Paul Bruno has written an interesting piece arguing that California should not adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). While I think he raises some interesting points, even for states with relatively strong existing science standards there are good reasons to adopt the NGSS.
Paul argues that California’s current state standards are among the strongest science standards currently in use in the US, which I would agree with. He also takes issue with the clarity of the NGSS, which I would also agree with. The NGSS are probably less clear than the current California standards in some areas, especially when it comes to what classroom teachers should be teaching on a day-to-day basis.
However, the claim that the NGSS are attempting to draw clear distinctions between the core ideas, cross-cutting concepts, and science and engineering practices is actually counter to the intent of the NGSS and the K-12 Framework on which they are based. The goal of the NGSS is to encourage an understanding of science that recognizes the interdependence of these aspects of science. The format of the current California standards doesn’t emphasize this in the same way, just like nearly all current state standards do not.
Moreover, the K-12 Framework and NGSS are based on a significant amount of research conducted by the NRC and others into how science is best learned, and our best understanding of the most critical scientific concepts and at what grade levels these should be introduced. Without adopting the NGSS, California would need to independently revise its current standards to account for what we’ve learned about science instruction since the National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy were drafted.
The integration of the NGSS with the Common Core standards for ELA and Math that California has already adopted is another strong argument for adoption of the NGSS over leaving the current standards in place.
Because the NGSS are not as accessible to classroom teachers as previous sets of science standards, there will be some considerable work needed to help with this transition. But leaving current state standards in place would probably be a mistake in California, and would definitely be a mistake in the many states with much weaker science standards.