Special Delivery: NGSS Adoption Workbooks

Yesterday, I discovered a new organization, the U.S. Education Delivery Institute (EDi). When I saw the name, I first thought it was part of the U.S. Department of Education, or the United States Postal Service. I was wrong on both counts. The EDi, formed in 2010 is another Washington D.C. non-profit founded by Sir Michael Barber, former head of the U.K. Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit.  The U.K. organization designed by P.M. Tony Blair to manage priorities by “delivering” to and monitoring intended targets.  Delivery was abolished in 2010.

Edi has teamed up with Achieve to “deliver” a workbook telling leaders how to adopt and carry out the Next Generation Science Standards.

What’s Being Delivered?

A workbook.  For state leaders in states who intend to adopt the NGSS.  Now, the workbook is really important because of “several shifts in the way that science is taught.”  All of these shifts are covered in the workbook, which is 114 pages long.

But, wait.  According to the workbook, the fundamental change is in how students will demonstrate proficiency!  The authors of the handbook (no names are included, except the president of Achieve, and he didn’t write this) tell us that  students will engage in scientific practices–developing models, designing solutions, constructing arguments.  It’s as if this has never been done before.  There have been many efforts by science educators to improve science teaching. Achieve cleverly criticizes earlier science education standards (NSES), and programs such as AAAS’s Project 2061, and the STS curriculum movement.  In each of these efforts, teachers use inquiry teaching and learning approaches, and in the case of STS, curricula is related to students’ everyday experiences.

The NGSS standards document is sterile.  The standards are written without context.  In fact, to the writers of the NGSS, the context doesn’t matter because they claim that all students should be held responsible for each standard, regardless of where the students live.  But we know this is not right.  Study after study of the relationship between child poverty and academic performance consistently shows an inverse relationship between these two variables.  How can we simply drop new standards on American schools and expect that all students will have the same chance to learn and love science?

New Verbs.  Another big idea is which verbs are used in the new standards.  That’s right, which verbs.  Remember way back when we started writing “behavioral objectives” verbs were used to describe the kind of action that students would have to show on specific objectives.  The verbs have changed in the NGSS.  In fact, the difference in verbs used in the NGSS tells the story!  NGSS doesn’t like verbs such as distinguish, describe, recognize, identify and demonstrate.  But they do like verbs like develop, design, construct, analyze and interpret (see p.5 NGSS Adoption and Implementation Workbook).

A Chapter Book. A seven chapter workbook written for state implementation leaders.  The titles tell it all.  Designate strategic leadership team; define your aspiration, evaluate past and present performance, determine state’s role and approach to implementation, set targets and trajectories, develop stakeholder engagement strategy, establish routines and solve problems.

Exercises.  There are 27 exercises spread among the seven chapters.  Each exercise is guided by three or four objectives that use verbs such as identify, evaluate, develop, determine, understand, use, record.  These are not the kinds of verbs that the NGSS claims are used in the new standards, e.g. design, construct, etc.

Glossary. There is also a glossary of key terms including Aspiration, Element (not from the Periodic Table of the Elements), Guiding Coalition, Metric, Strategic Leadership Team, Target, Trajectory.

Who’s Delivering the NGSS Workbook?

Two organizations have teamed up to deliver this NGSS document, Achieve and the U.S. Education Delivery Institute.  The organizations are richly funded by American corporations that financially support a long list of standards and assessment-based groups.  Figure 1 shows the overlap of corporations that fund Achieve and EDi.  Gates shows up everywhere, and here they are again. The overlap of companies that fund these education organizations is further evidence that so called state standards are driven by national priorities of firms that want to privatize K-12 schooling.

Achieve

U.S. EDi

Funders

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Carnegie Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

21 Additional Corporations

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Carnegie Corporation

Harold K.L. Castle Foundation

The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation

What is troubling here is that each organization is beholden to the Gates Foundation whose picture of educational reform is part of an “educational reform cabal (ERC).”  ERC is behind reforms that are anti-union, seek to rid the schools of all those “bad” teachers, use simplistic metrics such as test scores to make serious decisions about students, teachers and schools, support the take over of K-12 public schools with for-profit charters, believes 50% + 1 parents (Parent Trigger Bill) can overturn a school by firing teachers and replacing them with a charter management company, advocates use of vouchers paid for with public funds which can be used to send students to private schools, and so forth.
The new science standards will be of little use unless there is real curriculum development, and money is made available to school districts for teams of science teachers to develop, field-test and carry out new curriculum that support student learning.  In a recent article in The Science Teacher, Rodger W. Bybee points to a major concern about the NGSS.  He suggests that there is a need “for clear and coherent curriculum and instruction that connects the Next Generation Science Standards and assessments.  He writes:
If there is no curriculum for teachers, I predict the standards will be implemented with far less integrity than intended by the Framework and those who developed the Next Generation Science Standards (Bybee 2013).
The new workbook has little to do with science curriculum.  It’s main intent is to make sure that the new standards are implemented in the nation’s schools, and to give their take on how to do this.  It may be all well and good.  But, its top down reform no matter how you look at it.  Teachers aren’t even considered as “targets” of the workbook that Edi is delivering.
There is little transparency in this workbook.  We have no idea who wrote it.
We do know this, however.  The former Georgia Superintendent of Schools (2003 – 2010), Kathy Cox is the Chief Executive Officer of U.S. Education Delivery Institute.  Stephen L. Pruitt, who is Achieve’s Vice President is the leader of the development of the NGSS.  Pruitt was Georgia’s Associate Superintendent of Assessment and Accountability overseeing the NCLB, and was Cox’s Chief of Staff from 2009 2010
In 2005, while Cox was Superintendent of Education, and the state was re-writing the state science standards, she recommended that the word “evolution” be removed from all pages of the science standards documents.  Her reasoning was the word evolution was a buzzword of controversy.  She also appeared to believe that there were several accepted theories for biology, and she didn’t want the public or students to get stuck on the word evolution.  Her strongly held view was overturned after major news organizations reported the story, and key science organizations voiced strong opposition to her fear of the word evolution.

What’s next?

The last version of the new science standards has not been published, but according to Achieve, the NGSS will be published this year.  Schools will begin implementation in 2014.
In the meantime, look for a special delivery of the Next Generation Science Standards: Adoption and Implementation Workbook.

Do you think that we are on the right track here?  Do you think there is a problem with organizations such as Achieve and EDi receiving their funding from the same group of corporations?

Fordham Report on Next Generation Science Standards Lacks Credibility

On January 29, the Thomas Fordham Institute published a report, “Commentary & Feedback on the Next Generation Science Standards (Commentary).  Nine people wrote the report, none of whom are “experts” in the field of science education.  Yes, most of them have Ph.D’s in science, but they lack the experiential and content knowledge of science education, science curriculum development, and classroom K – 12 science teaching experience.  The lead author of Commentary is Dr. Paul Gross, professor emeritus of life sciences at the University of Virginia.

Amazingly, news and media outlets will quote and not question the Fordham report as if they have the last answer on the Next Generation Science Standards in particular and science education in general.  They do not have the final answer.  In my opinion their answers and comments are flawed.

IMG_0919-3
A Trilobite

Erik Robelen wrote an article today in Curriculum Matters entitled In Science Draft, Big Problems ‘Abound,’ Think Tank Says.  The Think Tank is the Fordham Institute.  Robelen reviewed the report (70 pages) identifying the criticisms that the Fordham reviewers had about the NGSS. The Fordham group claimed that the authors of the NGSS omitted a lot of what they call “essential content.”  They also insist that the practices of science and engineering dominate the NGSS, and claim that basic science knowledge–the goal of science education (again, according to the Fordham group), becomes secondary.  The goal of science education is to create a curriculum that is steeped primarily in science content, with little regards to practices, inquiry, and connection to other disciplines.

Fordham Science Standards—-Return to the Past

The Fordham review used a set of science standards (called criteria) created by their science experts. They use this list of content goals to judge the worthiness of the NGSS & they used it two years ago when they reported on the state of state science standards.

They also use grades to summarize their opinion of science standards.  When they reported on the state science standards, many states failed, that is they received grades of D and F.  They didn’t grade the NGSS standards, but I am sure they will.

I’ve reviewed their standards and analyzed them using Bloom’s taxonomies, and reported them here.  In my analysis, only 10% of the Fordham standards were above the analysis level; 52% were classified at the lowest level in Bloom. There were no mention of the affective or psychomotor domains.

One of the areas that is completely missing in the lists of science content are standards for science inquiry. What is amusing here is that the Fordham authors criticized the states for “poor integration of scientific inquiry.” If any group showed poor integration of inquiry into the standards, it’s the Fordham group. They do not mention one inquiry science outcome or goal, yet they slam the states for not integrating science inquiry into the content of science.  They need to get their own house in order before they go around the country laying it on the states, and now the NGSS.

Their standards are quite simply a list of content goals with little regard to the process of science & engineering (practices in the NGSS–inquiry in the 1995 NSES) or connections across disciplines.  They are a real embarrassment to science educators in the context of the research and development in science education over the past 20 years.   I gave their standards a grade of D.

Let me explain.  The Fordham wrote their “science standards” using the same format that was used in the earlier part of the last century.  For example, here are a few of the Fordham science standards:

  • Know some of the evidence that electricity and magnetism are closely related (physical science)
  • Trace major events in the history of life on earth, and understand that the diversity of life (including human life) results from biological evolution (life science)
  • Recognize Earth as one planet among its solar system neighbors (earth science)
  • Be able to use Lewis dot structures to predict the shapes and polarities of simple molecules (chemistry)
  • Know the basic structures of chromosomes and genes down to the molecular level (biology)

These are simplistic statements that are juvenile compared to the 1995 National Science Education Standards, and the 2013 Next Generation Science Standards.  Here are some example standard statements from the NGSS:

  • Construct an argument using evidence about the relationship between the change in motion and the change in energy of an object.
  • Collect, analyze, and use data to describe patterns of what plants and animals need to survive.
  • Analyze and interpret data from fossils to describe the types of organisms that lived long ago and the environments in which they lived and compare them with organisms and environments today.
  • Use Earth system models to support explanations of how Earth’s internal and surface processes operate concurrently at different spatial and temporal scales to form landscapes and sea floor features.

The Fordham report is an extensive description of their own content specific and narrow view of what science for children and youth should be.  It was written by people who have little experience in science education, and there is some evidence in their reporting that they have little knowledge of science education research.  Their report is not juried, and there has never been an attempt by Fordham to solicit the opinions of science education researchers or curriculum developers.  It is an in-house report, and that is as far as it should go.

One More Thing

I have written several blog posts that are critical of the standards movement, including the Next Generation Science Standards.  You can link to them here, here, here and here. I am not defending the NGSS, but the criteria that Fordham uses to “analyse” the NGSS is not a valid research tool, and lacks reliability and validity, two criteria that would make their report believable.  As it standards, I can not agree with their ideas, nor should the NGSS consider them in their next stage.  Fordham has been pulling the wool over the eyes of policy makers and the media.  Its time to call them out.

There is much to disagree with in their report.  What are your opinions about the Fordham report on the NGSS?

Why Do We Promote Consumption And Not Inquiry

Why in a democracy do we promote consumption and not inquiry in science teaching?  Why are we so possessed to have teachers cover the ground and not helping students uncover their connection to the world around them?

The second public draft of The Next Generation Science Standards will be released this December by Achieve, the organization that wrote the Common Core State Standards.  I wish I could link you to the first draft of the science standards, but Achieve pulled them off their website on June 1, 2012 after posting them for about three weeks.

The NGSS were based on the National Research Council’s project, A Framework for Science Education, funded by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.  The document was written by nearly 20 experts, not one of whom is a K-12 teacher.  The only professional educator was Stephen Pruitt, who while on the committee was chief of staff for the Office of the State Superintendent of Schools in the Georgia Department of Education.  He did teach science for 12 years in Georgia.  However, now he is Vice President, Content, Research and Development for Achieve, the company writing the science standards.

The “Framework” document was used by Achieve’s science writing teams who developed the first draft of the new standards.  The rationale for the development of the science standards is achievement-based.  One way to look at the standards is that they use backwards engineering to define the field of science that teachers should cover in their science courses.  A teacher writing on Anthony Cody’s blog explained the notion of backward engineered standards.  Backward engineering means starting with an assessment, and then working backwards from it to write standards.  She explains that “the goal of the Next Generation Science Standards is create a document that can market both teaching and assessment products to a captive education system, not offer a framework for good teaching of science.”

A good standard is one that can be easily accessed using multiple choice questions, or short answers that require consumption of science goals.  When you check the new standards they are aligned vertically by content area creating endless lists of stuff to be taught and learned.  I spent several days reading the new science standards, participated in Achieve’s public review process, and wrote several posts on the process.  The science standards are organized around core ideas in each science discipline, which meant, unfortunately, that there was almost no attempt to create relationships among the content areas.  We still have the same content areas that the Committee of Ten created in the 1890s!

There are more than 400 standards in the science document.  Although they are divided into grade level bands, which does reduce  the number of standards per grade level.  When you look at a specific content area, as I did (earth science), there is still a long list of content to be taught.  And remember, the standards will be measured using high stakes tests, which will soon be totally computerized by 2014.

We have reported on this blog that the very nature of standards-based education sets up an authoritarian framework that values the consumption, recall, and repetition of information.  Using the backward engineering model, teaching will be based on the content lists because each one of them will be assessed using a multiple choice format.  Teaching to the standards is no different than teaching to the test.

Yet, science educators, especially if you attend major conferences on science teaching and research, have had a love affair with engaging students in inquiry.  Asking students to formulate investigations, ask questions, searching for answers, and  uncovering content that excites them are some of the kinds of thinking that science teachers advocate.  When we put the teaching of science into the hands of experts as we did with the National Research Council, we end up with an outline of the content that they know and think kids should know, even without real experience with teachers or with students.

Inquiry, independent thinking, and creative thought are buried in standards-based documents. Henry Giroux in an article about democracy and education,  raises the concern that public education is under assault by conservative forces that cut schooling to a process of producing students who can perform on tests, not think differently or question  things as they are.  He puts it this way:

In this conservative right-wing reform culture, the role of public education, if we are to believe the Heritage Foundation and the likes of Bill Gates-type billionaires, is to produce students who laud conformity, believe job training is more important than education, and view public values as irrelevant. Students in this view are no longer educated for democratic citizenship. On the contrary, they are now being trained to fulfill the need for human capital [1]. What is lost in this approach to schooling is what Noam Chomsky calls “creating creative and independent thought and inquiry, challenging perceived beliefs, exploring new horizons and forgetting external constraints.”[2]

 One of the major goals of science teachers is to help students wonder, explore, and be actively involved in inquiry—which is the cornerstone of science. The science standards, when published, will have the appearance of a digest of science factoids that teachers must face, and teach. This tends to sideline inquiry, and problem solving because teachers will be required to cover the ground. Furthermore, “common” assessments will be based on the digest of factoids, to further discourage teaching science as inquiry.
References

[1] David Glenn, “Public Higher Education Is ‘Eroding From All Sides,’ Warns Political Scientists,”  The Chronicle of Higher Education, (Sept. 2, 2010).

[2] Noam Chomsky, “Public Education Under Massive Corporate Assault—What’s Next?AlterNet(August 5, 2011).

 

We Teach Science Not Because It Nurtures the Child’s Imagination, but Because It Might Help Get a Job

Reform in science education for the past two decades is based on the ideas that American students receive an inferior education in mathematics and science, and as a result will not be able to compete for jobs in the global marketplace.  In this scenario, the purpose for teaching math and science is to get a job.  Standards-based reform coupled with high-stakes testing has created a model of education in which science achievement is the only worthy goal.  According to these reformers if American students don’t do well in science (and math) they won’t be able to compete in the global economy.  They won’t be able to get a job.

These same reformers use the international test results from TIMSS and PISA, but conveniently ignore the most reliable data, which is collected by the NAEP.  As for the TIMSS and NAEP data, comparing one country to another is questionable, but if you want to compare students with similar academic backgrounds, then U.S. students score right near the top.  As for whether American students are doing poorly in science, the data from NAEP shows that science (and math) scores have NOT been falling in U.S. schools. And the data shows that the achievement gap between white and black students is narrowing, but at the level that is not acceptable to many.

Figure 1. NAEP Science achievement scores, 1969 – 1999.

It is very convenient for some groups to make the claim that the U.S. is falling behind in math and science. But the evidence is that student learning in science, mathematics and reading has either improved or remained stable over the past thirty years, and during that time the achievements in science and technology have been breathtaking.

Even using faulty and questionable data, reformers, such as those at Achieve, continue to say over and over again that America does not have a first class education system, and in order to have one, then all students should be held accountable to same set of goals (standards) in science, math and reading/language arts.  Hog wash.

Here’s the Thing

The child’s sense of wonder is stymied by a curriculum designed to test the science skills (read Standards) that experts think will lead to a competitive science-related job.  The curriculum, based on authoritarian and arbitrary standards, actually becomes an obstruction to the child’s inquisitiveness and the teacher’s best pedagogical abilities and know-how.  Rachel Carson, who most know because of her book Silent Spring, wrote other books, including A Sense of Wonder.  Her remarks on a child’s sense of wonder is apropos today, as seen in this quote from her book:

A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood.

For example, in the field of science teacher education, most of my colleagues have developed inquiry and constructivist teacher preparation programs over the past two decades.  The graduates of these science education programs not only understand the content of science, but also understand the nature of science teaching from the framework of leaning theory steeped in inquiry and constructivist learning.  The child’s sense of wonder is at the forefront in these programs.

However, even with teacher education programs that are field- and inquiry-based, as most are, graduates face a wall of resistance when they begin their career.  Wonder and inquiry are left in the stock room, and replaced with a compendium of standards to be transferred to students in preparation for high-stakes tests.  If it’s on the test, then it fits the curriculum.

You already know that the Next Generation Science Standards‘ revised draft edition will be released this fall by Achieve.  We concede that Achieve is the voice of authority for the math, reading/language arts and science standards in American education.  Commissioned years ago by the National Governors Association to write standards in math and reading, Achieve has spread its standards over K-12 education landscape, with kudzu strength.  It has virtually no accountability, yet this organization sets the goals for K-12 schools, and by 2014 most of the states will adopt computerized assessments to measure the standards.  Schools are held accountable but not the policy makers lurking behind organizations that are pushing this top down take over of schooling.

There will be almost no room for teaching students how use their imaginations and sense of wonder in any of their science courses, K-12.  Although it is difficult to snuff the imagination and  curiosity of early elementary students, it seems as if we’re heading on a path that will be successful in this attempt.   The fact is, the more science courses that students take, the less they like science.  How will it be possible to turn around a trend like this when American science education is based on an arbitrary list of standards that are being developed without any context for student learning?

American mathematics and teachers are by nature inventive, and readily solve problems in their classrooms every day. If anything is in teachers’ ways of continuing creative and innovative teaching, it is rules imposed by NCLB on our schools. The requirements lessen the opportunity for learning. On this blog, we have cited peer-reviewed research that indicates that the high-stakes testing, and authoritarian standards impedes learning, and prevents teachers from doing what they are prepared to do, and that is help students uncover their love of mathematics and science.

Major organizations, including the Carnegie Foundation, the Gates Foundation, and the U.S. Department of Education, have provided resources (financial and intellectual) to support the work of Achieve.  Using assessments completed by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, a conservative tank of bureaucrats, Achieve boasts of its research-based work.  Truth be told:  none of the published research, which you can find on Fordham’s website, is not the result of the peer-review process, the accepted standard in the  research community.  All the research reported on the Fordham Institute site is in-house work, lacking the scrutiny that research work should be held to.

Standards-based and high-stakes testing does not promote creative or imaginative learning.  What place would imaginative teaching and learning have in a system that promotes academic scores on a multiple choice examination, that soon will be totally computerized?  None.  We have put into place a system that will encourage rote learning, and traditional or conservative pedagogy.  We have entered an age of authoritarianism in which the curriculum of American schools is dictated by organizations that have little to no accountability.  Education goals have become market-driven even in an age when the research does not support any of the contentions made by the authoritarians.  Unfortunately, American political parties show no differences in their attitude toward, or program recommendations for teaching, learning, and teacher education.

Henry Giroux puts it into context and indicts both major political parties:

Both parties support educational reforms that increase conceptual illiteracy. Critical learning is now reduced to mastering test-taking, memorizing facts, and learning how not to question knowledge and authority. This type of rote pedagogy, as Zygmunt Bauman points out, is “the most effective prescription for grinding communication to a halt and for [robbing] it of the presumption and expectation of meaningfulness and sense.” (Zygmunt Bauman,”Does ‘Democracy’ Still Mean Anything? (And in Case It Does, What Is It?)” [i]Truthout [/i](January 21, 2011). Online: http://truth-out.org/index.php?option=com_k2&;view=item&id=73:does-democracy-still-mean-anything-and-in-case-it-does-what-is-it).

Encouraging a Sense of Wonder

Inquiry science teaching by its very nature is a humanistic quest.  It puts at the center of learning not only the students, but also how science relates to their lived experiences, and issues and concepts that connect to their lives.  Doing science in the classroom that is inquiry-based relies on teachers and administrators who are willing to confront the current trend that advocates a standards-based and high stakes testing paradigm.  The dominant reason for teaching science is embedded in an “economic” argument that is rooted in the nation’s perception of how it compares to other nations in science, technology, and engineering.  This led to the development of new science curricula, but it also led the wide scale use of student achievement scores in measuring learning.  Student achievement, as measured on “bubble tests,” has become the method to measure effectiveness of school systems, schools, and teachers, not to mention the students.

There is a disconnect between the standards approach, and the implementation of an inquiry-based approach to science teaching.  We need to pull back on the drive to create a single set of standards and complementary set of assessments, and move instead toward a system of education that is rooted locally, and driven by professional teachers who view learning as more personalized, and in accord with democratic principles, constructivist and inquiry learning, and cultural principles that relate the curriculum to the nature of and needs of the students.

To sum this post up, here is a quote from Kareen Borders, a high school science teacher who received a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching, 2011:

My students are not passive learners of science, they ARE scientists. They embrace the idea that they are empowered to own their learning. In addition to creating a love of learning within my students, I am intentional about equipping students with wonder, teamwork strategies, and problem-solving skills for jobs that may not exist yet.

I think Kareen speaks for most of the science education community.

What do you think?  Are we emphasizing achievement at the expense of other and perhaps more important goals of teaching?

NSTA Has Serious & Extensive Concerns About Achieve’s Next Generation Science Standards

Standards development, such as in science, is a big enterprise, and one that will result in huge profits for corporations, and will cost school districts billions to carry out over the next few years.  For the past two years, Achieve and the Carnegie Corporation have teamed up to write a framework, and a set of science standards for K-12 schools.  The science standards were recently flashed on the screens of our computers for about three weeks so that we could give Achieve feedback that they no doubt will embrace in their next draft which will be published in the fall.

In the meantime, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) has provided feedback to Achieve on the first public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). You can read the full report here.

NSTA, the largest organization of science teachers in the U.S., issued their reaction this week, and has concerns about the new science standards as shown by this author statement:

we continue to have serious and extensive concerns about the current content and architecture of the NGSS. These issues are similar to the ones we voiced in our review in November 2011 and January 2012 and are outlined below. The level of our concern has intensified considerably as a result of an increased number of individuals who have seen and commented on the draft.  As we inch closer to a final draft of the standards, the NSTA leadership is concerned that some of the issues we have raised have yet to be addressed and strongly recommends that these issues be addressed now so that they are reflected in the next draft.

After reading the report, I can not help reading between the lines of NSTA’s feedback to Achieve that NSTA is still an outsider in this enterprise, and “welcomes the opportunity to work together with Achieve and its writers to address the issues contained in their report.”  Welcomes the opportunity?  If you read Achieve’s website, it claims that NSTA is a partner.  If NSTA were a true partner, why does an official reply have to be written.  NSTA should be able to walk in the door of Achieve’s headquarters, and talk directly to the writers.  Its reputed that Achieve works behind closed doors, and my view of their current project further supports this contention.

Here are NSTA’s recommendations followed by further critique of the science standards.

Recommendations

Nevertheless, NSTA made critical recommendations about Achieve’s science standards, and their report outlines them.

  1. NSTA Recommendation 1: The NGSS should include a section on Connections to the Nature and History of Science in a manner similar to the Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science.
  2. NSTA Recommendation 2: The front matter of the NGSS should contain an overarching essay that explains the architecture of the standards, including the relationship between the individual performance expectations in a set and how each performance expectation relates to the practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts within the foundation box. The essay should also make clear how the performance expectations, practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts should be used in planning instruction and provide some examples for various topics and grade levels.
  3. NSTA Recommendation 3: Each set of performance expectations in the NGSS should include an opening statement that explains why this set of performance expectations has been grouped together.
  4. NSTA Recommendation 4: Every core idea should have at least two performance expectations that probe it. The first performance expectation should combine the core idea with the practice of modeling, explanation, or argumentation, and the second performance expectation should combine the core idea with one of the other five practices. The connection between these performance expectations and the core idea should be explicit.
  5. NSTA Recommendation 5: The appropriate grade level for students to learn a particular science concept in the NGSS should not differ from the recommendations in the National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy unless there is published research that provides evidence in favor of the move.
  6. NSTA Recommendation 6: Any assumptions about the resources, time, and teacher expertise needed for students to achieve particular standards should be made explicit (Note: This is identical to Recommendation 11 on p. 305 of A Framework for K–12 Science Education.)
  7. NSTA Recommendation 7: The survey mechanism used for the next public draft of the NGSS should be more user friendly than the mechanism that was used for this first public draft, and the timing of the release should be sensitive to the schedules of all educators, but particularly the schedules of classroom teachers.

Achieve’s Next Generation Science Standards were available for public review for a few weeks in May, 2012 and we had until June 1 to complete their online review, and this reviewer agrees with NSTA when it said in its 7th recommendation that the next review needs to be more user-friendly.

But There is More to Criticize

The NSTA feedback is critical of the details of Achieve’s effort to write a new set of science standards for K-12 schooling.  But it is not critical of the way the standards are being created, nor do they dispute the value of standards-based reform.  We still continue to fracture the world of science into the traditional disciplines of science, and to make matters worse, the authors of an earlier report, The Framework for K-12 Science Education, added another discipline to science, and that was Engineering, Technology & Applications.

The NGSS has created a set of standards that do not get us to “think outside the box” of the traditional science disciplines. And even after adding engineering, technology and applications, they have treated this new domain as a separate, and new set of standards that students must learn and science teachers must teach.

There is very little evidence of supporting interdisciplinary teaching in the NGSS. The science standards are too confined to the traditional disciplines, and there is meager attention to “applications” in the new Engineering standards. There seems to a lack of science-related social issues being embedded in the new standards. The long history of science, technology, society and environment (STSE) education has largely been ignored in the new standards. This is as expected. When the teams are organized by content disciplines, the need or desire to give up some of limited space for your list of standards to write interdisciplinary standards is low on the priority list.

It is disappointing that the writers stayed in the traditional box and created one more set of standards that in the end will make very little difference in student learning. We’ve shown over and over by citing research studies that the authoritarian standards model of teaching presents a barrier to teaching and learning.

Why have we invested millions of dollars in creating a new set of traditional standards at a time when education dollars are scarce? A new study by the Pioneer Institute estimates that it will cost states $15.8 billion to align their state standards to the common core. What will it cost the states to align its science standards to the NGSS?

It’s probably because the education is a multi-billion dollar enterprise and a cash cow for corporations that sell products and services for the education market. Since we’ve been convinced that American schools are failing, raising the bar and writing more rigorous standards is just the ticket to pushing those test scores up. And along the way, it will mean more millions in new text books that will have to be written, new online courses and resources, new assessments and monitoring systems, staff development training to explain the new standards, and on and on.

Related Blog Posts on the Next Generation Science Standards

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