How Science Standards Went Mainstream Without Common Core’s Drama

Even as the political blowback against the rapid adoption of the Common Core math and English language competency benchmarks during the Obama administration was reaching a crescendo, backers of the national standards movement had shifted their sights to science. To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have formally agreed to the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), which lay out what students should know in which grades to be on track for college and career readiness. Another dozen or so have adopted substantially similar benchmarks that don’t carry the NGSS tag, and still more states may adopt the standards in the coming months and years.

A coalition of major philanthropies, led by the Carnegie Corporation, funded the effort to update science standards nationally. After recruiting the National Research Council, a government-chartered non-profit, to determine what should be included, another constellation of nonprofits, led by Achieve, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and delegations from 26 states adapted the hard science into an actionable package of standards. The process was completed in 2013.

Chad Colby, the vice president of strategic communications and outreach for Achieve, spoke with InsideSources about the processes that led to the creation of the NGSS, and how the groups involved were able to sidestep much of the political controversy that engulfed the Common Core. Colby, a former official at the U.S. Department of Education, is a proponent of the NGSS, which he said takes a more holistic view of the subject and encourages active exploration rather than passive memorization. Though the NGSS were created separately from Common Core, the standards are designed to link up together—should educators decide to take a cross-disciplinary approach to curricular development.

Click here to read the full story in Inside Sources (May 23, 2017)

Next-Generation Science Tests Slowly Take Shape

Around the country, science instruction is changing—students are being asked to make models, analyze data, construct arguments, and design solutions in ways that far exceed schools’ previous goals.

That means science testing, of course, needs to change as well.

Students “have got to show us how they know, not just what they know,” said James Pellegrino, a co-director of the Learning Sciences Research Institute at the University of Illinois at Chicago and an expert on assessment.

Yet considering federal requirements around science testing, and states’ logistical, technical, and financial limitations, putting a new, performance-heavy state science test in place is no easy task.

Of the 18 states now using the Next Generation Science Standards, which were released in April 2013, only Illinois, Kansas, and Nevada, as well as the District of Columbia, have moved completely from their previous science tests to ones that align to the newer “three-dimensional” benchmarks. Illinois and the District of Columbia were the first to take the leap, putting an operational test in place in spring 2016. Illinois did so especially quickly to comply with federal reporting requirements, designing a new test in just six months—a move some experts have questioned.

Most other states that have adopted the NGSS are taking things a bit more slowly, aiming to start operational tests aligned to the standards in 2019 or later, with a few, including Kentucky, an early adopter, aiming for 2018. About a dozen more states are using standards based on the same framework as the NGSS, and many of those are on similar schedules for implementing large-scale tests.

Click here to read the full story in Education Week (May 24, 2017)



NJ science standards deliver students from textbooks to ‘real-world’ applications

A new wave of teaching science is taking shape at Kittatinny Regional High School and its sending districts, steering students away from learning about facts from a textbook and into learning real-world applications of science, complete with hands-on experiments and big-picture concepts.

Adopted by the New Jersey Board of Education in 2014, the Next Generation Science Standards are state mandated for K-12, and according to the New Jersey Department of Education’s Science Coordinator Michael Heinz, the standards shift a student’s thought process to “how things happen, why things happen and how the world works.”

Without a doubt, students will use science in their everyday lives during their school years and beyond and the standards are a way to break down those stigmas that surround math and science, in hopes to garner more interest and passion in those subjects, according to Heinz.

Kittatinny middle- and high-school science teachers as well as science teachers from the school’s sending districts, Fredon Township School, Stillwater Township School District, Sandyston-Walpack Consolidated School, and McKeown Elementary School in Hampton, attended and focused on how they, as teachers, could create three-dimensional thinking in their students, the basis behind the standards.

Knowing that it will take some time for schools to adjust, the state offered an implementation timeline with grades 6-12 implementing it by the start of 2016-17 school year, with many teachers already slowly introducing new lessons, and grades K-5 by the start of the 2017-2018 school year.

The framework of the standards, consisting of three different dimensions, is a vision of how the National Research Council indicates what it means to be proficient in science. Those three dimensions are practices, where students will behave like scientists, investigating and building models and theories about the natural world; crosscutting techniques, linking different domains of science, such as energy and matter and cause and effect; and disciplinary core ideas.

The Next Generation Science Standards were authored by a consortium of 26 states, including New Jersey, and are a culmination of a three-year, multi-step process undertaken by the National Research Council, the National Science Teachers Association, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, Inc., with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

Click here to read the full story in the New Jersey Herald (May 19, 2017)


Achieve Releases NGSS District Implementation Workbook

A new resource by Achieve provides help to district leaders looking to create a comprehensive plan to implement the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The NGSS District Implementation Workbook addresses the issues and challenges associated with implementation and outlines some key questions, timelines, decisions, and considerations for leaders. It also serves as a set of critical questions and follow-up activities that have been recommended by leaders and practitioners to help their peers around the country.

The District Workbook, along with other district resources from Achieve, will help leaders plan, monitor progress, and track lessons learned.

Click here to Download all three resources.

In Elementary School Science, What’s at Stake When We Call an ‘Argument’ an ‘Opinion’?

As more teachers are using both the Common Core State Standards and the Next Generation Science Standards, they will increasingly be confronted with a challenge: The standards in literacy and science—and the research literature in the two fields—disagree about when and how students learn to form arguments.

In a new article for Educational Researcher, Okhee Lee, a professor of education at New York University, suggests that standards writers and researchers need to consider the confusing and mostly unexamined situation teachers are in and figure out how to change it.

Click here to read the article in Education Week (April 25, 2017) registration required

Idaho Releases Revamped Science Standards Proposal

A state committee has made another attempt to break a deadlock over addressing climate change in Idaho classrooms.

But the last word in this controversy belongs to Idaho lawmakers — who removed references to climate change from state science standards earlier this year.

The State Department of Education unveiled five new climate change standards on Friday, with wording designed to address lawmakers’ concerns. The new language “was reworded to place a balanced focus on solutions and problems,” according to an SDE summary released in conjunction with the new standards.


The 2017 Legislature removed five standards that reference climate change and human impact on the environment. Lawmakers suggested that the language did not address both sides of the debate over climate change, and did not consider the possibility that human activity can have a positive effect on global climate.

Lawmakers adopted the remaining science standards earlier this year. They went into effect on a temporary basis, and will be reviewed in full in 2018.

After the legislative session, the SDE solicited public feedback online and held a series of six public meetings across the state, receiving more than 1,000 public comments. Then an SDE committee began working on a rewrite.


The committee tried to respond to lawmakers’ concerns, said committee member Christopher Taylor, the Boise School District’s science, social studies and health coordinator.

“We went through the five that were rejected and we talked a lot about how we want to keep the integrity of the standards,” Taylor said. “But we did look at legislators’ comments and took out words we knew were hot buttons.”

The committee also reviewed public comments before drafting the proposed new standards. Taylor said 98 to 99 percent of all comments supported implementing the science standards in full, including references to climate change and human impact on the environment.

The next step in the process comes in August, when the State Board of Education reviews the new language. The standards then go to the Legislature in 2018.

Click here to review the science standards approved earlier this year. (The standards lawmakers removed are set out in red text.)

Click here to read the full story in Idaho Ed News (May 19, 2017)

Teachers’ concerns lead to changes in California’s testing contract

Teacher complaints have been heard by the vendor that designs some of the California’s academic tests.

Partially in response to concerns raised by educators, the state Board of Education approved a $1.5 million contract amendment with Educational Testing Service that will help pay for teacher training in science.

Nearly $500,000 of the added costs will be spent on three in-person “Science Academies” to be held in the spring of 2018 in Northern, Central and Southern California to help teachers understand the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS.

The academies will train teachers using materials that the state and the vendor are developing for pilot science tests as part of the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress, or CAASPP, standardized testing system.

Teachers’ concerns have also prompted the inclusion of more detailed student score reports for optional interim assessments, which some educators administer to students during the school year before the end-of-year tests. Many teachers had complained that the previous reports – which did not include test questions or student responses – were too vague to be useful.


But Board Member Patricia Rucker said “there is a gap in perception about the value of these interim assessments between what we’re expecting and what many people in the field believe is going on.”

She urged Center’s department to “create some kind of messaging to the field” that would clarify how teachers should use them. She also said she wished there was a way to ensure that teachers would actually “read the memo.”

Click here to read the full story in Ed Source (May 10, 2017)


Proposed new state science standards focus on ‘thinking like a scientist’

A draft of the newest version of the state’s science standards — a document that spells out what every Nebraska student should learn from kindergarten through high school — focuses on inquiry and thinking skills as much as scientific concepts.

“We’re promoting higher-level thinking through the standards,” said Sara Cooper, the Nebraska Department of Education’s science education specialist. “It’s not just learning a set of facts. It’s important to get them to understand, to explore ways to get to it, to think like a scientist.”

The draft is the first update of the science standards since 2010, and draws from other state’s standards and the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education,” which stresses using concepts common to all sciences and scientific and engineering inquiry skills.

Click here to read the full story in the Lincoln Journal Star (May 4, 2017)

Eugene district students to receive more science instruction, new course materials

High school students’ science quotient could rise because the Eugene School District soon will receive new science curriculum materials following a unanimous school board vote adopting the new coursework Monday.

It’s been more than a decade since the district has upgraded its science curricula at all grades, district documents show.

Materials included in the adoption of the new curricula include text books (either actual books or online “tech books”) for each student, interactive online resource subscriptions for each student, teacher editions and resources and professional development tools for instructors.

“The district is changing the science sequence and adding an earth science course for students to learn the full array of science standards in NGSS.” NGSS stands for Next Generation Science Standards.

The Next Generation Science Standards require a shift in how students approach learning about various scientific concepts by emphasizing three dimensions: content, scientific and engineering practices, and “cross-cutting concepts,” or being able to use core concepts to evaluate a variety of situations.

According to state education officials, most districts teach those three concepts as separate entities, which can make both instruction and assessment more difficult.

The new standards aim to have students use all three dimensions at once and prepare them for college and careers. The standards also are focused on a deeper understanding and application of scientific content that builds over time and is integrated into other areas of learning, such as English, language arts and math.

Click here to read the full story in The Register-Guard (May 5, 2017)

Climate change, Big Bang, GMOs among topics in draft science standards for Nebraska public schools


New draft science standards call upon students to think and act like scientists, gathering data, analyzing it and communicating their results.

“We’re testing this out,” said Ellen Kramer, a Millard Public Schools educator who served on the writing team for the Nebraska Department of Education. “We want to be ahead of the curve when the standards come out.”

The draft standards list what officials believe students should know and be able to do from kindergarten to high school.

The Big Bang theory, climate change, evolution and genetically modified organisms are among the topics addressed. On these weighty topics, the standards push students to draw their own conclusions after analyzing data.

For instance, the standards would prompt students to analyze global climate models to forecast the rate and scale of global or regional climate changes. The phrase “climate change” is not in the current standards.

Under the standards, students would be expected to understand the factors causing natural selection and the process of evolution of species over time, including “how multiple lines of evidence contribute to the strength of scientific theories of natural selection and evolution.” In the current standards, students do explore biological evolution as a theory.


The standards borrow from the Next Generation Science Standards. Those standards were developed by the National Research Council with states and other partners, including the National Science Teachers Association and the American Association for the Advancement of Science. As of last year, 18 states and the District of Columbia had adopted the Next Generation Science Standards. Iowa adopted a modified version.



If adopted by the State Board of Education next fall, the standards would replace standards adopted in 2010. School districts must, within a year, adopt state standards or their own standards of equal or greater rigor.

The draft of standards can be viewed at The board expects to add a link from the website to a survey for people to comment.

Adoption by the State Board of Education is anticipated in September.

Click here to read the full article in the Omaha World-Herald (May 5, 2017)