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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. It is also the case that 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 all 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 durable and of high quality, 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.
It is important to understand that the scientific practices defined by the 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 Next Generation Science Standards these practices will be wedded to content. In other words, content and practice will be intertwined in the standards, just as they are in the NRC Framework and in today’s workplace.
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 , and most recently, Taking Science to School . Findings in cognitive science permeate the Framework for K–12 Science Education and will be central to developing the Next Generation Science Standards.
Yes. Achieve undertook a study of 10 countries’ standards to determine their overall emphases in the expectations they have for all students (grade spans 1–6 and 7–10), as well as emphases in 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 in major categories of knowledge and performances. Major findings for grade span 1-10 were as follows: Seven of 10 countries require general science for all students through grade 10, prior to students taking 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 content, such as the nature of science and engineering, and the interactions of science, technology and society, and environmental sustainability also receives significant attention. Achieve's qualitative analysis revealed exemplary features that we hope to incorporate in the Next Generation Science Standards, such as: the use of an overarching conceptual framework; multiple examples to 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 .)
The 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 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 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, 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, NSTA’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 AAAS.
Scientific practices are the behaviors that scientists engage in as they investigate and build models and theories about the natural world. The NRC uses the term practices instead of a term like “skills” to emphasize that engaging in scientific inquiry requires coordination of both knowledge and skills simultaneously. Use of the term practices helps avoid the interpretation of skill as rote mastery of an activity or procedure. 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.
Like previous editions of science standards from the NRC and AAAS, science practices will also include practices of engineering, 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.
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 are as follows: Patterns; Cause and effect: Mechanism and explanation; Scale, proportion and quantity; Systems and system models; Energy and matter: Flows, cycles, and conservation; Structure and function; 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.
The CCSS Literacy Standards 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 will lay out the core ideas and practices in science that students should master in preparation for college and careers.
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is following 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 takes 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 will facilitate the next step: a state-led process where state policy leaders, higher education, K–12 teachers, the science and business community and others will develop science standards that are grounded in the Framework. This second step recognizes the importance of state and educator leadership in the development of the actual standards. Moreover, all stakeholders can expect that there will be multiple opportunities for public feedback, review and discussion just as there were in the CCSS process.
No. The federal government is not involved in this effort. It is state-led, and states will decide whether or not to adopt the standards. The work undertaken by both the NRC and Achieve is being supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. No federal funds have or will be used to develop the standards.
The development of the Standards will be a state-led effort. In addition to states, the NRC, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), AAAS, and other critical partners will be active in the development and review of the new standards and will provide significant strategic support to states. Writing and review teams will consist of K–12 teachers, state science and policy staff, higher education faculty, scientists, engineers, cognitive scientists, and business leaders. Achieve will manage the development process on behalf of the lead states.
Yes. The Next Generation Science Standards will have two public web-based feedback periods prior to the finalization of the standards. In addition, state leaders, teachers, scientific and educator organizations, higher education faculty, scientists and business community members will review drafts at specific intervals.
The current timeline is designed to complete the standards by the end of 2012.
During development, a feedback loop between Achieve and the National Academies will ensure fidelity of the standards to the Framework.
In the end, the decision to adopt the standards and make them consistent between states will lie in the hands of the states themselves. The goal is 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, NSTA, and AAAS are working collaboratively with states and other stakeholders to help ensure the standards will be of high quality—internationally benchmarked, rigorous, research-based and aligned with expectations for college and careers.
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.
The NRC Framework 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.
States will decide whether to create assessments aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards.
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