How New Science Standards Avoided the Backlash of Common Core

The Wall Street Journal reports on how developers of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) learned from the pushback on Common Core. They report that the Obama administration was asked to not be engaged in promoting the standards and that states were encouraged to take the lead and get local support.

To date, 18 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the NGSS and another 16 revised their standards to be similar.

“There is something to be said for being the second person through the minefield; you know where to step,” said Peter McLaren, an education consultant and former teacher who helped write the science standards. “Common Core gave us some good guidance as far as what to do differently.”

NSTA was a partner in the development of the standards and many teachers had input. There were 26 teachers on the 41-member committee that drafted the NGSS, which are based on A Framework for K-12 Education published by the National Research Council.

The Carnegie Corporation of New York was the major funder in the development of the standards and recently released a report drawing attention to the need for NGSS-based instructional materials and teacher training.

Click here to access the full story in The Wall Street Journal (August 16, 2017: subscription required)




New state science test raises the bar but proficiency drops

The Chicago Tribune reports that more than a year after students took a new state science exam but never got their scores, the state is providing at least a glimpse of how well kids did. Only about 39 percent of high school students passed the new science exam in 2016, meaning those kids were considered “proficient.” Close to 60 percent of grade school students passed, according to an analysis by the Illinois State Board of Education.

Those numbers are approximate, based on a complex process used to decide what it takes to pass the exams, and members of the state board of education still have to approve the model used. A vote is expected Wednesday, which could pave the way for schools and families to get long-awaited results in the critical area of science.

Educators and parents alike are expected to see drops in performance compared to results from the old state science exams of previous years. Then, it was usual for 50 to 52 percent of high school students to pass statewide and 75 to 80 percent of grade school students to pass, state data show.

But those exams got shelved, and in 2014 the state adopted Next Generation Science Standards that move away from memorizing science facts and toward analysis in key areas of science and engineering. Those new standards were used in the state science exam that was launched in spring 2016.

“It’s a different test and the bar has been set in a different place; and we’d rather set the bar high and strive for that than set a lower bar, which will lull us into a false sense of security,” said Charles Sprandel, executive director of research and assessment in the sprawling Indian Prairie School District 204 in DuPage County.



Illinois used test items from Washington, D.C., to launch the state’s first NGSS-based science exam in 2015-16, and ISBE hopes to get the results from that exam out in the coming weeks, after the state board makes a decision on proficiency levels, said ISBE spokeswoman Jackie Matthews. She said scoring of the 2017 test is “about to begin.”

Switching to the new science exam is much like when the state switched to new reading and math exams, Nolten said. Scores statewide plummeted compared with prior year exams.

Idaho Science Standards Move Forward

The Idaho State Board also approved a new slate of academic science standards, which the State Board will forward to the 2018 Legislature for consideration. During the 2017 legislative session, lawmakers approved a temporary slate of science standards after first removing five references to climate change and human impact on the environment. A committee of some of the state’s most-awarded teachers and industry representatives developed the new science standards and massaged the language in an attempt to appease state legislators who argued last year’s proposed standards did not do enough “to address both sides” of the climate change debate.

Scott Cook, the SDE’s director of academics, said Ybarra’s office received more than 1,000 comments as the committee developed the standards. He said the vast majority of comments supported approving the standards that left intact references to climate change. Cook said the bulk of the changes amount to reinserting references to climate change and then adding sections explaining how humans may mitigate rising temperatures.

Click here to read the full story on (August 14, 2017)

Overflow crowds argue for, against proposed science standards for Nebraska public schools

Climate change was a hot topic at the State Board of Education meeting Friday.

An overflow crowd was on hand as members of the public testified for about an hour and a half on the proposed new science standards for the state’s public schools.

The new standards, for the first time, would specifically include the teaching of climate change. However, students would “evaluate the reliability and validity” of climate models before making a project of future climate trends.

Both supporters and critics of the new climate change language spoke.

The favorable comments were mainly from educators, who said the standards include information students need to know. Some critics said the science on climate change is unsettled.

Click here to read the full story in the Omaha World-Herald (August 4, 2017(

Shifting the way we teach science education to help the next generation of scientists and engineers

More than 50 Maine science educators participated in a three-dimensional Science and Engineering workshop held by Thomas College’s Center for Innovation in Education, Maine Mathematics and Science Alliance, and the Next Generation Science Exemplar System (NGSX) last month.

The program was designed to introduce teachers to the shifts in science teaching and learning, called for by the National Research Council’s “Framework for K-12 Science Education.”

This framework suggests a new set of standards – called the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Unlike the common core Math and English Language Arts standards, states may choose to adopt the science standards or not. Although Maine was one of the states involved in the original development of these science standards, they are in the Maine Legislature’s hands right now in the form of a bill.

Click here to read the full story in the Bangor Daily News. (August 4, 2017)

Teachers learn new style of sharing science with students

Greg Brown had been teaching science in the Bay Area for years when the idea came to him for a new style of teaching the subject.

Why not take classic science activities and add a twist — starting with exploration?

“Rather than telling it, let kids find out for themselves,” said Brown, whose colleagues describe as a local legend in STEM education. “A great thing about this new teaching style, you treat everything like a beta test.”

Well, the Next Generation Science Standards beat him to it, but his friend Kevin Brumbaugh from the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College was wondering how teachers were going to learn to implement the NGSS — the new method for teaching science hands-on.

From that interaction, MADE:Science was born.

With the help of Google classroom tech expert Rachel Freed, Brown — who has a background in engineering — and Brumbaugh designed the program.

Freed explained the program applies tech and mobile apps to enhance the hands-on learning, using slow motion technology and measuring devices to interpret trajectory and visualize testing.

Click here to read the full story in the Mercury News (August 1, 2017)

The Next Generation Science Standards’ next big challenge: Finding curricula

As states wrestle with putting the Next Generation Science Standards into action, one question I’m hearing more and more: What to do about curriculum?

It’s also a question that’s been on the mind of the Carnegie Corporation of New York, which provided major support to the groups that developed the framework and standards that evolved into the NGSS. Earlier this year, it convened a group of curriculum experts, many of whom worked on curricula development for groups like the National Science Foundation. This week they’re putting out a summary report on what they found (posted here for free download).

In the meantime, I spoke with Jim Short, a program director at Carnegie, about what he (and the conveners) concluded some of the major challenges are in developing strong curricula aligned to the standards. They fall into several different buckets.

Eighteen states and the District of Columbia, along with dozens of individual school districts, have adopted the standards, which put a heavy emphasis on engineering and having students apply their scientific knowledge, among other things. (If you’re just new to the NGSS, get up to speed with my colleague Liana Loewus’ great explainer on the topic.)

Click here to read the full blog by Stephen Sawchuk in Ed Week (July 24, 2017) registration required

Michigan teachers helping transform middle school science ed

Five area science teachers are among a select group of educators crafting the future of middle school science education through the Michigan Science Teaching and Assessment Reform project.

More than two dozen teachers from around the state are attending curriculum development workshops this summer in Midland, Clinton Township, Grand Rapids, Mount Pleasant and Houghton. With scientists, engineers and curriculum developers, they are creating a radically new science curriculum for grades 6-8 that meets the new Michigan Science Standards, which call for students to learn by thinking and acting like scientists and engineers.

Click here to read the full story in the Midland Daily News (July 24, 2017)

New science standards stoke exploration, discovery

As the Del Mar Union School District board learned about the new Next Generation Science Standards on June 28, district science specialists challenged them with a science experiment. Board members and district staff, including Superintendent Holly McClurg, donned safety goggles and got to work in pairs.

Through the lesson, they learned what the Next Generation Science Standards promotes — instead of teachers telling students what to do, the students lead their own exploration, look closely and make discoveries and conclusions on their own.

As explained by district science specialists Stacie Waters and Nancy Swanberg, the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were developed by the states to improve science instruction and were adopted in September 2013. Since the adoption, district science specialists have been working toward the full implementation in 2018.

Click here to read the full story in the Del Mar Times (July 5, 2017)

Science is for kids

Proponents says Next Generation Science Standards will better prepare today’s workforce

Children at River Oaks Elementary School in Galt are more than just students. They’re scientists in the classroom and they do what scientists do — observe, ask questions, identify problems, gather data, analyze it and apply this knowledge in science, technology, engineering and mathematics to the real world.

Galt Joint Union Elementary School District is one of eight traditional districts and two charter management organizations selected to participate in California’s early implementation Initiative for K-8 of the Next Generation Science Standards. The four-year initiative launched in 2014 to cultivate teacher development, best practices and solutions in preparation for full implementation in all California districts by 2019, explains Kathy DiRanna, statewide director of WestEd’s K-12 Alliance, headquartered in San Francisco.

The new standards are designed to provide all students with a robust STEM education that includes an understanding of content and develops core competencies — communication, collaboration, inquiry, problem solving and flexibility — that will serve them throughout their educational and professional lives, and pave the way for increased innovation and economic growth.

Click here to read the full story in Comstocks Magazine (June 21, 2017)