In January, the second and final public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was released for public input. As a partner in the development process, NSTA has been serving as an advisor and conducting reviews of drafts.
In reviewing the second draft, NSTA found that the lead states and writers made many improvements, especially making the nature of science more prominent. NSTA also noted the performance expectations have been improved, especially the clarification statements and assessment boundaries; numerous appendices were added to clarify and extend key information and concepts; and a more user-friendly survey mechanism was used to solicit input from the field.
While pleased with the improvements, NSTA made a series of recommendations to further enhance and shape this important body of work. These recommendations (see column 3) focus on the importance of content in the foundation box, a more complete integration of the nature of science, the need to reduce content and ensure appropriate grade level, and the critical need to address the time and resources necessary to implement the new science standards.
The lead states and writers are reviewing all the feedback they received from the public input process. The final version is expected to be released in late March. NSTA appreciates the ongoing work of our expert review team comprised of Susan Koba, Mike Padilla, Harold Pratt, Jim Rutherford, JoAnne Vasquez, and NSTA staff members. In addition, we thank the hundreds of science educators who have provided valuable input to NSTA.
For the full NSTA report and for an extensive compilation of NGSS news, information, and resources, go to www.nsta.org/ngss. You will also find links to NSTA community networks—a dedicated e-mail list, community forum, and blog—where you’ll always find a vibrant conversation taking place. NSTA also welcomes any comments or feedback firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Importance of the Foundation Box
NSTA recommends the NGSS lead states and writers emphasize the fundamental aspects of NGSS learning goals reside in the foundation box, and the performance expectations are to be used at the conclusion of instruction to assess student learning. NSTA views the foundation box as paramount for those teaching and planning instruction.
A. Clarify language in “How to Read the Next Generation Science Standards” to eliminate language referring to the foundation box as supplementary to, or less important than, the performance expectations.
B. Revise the statement appearing at the very top of every foundation box in NGSS to emphasize that the performance expectations are for assessing the content of the foundation box.
C. Add language in the upfront matter acknowledging that states have different laws and regulations concerning the definition of the term “standard” so the document has left that purposely vague. Regardless of what terms are eventually used by states, the document should make clear the importance of the material in the foundation box.
D. Add language in the upfront matter emphasizing the important message that the goal of NGSS is student learning, not assessment.
- Inclusion of the Nature of Science
NSTA applauds the NGSS lead states and writers for making the nature of science more prominent in the second public draft, but recommends a fuller integration of these important concepts into the standards to ensure they are a part of student outcomes.
A. Ensure all of the concepts in the Nature of Science Matrix are represented in the foundation boxes at least once, and preferably more than once.
B. Ensure the nature of science concepts are reflected in the performance expectations.
C. Revise Appendix H to clarify that all students need to understand the nature of science and the history of science.
- Addressing the Size and Scope of the Standards
NSTA appreciates that the NGSS lead states and writers pruned the content in the second public draft, but recommends they continue to prune ideas and/or shift them to higher grade levels to ensure the final document contains an achievable description of what all students should learn.
A. Reduce the number of concepts that students are expected to address at each grade level, and reduce the level of complexity in the ideas at each grade level.
B. Continue to improve the language of the performance expectations to provide clarity and comprehensibility.
- Implementing the Standards
NSTA recommends the NGSS lead states and writers include guidance on the time and resources necessary to implement the new science standards.
A. Develop a detailed description of the steps and resources needed for successful implementation of NGSS and call on all stakeholders in science education to commit to playing an active role.
B. Develop a plan for monitoring implementation—including the collection of feedback from the field and engaging in formal academic research studies—that will lay the groundwork for improving NGSS and keeping it up-to-date.