Achieve, Inc., a corporate sponsored non-profit company, uploaded the 2nd draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) on its website for review until January 29, 2013. A final version will be uploaded in March, 2013.
For many educators, the NGSS are just what the doctor ordered to improve science teaching in the U.S. In fact, some say that it will revolutionize STEM education in the nation. According to the developers and financial backers of NGSS, the nation’s science education is in shambles, and needs to be fixed. The economic prosperity of the nation is at stake, and future workers, today’s students, will simply not be able to compete in the global market place.
I suggest that the NGSS and the Common Core State Standards were not developed with the interests of students in mind. The development of standards and assessments are integral to the “educational reformers” script to turn education into a product or commodity. As Bill Ayers said in a letter to President Obama,
Education is a commodity like any other—a car or a refrigerator, a box of bolts or a screwdriver—that is bought and sold in the marketplace. Within this controlling metaphor the schoolhouse is assumed to be a business run by a CEO, with teachers as workers and students as the raw material bumping along the assembly line while information is incrementally stuffed into their little up-turned heads.
In order to track the effectiveness of schools, students, and teachers, metrics are needed to decide if expectations (outcomes) were met and to what degree. In this scheme, those that are not performing will risk going out of business. Just today, NYC announced it was closing 26 “underperforming schools.”
In this context, the NGSS is a dream document.
Standards and technology-based assessments are policy makers’ and education reformers’ dream documents.
Standards are documents that are the first step in a two step process of making it possible to measure the effectiveness of teachers and schools against a rationale and set of goals that they had little to no part in developing. The standards were not written by a representative group of K-12 professional educators, yet all K-12 educators will be responsible for implementing the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics and English/Language Arts (CCSS), and now, the Next Generation Science Standards. Step one, then, has put into place single sets of content standards in math, reading/language arts, and science for every school in the nation.
The Common Core and the new science standards were developed by Achieve, by the way. Achieve will claim that the process to develop the science standards was a partnership amongst itself, NSTA, AAAS, and the National Research Council. However, we need to point out that the science standards were based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas which was developed by a 16 member committee of scientists, and educators, but there were no classroom science teachers on this committee.
We have argued on this blog that the science standards are authoritarian. The Next Generation Science Standards are authoritarian performance expectations. The authority for what happens in schools rests in the hands of bureaucrats who have little knowledge or experience with specific schools. Teachers are given very little leeway to change performance expectations to meet the needs and nature of their students.
In the NGSS, performance expectations were written for K-High School in physical science, life science, and earth science, and engineering, technology and applications for middle school and high school.
Figure 1 shows an example of one of the science standards from the NGSS “dream document.” Standards are organized as a table. Section “1″ is a list of performance expectations (which is the assessment part), section “2″ includes three foundation boxes, and section “3″ is the connection box. More details about how to “read” the standards can be found here. These new science standards, as robust as they look in your browser, are written for all students no matter where they live. The NGSS states on its website that the U.S. population is increasingly more diverse, yet they have proposed a single set of standards in life, earth and physical science. These standards should be taught to every student, regardless of student or teacher interests, or where students live.
Teaching will be organized based on the standards. But unfortunately, the reformers have convinced all Americans that high stakes assessments must be used to measure the productivity of each school, and if necessary use the results to reward or sanction schools. To make it easier for reformers to get the metrics they need to keep open or close schools, assessments starting next year will be technology-based.
Technology-based assessments are the second step to set up a competitive, corporate style of education for U.S. students. The U.S. Department of Education, through the Race to the Top assessment competition awarded two grants totaling about $330 million, to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) and the SMARTER Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) in the amounts of about $170 and $160 million.
If you refer to Figure 2, note that the standards (performance expectations) in the box shown are actually the statements that will be used to design assessments to measure student achievement. Indeed “assessment boundaries” are identified for the performance expectation.
The assessments that will be developed will be technology-based. There will also be more assessments. In the PARCC system, a series of assessments given over the course of a year will replace the end of the year high-stakes test.
But there is more to it than you think. The PARCC and SMARTER systems will be huge enterprises that not only include assessments, but they will have a banks of technology-based assessment resources. Here is some of what you will find on Achieve’s PARCC website:
- K-12 Educators and PARCC
- PARCC Model Content Frameworks
- Professional Learning Modules: Aligning Instructional Materials
- Item and Task Prototypes
- Diagnostic Assessments
- Educator Leader Cadres
- Professional Learning Modules: PARCC Assessments
- College-Ready Tools
On their own, the new science standards are an other resource for science educators, and to writers of textbooks. But, they will be more than that. The NGSS will decide the curriculum of school science for years If you would like to know what the NGSS is all about, here is a link to the NGSS page from which you can search and study the standards, and even give feedback on the science standards.
One More Thing
The NGSS combined with forth coming national science assessments support the aim of the current crop of educational reformers to make schooling a business, and learning a commodity. National standards and assessments will make it relatively easy to create data, which bureaucrats will use to rank, compare, rate, sort, check, grade, judge, reward, and sanction schools, teacher and students.
What do you think about this issue? Will the science standards improve science teaching in U.S. schools, or will it continue the teach to the test pattern that is strangling innovation and inquiry?
For further research:
- What People are saying about the Next Generation Science Standards?
Fordham Institute Review of New Science Standards: Fealty to Conservatism & Canonical Science
Are Next Generation Science Standards a Brick Wall or a Bridge to Learning?
Next Generation Science Standards: Old School?