Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

I've had a few blog readers ask if I had any resources or ideas for implementing the new science standards (Next Generation Science Standards; NGSS).  I must be honest and admit that I am not as well-versed in the new standards as I need to be, but maybe this can be more of an opportunity for teachers to share ideas and resources (and save us all a bunch of time in the process).  So, here goes....  

First of all, the NGSS are student performance expectations, NOT curriculum.  These expectations build upon each other as students progress through the grade levels; a progression of knowledge.  There are specific performance expectations that students should reach by the end of certain points in their educational career (ex: students should know ___ by the end of 5th grade/8th grade, etc...)  What this means for the science educator is that we are responsible for ensuring that our students acquire the knowledge by the end of the grade band as laid out in the standards.  Failure to do this will leave our students with gaps in knowledge and will negatively impact student success.  Not to mention, you will be leaving additional burden on their teachers later in the process.  Essentially, you need to "stay in your lane" and only teach what is expected - nothing more, nothing less.  Don't teach more of a certain topic because you love it and less of another because you find it boring.  As educators, it is our job to find ways to make all material and content accessible, engaging and interesting to our students.  It isn't always easy and we sometimes have to fake it till we make it, but that's all in a days work for us.

The National Research Council describes a vision of what it means to be proficient in science. They have provided some clarification of what is is meant by scientific "inquiry" to include more of the design process that engineers use to solve problems in the engineering field of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics).  

There are many concepts that have application across all domains of science.  These are called the "crosscutting concepts".  They include: Patterns, similarity, and diversity; Cause and effect; Scale, proportion and quantity; Systems and system models; Energy and matter; Structure and function; Stability and change.  These concepts need to be clearly identified for students because they will help the student create an organizational representation for connecting knowledge from different science domains into a clear, scientifically-based view of the world around them.   Curriculum, instruction and assessments should be focused around the core ideas in science.  In order for ideas to be considered "core", they should be meeting, at minimum, 2 of the following criteria:

  • Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines or be a key organizing concept of a single discipline; 

  • Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems;

  • Relate to the interests and life experiences of students or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge;

  • Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication

  • The core ideas are grouped into 4 domains:  life science, earth and space science, physical science, and engineering, technology and application of science.  

    Recently, NSTA released a free e-book titled "NSTA Reader's Guide to the Framework for K-12 Science Education".  CLICK HERE to download the e-book.This reader’s guide provides an overview of the projected Framework document, comparisons to former science standards and benchmarks, and suggested actions for any person involved with teaching science to K–12 students.

    According to the author, Harold Pratt, “to make best use of this guide, the reader should have a copy of the Framework in hand for reference." The Framework, and many other NRC reports noted in this document, can be downloaded free of charge from the National Academies Press at  The reader’s guide does exactly what the title implies: it is a guide for all science educators so that they can be aware of and ready to utilize the upcoming science standards in their teaching and their students’ science learning. While visiting the NSTA web site I located this information, “Now—as a bonus—the volume also includes four essays by key leaders in science education, each explains the Framework further. Rodger Bybee discusses scientific and engineering practices; Cary Sneider, engineering and technology core ideas; Richard Duschl, crosscutting concepts; and Joseph Krajcik and Joi Merritt, constructing and revising models.” 

    In an article written by Debra Shapiro, published November 11, 2011:
    Stephen PruittStephen Pruitt, vice president for content, research, and development for Achieve, Inc., gave teachers an engaging preview of the Next Generation Science Standards during his talk this afternoon. “We have incredible teachers in this country…that’s the reason [the NGSS] will go forward,” he maintains. He also emphasized that the NGSS are “for all students” because all students are “born investigators,” and noted that some Nobel prize winners are working on the committee to develop the new standards.The new standards will emphasize that understanding builds over time, and they “don’t stop at just memorizing details,” but will require students to understand “the evidence of how something works,” such as cell division. He referred to the NGSS as “inquiry unpacked,” a term he said he’s not crazy about but admits is important because not all educators have a cohesive understanding of what inquiry is.The NGSS will reflect that “math is part of the language of science” and will indicate to teachers ”here’s where math is appropriate,” Pruitt explained. Cross-cutting concepts are key in the NGSS because “shouldn’t energy be the same regardless of which class you’re sitting in?”

    CLICK HERE for a collection of videos to help you better understand the Next Generation Science Standards.  The videos are organized into three main areas: Scientific & Engineering PracticesCross Cutting Ideas, and Disciplinary Core Ideas.

    So what can you do to get some advance preparation?  

    • First, get familiar with the NGSS.  
    • Next, download the Reader's Guide and keep it handy when looking over the standards.  
    • Join up with NGSS@NSTA on Facebook by clicking HERE.
    • Follow the NSTA blog to stay up-to-date on what's happening by clicking HERE.

    I know things are incredibly busy right now and teachers are scrambling to gather resources for their classrooms and to meet Common Core/State Standards, but I am hopeful that educators will begin creating resources that align with the NGSS specifically.  

    If you know of some resources, please comment below and contribute to this ongoing collaboration.

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