Science Standards Update: Get Ready for a New Chapter One

At the Publishers’ Forum for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) (held in April in conjunction with Achieve, AAP, AEP, the Hands-On Science Partnership, and the National Research Council) participants received updates on the progress of the standards, projected timelines for implementation, and information on participating states. Most important, though, the presenters highlighted the key issues that publishers should pay attention to as they begin developing for the new standards.

State Support

  1. This is a state-led process. Twenty-six states have signed up to be lead partners, and a total of 45 states are part of the Building Capacity in State Science Education (BCSSE), a project of the Council of State Science Supervisors (CSSS) that is developing a state-based strategic plan for work with the NRC Framework for K–12 Science education and dissemination and adoption of NGSS.
  2. Massachusetts, and other states, have shelved their standards in anticipation of NGSS and want publishers to develop for them.
  3. Lead partner states are already working on their implementation plans.

Key Message: While not guaranteed, the majority of the states have said they are going to adopt the standards, and publishers should not be caught unprepared.

Shifts in the Science Standards

  1. The framework and standards writers were charged with focusing on depth and coherence, not breadth of coverage. There are many elements in current science instruction that are not included.
  2. Science concepts build over K-12 with a greater focus on understanding and application of content as opposed to memorization of scientific facts.
  3. Scientific inquiry is no longer a separate chapter—it is incorporated throughout.
  4. Student collaboration is key. The goal is not to just build single hypotheses, test, and be done. It’s about building a model that can help us explore various phenomena, develop explanations, and come up with solutions.
  5. The NGSS integrates science and engineering and emphasizes practical applications.
  6. Every standard is composed of grade-appropriate performance expectations.
  7. There is tremendous alignment between the Common Core Standards and the NGSS, done intentionally to help student achievement overall and make it easier for educators to incorporate into their lessons.

Key Message: It’s not enough for publishers just to be aware of the new standards, they need to fully understand them and be able to articulate them to their development, sales, marketing, and training teams.

Instructional Materials Development

  1. Publishers should organize curriculum materials around limited number of core ideas: focus on depth and coherence, not breadth of coverage.
  2. Core ideas should be revisited in increasing depth and sophistication across years. Focus on connections:
    • Careful construction of a storyline—helping learners build sophisticated ideas from simpler explanations, using evidence
    • Connections between scientific disciplines, using powerful ideas (nature of matter, energy) across life, physical, and earth science
  3. Curriculum materials should involve learners in practices that develop, use, and refine the scientific ideas, not “explain” the science for students.
  4. Publishers should not design curriculum that deals with only one practice at a time—for example, just analyzing and interpreting data.  That would negate the continuity that is meant to happen with the Framework.
  5. Modeling: The teachers and the materials usually present models to the students, but now the students need to construct the model or refine it based on evidence. Materials should engage students in the lesson rather than just lecturing.

Key Message: Publishers need to develop content to support the learning continuum emphasized in the standards and make sure that their materials focus on student engagement rather than memorization.

Most important, educators of all levels, as well as students in education programs, will need considerable professional development in order to implement the standards. This is a great opportunity for publishers to get their materials and their resources in front of states and districts as they train educators for the new science classroom.

The first public draft of the standards is scheduled for release in late April or early May 2012. For more information on the Next Generation Science Standards go to www.nextgenscience.org.

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