “Model Course Maps” in Appendix J. Throughout elementary school, the life, physical, and earth science standards are integrated and spiraled throughout each grade level. However, in middle and high school there are three possible course maps including separate earth, life, and physical science courses (this is how we currently teach them in Georgia) and an integrated, building approach. It is unclear to me if the course map will be mandated by the final standards or if this will be left as a state decision. Although it would make for a huge change, there are many positive factors for the integrated, building block approach.

You can also find additional information about the Next Generation Science Standards on the NSTA site. They have guides for leading discussions with your colleagues, webinars, a reader’s guide, and more to help you work through the new standards.

What additional information have you seen regarding the Next Generation Science Standards? If you have information to share, please post in the comments. I would love to get my hands on as much information as possible!

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