NGSS second draft: what now?

Now that the second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards has been released, we have a much better idea of what the final form of these standards will look like. The planned March 2013 release date presumably doesn’t leave a lot of time for further revisions. But the current form of these standards raises some interesting questions:

  1. What will happen with Earth and Space Science in high school? Most states don’t offer a separate Earth and Space Science course as a standard high school course. Most likely these states do not have teachers at the high school level who could easily jump in and start teaching this subject. But trying to integrate the Earth and Space Science Standards into standard Biology, Chemistry, and Physics courses as the NGSS appendices suggest seems unsatisfying for one of the “big three” areas of the standards.
  2. Similarly, what’s the future of high school Chemistry and Physics? Supposedly, the NGSS are “college and career ready” standards. But according to the Thomas Fordham Institute, the “high school-level standards frequently avoid using appropriate vocabulary and/or lack sufficient background development in earlier grades. This weakens the high school program and results in students who are ill prepared for university-level courses in physics, chemistry, and engineering.” Yikes! Regardless of whether you agree with this assessment, the high school standards clearly do not spell out the content we’re used to seeing in state standards for these courses, leaving major questions about their future.
  3. Will states adopt science standards with some of the most rigorous treatment of evolution ever seen in the US? Hopefully the answer is “yes”, at least for the lead state partners, but given the debate around this it’d be better not to assume. Similarly, the science on climate change is also clearly spelled out and could draw fire. There are other political factors as well (no more Race to the Top, state adoption schedules, no +15%?) that will make it interesting to see what eventually happens regarding adoption relative to the Common Core math and ELA standards.
  4. How will the engineering “gold rush” unfold? I call it a “gold rush” because my guess is every educational publisher will be jumping on the bandwagon to try to get the money of schools struggling to determine how they will cover the new engineering content in the NGSS. With luck in the end the quality of K-12 engineering instruction will improve, but it may be a bumpy road getting there.

It’ll be interesting to see the answers to these questions starting to become clearer over the next few months.

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