My dear young fellow,’ the Old-Green-Grasshopper said gently, ‘there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven’t started wondering about yet.
Roald Dahl, from James and the Giant Peach
We have heard little about Next Generation Science Standards which are being pushed into schools across the country, yet NGSS is from Achieve, Inc. and closely related to Common Core State Standards. It seems odd that parents are suddenly on board the Common Core train.
Yet states are adopting NGSS right under our noses and no one seems to be asking questions. In 2015, Education Week reported that the standards were pushed through with no problem in Arkansas. There was some push back in Kentucky. But mostly NGSS is riding into science classrooms with no opposition.
Also, I thought Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos were against Common Core State Standards, and if that’s true, why aren’t they speaking out against NGSS? Have they forgotten? Do they know anything about NGSS?
Next Generation Science embraces climate change concerns and evolution, but that doesn’t mean it is the perfect program for students. There are many concerns about the standards.
We’re Told Everyone Liked CCSS English Language Arts and Math So Much….
The masters of the NGSS claim there needs to be a new “conceptual framework” and (in reference to the original CCSS) they had an opportunity provided by a movement of multiple states to adopt common standards in mathematics and in language arts, which has prompted interest in comparable documents for science. This framework is the first part of a two-stage process to produce a next-generation set of science standards for voluntary adoption by states. The second step—the development of a set of standards based on this framework—is a state-led effort coordinated by Achieve, Inc., involving multiple opportunities for input from the states’ science educators, including teachers, and the public.
Prompted interest? I recall a bipartisan effort to want to get rid of Common Core State Standards! Was it a dream? I don’t know of a single teacher or parent today who says “hail the PARCC,” or “I can’t wait for Smarter Balanced assessment.” I don’t know anyone happy about placing their students on the computer to take these tests. You can be sure there will be more tests with NGSS.
And how voluntary is this program? Are school boards voting for it? Where is the community? Are parents and teachers participating in the process? Do they care? Or, is Common Core so deeply ingrained in school curriculum that it is a only natural to add the science version?
It is Called Three-Dimensional Learning
NGSS heavily emphasizes engineering (the E in STEM), because we don’t have enough jobless engineers, and it mashes science subjects together.
This is called “crosscutting” another Common Core weird word for all to learn. I think crosscutting is a serious issue that should be discussed at school board meetings.
Crosscutting concepts have application across all domains of science. As such, they are a way of linking the different domains of science. 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. The Framework emphasizes that these concepts need to be made explicit for students because they provide an organizational schema for interrelating knowledge from various science fields into a coherent and scientifically-based view of the world.
Isn’t this confusing to children? What scientific proof is there that crosscutting all the subjects at this stage in a student’s development works?
The Standards Put Teachers on the Sidelines and Ignore Content
The very nature of the NGSS and CCSS puts teachers into the role of spectator instead of those who will be in charge of determining what they will teach, and the knowledge they hope their students will attain. With standards teachers must follow the script.
But unlike state science standards, NGSS is all about student performance. There is a strange disregard for content knowledge.
NGSS demeans teachers because teachers are merely observers as children work out their projects. This is eerily connected to the push to have students learn how to self-regulate their behavior to work on their own all the time—say on the computer.
Projects are important, but so is content knowledge. Both go together. And nothing can replace a teacher who understands their subject and how to relay science information to students.
STEM, STEM and More STEM—But Not Really
NGSS claims to include a lot of sciences but it isn’t organized like the creators would like you to believe.
Chemistry and physics are missing! I find this to be one of the most troubling aspects of NGSS.
Also, while there is a “coherence” statement that science should relate to math, the math Common Core is deficient for the science standards. Even the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a lover of all that is Common Core, gave the NGSS a C. One of their criticisms is that they don’t think the science standards align with the math CCSS.
Then there are “clarification statements.” Truth in American Education likens this to a “Science for Dummies” approach. The “assessment boundary” steers science instruction to assessment, teaching to the test, and the Framework with all its number and color codes are confusing.
And, like with crosscutting, if you were thrilled with the jargon that is Common Core, you will love the language soup NGSS creators came up with while working with The National Research Council.
The NRC uses the term practices instead of a term like “skills” to emphasize that engaging in scientific investigation requires not only skill but also knowledge that is specific to each practice. Part of the NRC’s intent is to better explain and extend what is meant by “inquiry” in science and the range of cognitive, social, and physical practices that it requires.
Although engineering design is similar to scientific inquiry, there are significant differences. For example, scientific inquiry involves the formulation of a question that can be answered through investigation, while engineering design involves the formulation of a problem that can be solved through design. Strengthening the engineering aspects of the Next Generation Science Standards will clarify for students the relevance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (the four STEM fields) to everyday life.
How Can We Be Sure These are Better Core Ideas?
I am always astounded at how Common Core instruction is marketed as scientifically proven. With no chemistry and physics and a lot left out of other science areas too, it is a certainty that NGSS is deeply flawed.
But the program makes a lot of promises. There are “disciplinary core ideas,” which are supposed to have the power to focus K–12 science curriculum, instruction and assessments on the most important aspects of science. To be considered core, the ideas should meet at least two of the following criteria and ideally all four:
- 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.
Disciplinary ideas are grouped in four domains: the physical sciences; the life sciences; the earth and space sciences; and engineering, technology and applications of science.
There is much more, and I am sure bloggers, me included, could have a field day in the weeks to come analyzing the Next Generation Science Standards. But if parents and teachers don’t care there will be no point, and the next generation may wake up to learn they know very little about science.
Here is a list of references concerning NGSS easily found on the Internet. Some are linked above.
A’Hearn, Pete and Wand Battaglia. “Is the NGSS Going to Ruin High School Chemistry?” California Classroom Science. Oct. 19, 2015.
Braun, Karen. “Next Generation Science Standards Fall Flat.” ETC. January 22, 2013.
Dhar, Michael. “Next Generation: 5 Ways Science Classes Will Change.” Live Science. Oct. 9, 2013.
Cody, Anthony. “Chemtchr: A Science Teacher’s View: The Backward-Engineered Common Core Science Standards” by Mary Porter. NEPC. May 14, 2012.
Ultican, Thomas. “NGSS is Science Education Plague.” Tultican. Nov. 12.
Vander Hart, Shane. “Problems with Next Generation Science Standards.”” Truth in American Education. March 11, 2013.