It is essential that all students have access to a high-quality science education that provides them with the skills and knowledge they need to be well-informed citizens, to be prepared for college and careers, and to understand and appreciate the scientific enterprise. The National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) recommends the adoption and implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS; NGSS Lead States 2013) as an effective, research-based approach to accomplish these goals and transform science education.
From health care to environmental stewardship, a countless number of personal and societal issues require citizens to make informed decisions based on their understanding of science and technology. Today's modern workforce depends on individuals with scientific and technological skills (NRC 2010; NSB 2010). Research shows, however, that we are not preparing all students to achieve high levels of science performance (USDOE 2011); we are failing to graduate enough students with the skills needed to fill the growing number of jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) (NRC 2010); and many members of our society do not command the scientific literacy necessary to address important societal issues and concerns (NCES 2010).
Science education traditionally has focused on large volumes of content, primarily basic facts and vocabulary, while falling short on the deeper understanding of key scientific concepts and the application of these concepts to daily life. The NGSS calls for refocusing K–12 science to improve college preparation, STEM career readiness, and the ability of all members of society to make informed decisions. (See the NSTA Background Paper on the development of the NGSS.)
Achieving the goals of the NGSS will take a long-term systemic effort that requires significant changes in instruction, curriculum, assessment, teacher preparation and professional development, accompanied by extensive financial, administrative, and public support. It will also depend on all stakeholders at the local, district, and state level assuming a shared and collaborative responsibility for helping realize the goals of the NGSS. The responsibility for implementation cannot and should not be vested solely in teachers and other school-based personnel. To achieve the goals of the NGSS, NSTA describes the desired state of the components of implementation and the recommended roles and responsibilities of the key stakeholders that are necessary to achieve successful implementation with fidelity of the NGSS in schools, districts, and states.
Adoption is an important step in the implementation of the NGSS. Only with widespread state and local district adoption can the goal of common standards for all students in the nation be achieved.
For many school districts and teachers, both the number and degree of changes required to implement the NGSS will be significant. A considerable amount of preparation time is needed—before and after formal adoption—for science educators and school leaders to understand the changes or shifts, participate in the professional development or growth to support the changes, run trial or pilot work, and initiate the changes. Time is also needed to evaluate educators' growth and improvement and provide feedback as they work to become proficient in the new NGSS-based strategies, materials, and assessments. This dedicated time before full implementation is essential and will build awareness and understanding among stakeholders, while helping educators fully prepare for the NGSS.
An important starting point in understanding the goals, structure, and use of the NGSS is A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (Framework; NRC 2012). NSTA recommends that the Framework be considered an essential companion document to the NGSS and be fully understood and used as the foundation of the standards.
NSTA considers full implementation of the NGSS to include the complete scope of changes or modifications necessary in all components of the K–12 science education system to support student accomplishment of the NGSS expectations. These components include instruction, curriculum, assessment, teacher preparation, and professional development, accompanied by extensive financial, administrative, and public support.
The components that follow are interdependent and should be aligned in a coherent manner. For the purposes of this statement, however, they are presented separately.
Teaching and learning are at the heart of quality science education. All students can develop science proficiency if the instruction provides them with opportunities for a range of scientific investigations and thinking, including—but not limited to—inquiry and investigation, collection and analysis of evidence, logical reasoning, and communication and application of information. The vision of the Framework and the NGSS is to engage students in the core ideas through the integration of science and engineering practices while making connections to the crosscutting concepts. Instruction, although varied in nature, should provide student proficiency in the following four strands (NRC 2007) and their related dimensions in the Framework and the NGSS:
A major goal of the NGSS and an expectation for its successful implementation is for students to build and apply ideas in a coherent manner or progression within each year or course, and over the 13 years of their K–12 educational experience. It is important for all stakeholders to understand that the NGSS is a set of standards and do not dictate a particular curriculum nor advocate for the use of specific instructional materials. It is the task of states and/or districts to establish a curriculum and to develop and/or select instructional materials aligned with the NGSS. Aligned materials integrate the three dimensions of scientific and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts. A curriculum that is aligned provides a sequence of topics within each grade and grade band from kindergarten to grade 12 that is consistent with the progression of core ideas from the NGSS. This, most likely, will require a significant change in the structure of courses and the total K–12 curriculum sequence that currently exists. Appendix K of the NGSS provides extensive guidance in this process.
The NGSS performance expectations describe what students should know and be able to do within each grade level or grade band for the purposes of assessment. A significant effort is needed to use these performance expectations to modify and guide the development of classroom/formative and high-stakes summative assessments at all levels of an assessment system (classroom, school, district, state, and national). It is important to use assessments to ensure that students achieve the vision of the Framework as expressed in the NGSS at each grade level or grade band. The use of performance expectations that integrate practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts in developing assessment tasks will be new and unique to most educators.
The continuum of teacher development from initial preparation through ongoing professional development is a critical factor in delivering the quality of instruction called for in the Framework and the NGSS. Teachers need a thorough understanding of the disciplinary core ideas and practices they are expected to teach, how students learn them, and the range of instructional strategies that can support student learning.
Implementing the NGSS requires that experienced teachers make a significant shift in the content and manner in which they have been teaching and that beginning teachers make a shift from how they were taught at the university level. For many teachers a modification in the content knowledge and competencies will need to be made. To support the implementation of the NGSS, teachers are required to demonstrate the ability to
In addition to the unique challenges of implementing new science standards, all teachers will continue to face the daily educational requirements to
NSTA supports the vision described in the Framework and recommends the adoption and implementation of the NGSS. All stakeholders carry a significant responsibility for the successful implementation of the NGSS. NSTA recommends that these stakeholders assume the following roles and responsibilities.
It is essential for state and district policy makers (state legislatures; state and local boards of education; and in many cases, the governing bodies of cities) to
At the state, district, and school level it is essential for administrators (science coordinators, department chairs, principals, assistant superintendents, and superintendents) to
K–12 science educators, including teachers in both formal and informal settings, are central to the successful implementation of the NGSS. It is imperative for them to
At the local level it is essential for community members (parents, business leaders, and other members of the community) to
The administration and faculty of higher education—in both schools of education and schools of arts and sciences—are responsible for the initial preparation of science teachers and they share the responsibility with local school districts to provide ongoing professional development. Therefore, it is essential for professors and administrators at institutions of higher education to
The NGSS is based on A Framework for K–12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (Framework; NRC 2012) and is intended to reflect a new vision for science education. The NGSS establishes seven conceptual shifts that demonstrate what is new and different about the NGSS compared with how science is being taught in many classrooms (See NGSS Appendix A). These shifts, as well as NSTA's interpretation of them, are listed below:
1. K–12 science education should reflect the interconnected nature of science as it is practiced and experienced in the real world.
One of the most significant shifts of the NGSS is the recommendation that students engage in science learning at the nexus of three dimensions: science and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. Because many state and district standards address these dimensions separately, it will take a considerable effort to embrace this new vision in the implementation of the NGSS, including instruction, curriculum, assessment, and teacher preparation and professional development.
2. The NGSS are student performance expectations, not curriculum.
The individual standards within the NGSS include performance expectations and the foundation boxes that include the science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts. The performance expectations are intended to aid the process of assessment by clarifying what students should be able to know and do at the end of the grade or grade band. They do not prescribe curriculum or lessons. The NGSS does not define what constitutes "the standard." According to the NGSS (NGSS Lead States 2013, p. xxiii) some states consider "the standard" to be the performance expectations alone, while others also include the content of the three foundation boxes and connections. NSTA recommends that "the standard" be defined as the combination of the performance expectations and the contents of the foundation boxes.
3. The science concepts in the NGSS build coherently from kindergarten through 12th grade.
The Framework states "to develop a thorough understanding of scientific explanations of the world, students need sustained opportunities to work with and develop the underlying ideas and to appreciate those ideas' interconnections over a period of years rather than weeks or months" (NRC 2012, p. 10). The NGSS supports this vision by providing learning goals that progress over the years and become more complex.
4. The NGSS focus on deeper understanding of content as well as application of content.
The intent of the NGSS is to focus on a smaller, more teachable number of disciplinary core ideas that students should know by the time they graduate from 12th grade. It is important that the focus be put on the core ideas, rather than the countless number of facts and details associated with them. It is also important to recognize that the core ideas called for in the NGSS are more demanding than the content in many state science standards. In addition, NGSS calls for students to develop proficiency with the practices and use crosscutting concepts, which adds to the rigor.
5. Science and engineering are integrated in the NGSS, from kindergarten through 12th grade.
Integrating engineering and technology into science standards is not a new concept, but these important subjects have failed to receive the attention they need and deserve. Investigations in technology and engineering "provide opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of science by applying their developing scientific knowledge to the solution of practical problems" (see NGSS, Appendix A). The NGSS elevates the importance of engineering and technology by integrating them into the standards.
6. The NGSS is designed to prepare students for college, career, and citizenship.
The NGSS Appendix A states that "all students no matter what their future education and career path must have a solid K–12 science education in order to be prepared for college, careers, and citizenship." Other standards efforts have promoted standards for all students, but we have yet to achieve that goal. NSTA's mission echoes this imperative and we fully support standards that are for all students, not just those destined for careers in science and technology. The demanding and rigorous content in the NGSS can provide a solid foundation for students entering a variety of STEM fields. Many teachers and schools, however, may choose to provide additional and advanced expectations for students.
7. The NGSS and Common Core State Standards (English language arts and mathematics) are aligned.
Science is a key component of a complete and rigorous curriculum for all students. The NGSS works in tandem with Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English language arts to facilitate integrated teaching and learning. Because of this essential connection that supports student learning, NSTA recommends the adoption of the Common Core State Standards by states and school districts.
A number of additional appendixes provide insight and guidance regarding key components of the NGSS and address a variety of important issues related to its successful implementation, such as equity, model courses, nature of science, and college and career readiness. NSTA recommends that all stakeholders have a working knowledge of these important and supportive appendixes. (see NGSS Appendixes B–M).
—Adopted by the NSTA Board of Directors, November 2013,
Revised, December 2016
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