Purpose for the Standards

Contents and Research Background of the Standards

Standards Development Process

Next Steps for the Standards and Framework

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Purpose of Next Generation Science Standards

Why new science standards? Why now?

Science—and therefore science education—is central to the lives of all Americans, preparing them to be informed citizens in a democracy and knowledgeable consumers.  If the nation is to compete and lead in the global economy and if American students are to be able to pursue expanding employment opportunities in science-related fields, all students must have a solid K–12 science education that prepares them for college and careers. States have previously used the National Science Education Standards from the National Research Council (NRC) and Benchmarks for Science Literacy from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) to guide the development of their current state science standards. While these two documents have proven to be both high quality and durable, they are around 15 years old. Needless to say, major advances have since taken place in the world of science and in our understanding of how students learn science effectively. The time is right to take a fresh look and develop Next Generation Science Standards.

Contents and Research Background of the Standards

How are critical thinking and communications skills, which are fundamental to student success in today’s global economy, addressed in the Next Generation Science Standards?

It is important to understand that the scientific practices in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), as defined by the National Research Council (NRC), include the critical thinking and communication skills that students need for postsecondary success and citizenship in a world fueled by innovations in science and technology. These science practices encompass the habits and skills that scientists and engineers use day in and day out. In the NGSS these practices are wedded to content. In other words, content and practice are intertwined in the standards, just as they are in the NRC Framework and in today’s workplace.

How do the standards take into account current research in cognitive science?

Research on how students learn science effectively has been a long-term interest of the National Research Council, which published How People Learn, How Students Learn, Taking Science to Schooland Education for Life and Work.  Findings in cognitive science permeate the Framework for K-12 Science Education and were central to the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

Are the standards internationally benchmarked?           

Yes. Achieve undertook a study of 10 countries’ standards to determine their overall emphases on the expectations they have for all students (grade spans 1–6 and 7–10), as well as emphases on Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Earth/Space courses in upper secondary. The comparison countries were generally those whose students performed well on the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) or the Trends in International Math and Science Study (TIMSS): Ontario Canada, Chinese Taipei, England, Finland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Ireland, Japan, Singapore and South Korea. Achieve’s study consisted of two parts: a quantitative analysis of the knowledge and performances included in each country’s standards; and  a qualitative in-depth review of five of the ten countries that offered the most guidance for constructing useful and meaningful standards.  

The quantitative analysis enabled Achieve to detect patterns of emphases on major categories of knowledge and performances. Major findings for grade span 1-10 revealed that prior to having students take discipline-specific courses, seven of 10 countries require general science for all students through grade 10. Among discipline-specific courses, Physical science (chemistry and physics taken together) receives the most attention, Biology receives somewhat less attention, and Earth/space science much less. Crosscutting concepts, such as the nature of science and engineering, and the interactions of science, technology and society, and environmental sustainability also receive significant attention.

Achieve's qualitative analysis revealed exemplary features that were incorporated in the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). These features include: the use of an overarching conceptual framework; clarification statements to provide examples that clarify the level of rigor expected and connect concepts with applications; concrete links between standards and assessments; and development of inquiry and design processes in parallel to facilitate students engaging in both science and engineering practices. (Additional information regarding the study can be found at www.achieve.org.)

What are core ideas in science?

The National Research Council (NRC) defines disciplinary core ideas as those that focus K–12 science curriculum, instruction and assessments on the most important aspects of science disciplinary content knowledge. In order to identify the relevant core ideas for K–12 level science, the NRC Framework Committee developed and applied a set of criteria.  To be considered "core", the ideas had to 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 principle 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. Design teams working in four domains—life sciences, physical sciences, earth and space sciences, and engineering and technology—supported the work of the Committee on core ideas by examining related research and key documents. These included recent research on teaching and learning science, much of which has been summarized in previous reports from the NRC—How People Learn, Taking Science to School, Learning Science in Informal Environments, Systems for State Science Assessment and America’s Lab Report. The Committee and design team members also reviewed the NAEP 2009 Science Framework, the College Board Science Standards for College Success, the National Science Teacher Association's Science Anchors initiative, and such seminal documents as the National Science Education Standards developed by the NRC and the Benchmarks for Science Literacy developed by American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS).

What are scientific practices?

Like previous editions of science standards from the NRC and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the NGSS also include engineering practices, which are the behaviors that engineers engage in as they apply science and mathematics to design solutions to problems. 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. And engaging in these practices help students become successful analytical thinkers, prepared for college and careers.

What are crosscutting concepts?

The NRC Framework describes crosscutting concepts as those that bridge disciplinary boundaries, having explanatory value throughout much of science and engineering. Crosscutting concepts help provide students with an organizational framework for connecting knowledge from the various disciplines into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world. These concepts are: Patterns; Cause and Effect; Scale, Proportion, and Quantity; Systems and System Models; Energy and Matter; Structure and Function; and Stability and Change. The Framework also 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.

What is the difference between the Common Core State Standards for Literacy in Science and the NGSS?

The Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for Literacy were written to help students meet the particular challenges of reading, writing, speaking, listening, and language in their respective fields—in this case, science. The literacy standards do not replace science standards-they supplement them. The NGSS lay out the disciplinary core ideas, science and engineering practices, and crosscutting concepts that students should master in preparation for college and careers.

Standards Development Process

How was the development of the Next Generation Science Standards different than the development of the Common Core State Standards?

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) followed a different developmental pathway than did the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English language arts and mathematics. The process for the science standards development took into account the importance of having the scientific and educational research communities identify core ideas in science and articulate them across grade bands. That is why the NRC took the first step by constructing a Framework for K-12 Science Education—to ensure scientific validity and accuracy. A committee of 18 experts in science, engineering, cognitive science, teaching and learning, curriculum, assessment and education policy, was responsible for writing the Framework. The Framework describes a vision of what it means to be proficient in science. It also presents and explains the interrelationships among practices, cross-disciplinary concepts and disciplinary core ideas. The NRC released a draft for public comment during the summer of 2010 and the final report in July of 2011.

Achieve facilitated the next step: a state-led process where state policy leaders, higher education, K–12 teachers, the science and business community and others developed science standards that are grounded in the Framework. This second step recognized the importance of state and educator leadership in the development of the actual standards. Moreover, all stakeholders had multiple opportunities for public feedback, review and discussion, just as there were during the CCSS development process.

Did the federal government sponsor development of the Next Generation Science Standards?

No. The federal government was not involved in the effort to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). It was state-led, and states are deciding whether or not to adopt the NGSS. The work undertaken by both the National Research Council (NRC) and Achieve has been supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  No federal funds were used to develop the standards.

Who was involved in the development of the Next Generation Science Standards?

The development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) was a state-led effort. In addition to states, the National Research Council (NRC), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and other critical partners were active in the development and review of the NGSS and will continue to provide significant support to states as they consider adoption and implementation of the standards. Writing and review teams consisted of K–12 teachers, state science and policy staff, higher education faculty, scientists, engineers, cognitive scientists, and business leaders. Achieve managed the development process on behalf of the lead states.

Was there an opportunity for the general public to submit feedback on the standards during the development process?

Yes. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) had two public web-based feedback periods prior to the finalization of the standards, during which over 200,000 unique visitors viewed the standards. In addition to the public feedback, state leaders, teachers, scientific and educator organizations, higher education faculty, scientists and business community members reviewed drafts at specific intervals.

When were the Next Generation Science Standards completed?

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) writing process began in the summer of 2011, and the final version of the NGSS was released in April 2013.

How are the Next Generation Science Standards aligned to the National Research Council’s Framework for K-12 Science Education?

During the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) development, a feedback loop between Achieve and the National Academies ensured alignment during the writing of the NGSS. After the completion of the standards, an independent review of the NGSS managed by the NRC and conducted by individuals chosen for their technical expertise and familiarity with the Framework determined that the NGSS are consistent with the content and structure of the Framework


Next Steps for the Standards and Framework


Will the new standards be the Common Core State Standards for Science?

In the end, the decision to adopt the standards and make them consistent between states lies in the hands of the states themselves. The goal was to create robust, forward-looking K–12 science standards that all states can use to guide teaching and learning in science for the next decade. Thus, the National Academies, Achieve, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), and the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) collaborated with states and other stakeholders to ensure the standards are of high quality—internationally benchmarked, rigorous, research-based and aligned with expectations for college and careers.

How will states use these standards documents?

To reap the benefits of the science standards, states should adopt them in whole without alteration. States can use the NGSS, as they are using the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics, to align curriculum, instruction, assessment, and professional preparation and development.

How will states use the NRC Framework?

The NRC Framework for K-12 Science Education articulates a vision for science learning and teaching. States can start implementing changes to their systems for professional development and pre-service teacher training based on a deep understanding of this vision. They can also begin to think about ways to align curriculum, instruction and assessment with this vision. Once the Next Generation Science Standards are developed, the process of alignment can begin in earnest.

Will there be common science assessments for the Next Generation Science Standards?

States will decide whether to create assessments aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

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