In a process managed by Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit education reform organization, 26 states are currently leading the development of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). The standards will undergo multiple reviews, including two public drafts. The first public draft is expected this spring, when the science education community will have the opportunity to review the document and provide input. A second public review will take place later this year, with a final document expected to be completed at the end of the year or in early 2013. NSTA is providing advice to the project, reviewing drafts throughout the development process, and engaging the science education community in the feedback process. NSTA encourages science educators to actively participate in the review process.
Before reviewing the draft, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of the new standards’ foundation. The NGSS is based on A Framework for K–12 Science Education, released in 2011 by the National Research Council (NRC), available online and in print. The framework describes the major practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas students should be familiar with by the end of high school, and how these practices, concepts, and ideas should be developed across grade levels. The framework was the first of two steps in the NGSS development process.
NSTA has produced a number of resources to help science educators better understand the framework and its dimensions. In the NSTA Reader’s Guide to the Science Framework, science education leader and former NSTA President Harold Pratt offers an overview of each chapter of the framework with a brief synopsis of key ideas; an analysis of what is similar to and what differs from previous standards and benchmarks; and suggested actions to help readers understand and prepare for the NGSS. NSTA’s four member journals are also publishing a special series exploring the dimensions of the framework. Each month, a themed article delves into the practices, crosscutting concepts, and core ideas. To date, authors have included Pratt, Rodger Bybee, Cary Sneider, Rick Duschl, Joe Krajcik, and Brian Reiser. The Reader’s Guide and journal articles are available online from NSTA’s NGSS web page. NSTA Press also has combined the Reader’s Guide and the journal articles into one useful publication, The NSTA Reader’s Guide to A Framework for K–12 Science Education, Expanded Edition, available now from the NSTA Science Store.
Prepping for the Review
Based on the size of previous standards documents, the NGSS is not anticipated to be a “quick read.” Teachers should expect to devote a healthy amount of time—a half or even full day—reading, reflecting, and assessing the document, while remembering the draft document is just that, a draft.
One review approach is to form study groups with colleagues to have focused discussions regarding key parts of the document. Whether held among similar grade-level teachers or teachers of a particular discipline, a dialogue among peers could prove incredibly valuable and informative. NSTA’s NGSS web page offers guidance and ideas about assembling groups.
Throughout the year, NSTA has various activities planned to continue the dialogue and discussion around the framework and NGSS. During June 24–28, the National Science Education Leadership Association and NSTA will hold the 2012 Summer Leadership Institute in Austin, Texas. The event will bring together scores of individual science educators, teams (leaders and teachers), and administrators to explore the K–12 framework and NGSS draft and determine key features of each, noting comparisons, contrasts, and shifts in focus. Participants will identify the “next steps,” develop a deeper understanding of supporting research for reform, engage in using models and vignettes to demonstrate the practice of science, and apply new knowledge to their own unique professional environment.
In addition, a videoconference on standards is being planned, and NSTA’s area conferences are expected to include many sessions and workshops on both the framework and NGSS.
NSTA recently received support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York to work toward the successful implementation of the NGSS when completed. Carnegie, which funds both the NRC’s work on the framework and Achieve’s work on the NGSS, is supporting NSTA’s efforts to develop COMPASS, an online collaborative learning environment that will be a community for learning about and accessing instructional coaching and materials aligned to the NGSS. COMPASS—which stands for Classroom Opportunities Multiply with Practices and Application of Science Standards—will enable teachers to connect the more abstract concept of an isolated standard to their local curriculum, instructional lessons, and student work. The COMPASS platform will contain resources, instructional ideas, research, and more, and will feature a dynamic community area for posting, sharing, rating, and extracting instructional implications and examples, as well as teacher-rated lessons. NSTA also will engage and work closely with likeminded organizations to support the effort and provide dissemination, professional development workshops, and instructional support for teachers and faculty. Look for more information about COMPASS in the months ahead.
NSTA’s web page for the Next Generation Science Standards, www.nsta.org/ngss
2012 Summer Leadership Institute, www.nsta.org/pd/nsela
NSTA Science Store (to order copies of the NRC Framework and the expanded Reader’s Guide), www.nsta.org/store