The Next Generation Science Standards, One Year Later

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released one year ago today, following a development process extending back several years to the writing of A Framework for K-12 Science Education.

Happy Birthday Cake

Happy Birthday, NGSS!
Courtesy of Flickr user Will Clayton (https://www.flickr.com/photos/spool32/)

So, where do things stand now?

  • Eleven states (plus the District of Columbia) have adopted the NGSS: California, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. Interestingly, Nevada was not a lead state in the development of the standards, showing that the influence of the NGSS is likely to extend beyond the original 26 states that helped draft the standards. About 25% of students in the US now live in an “NGSS state”.
  • Lead state partners that have not yet adopted include Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, and West Virginia. Some of these states are expected to adopt, but have not yet officially adopted thanks to choosing to take things deliberately, a slower state-mandated adoption process, or political cycles. The situation is less clear in a few states (New York, for example).
  • Unsurprisingly, although the standards have met with wide support from science educators, the NGSS has been at the center of political controversy, including an ongoing battle in Wyoming (interestingly enough, another state that did not participate in the writing of the standards but is discussing adoption). The Fordham Institute also released a somewhat critical report based on dubious criteria and reasoning that doesn’t stand up to closer scrutiny.
  • Implementation is starting to ramp up. A number of helpful resources are in-progress and due out at some point this year, including an EQuIP rubric to help evaluate materials for alignment to the NGSS, and a set of publisher’s criteria due out in the fall. The new standards will undoubtedly mean many changes for students and teachers. In some parts of the country, such as Kentucky, students will start being taught based on the NGSS this fall.
  • On the assessments front, the picture is still developing. An NRC report on assessment for the NGSS was the first step, and several groups are now developing model assessments. It seems likely that initial state-level assessments may not be well-aligned to the NGSS, and there are significant questions around what it means to have a “three-dimensional assessment,” meaning an assessment that simultaneously assesses disciplinary core ideas, science practices, and cross-cutting concepts. Valid and well-aligned assessments at the classroom level are likely to be more achievable in the short term.

Given the encouragement for states to take adoption and implementation slowly, it’s hard to see the first year of the NGSS as anything other than a major success for supporters of the standards.

What are your thoughts on the first year of the Next Generation Science Standards? What do you hope to see over the next year?

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