Next-generation science standards open for comments

The next-generation science standards are internationally benchmarked.

A second draft of the Next Generation Science Standards, which are being developed with input from 26 states, is open for public review and comment until Jan. 29.

The revised draft, released Jan. 8, continues to focus on what the National Research Council (NRC) calls its “three dimensions” of science proficiency: practices, cross-cutting concepts, and core ideas in various science disciplines.

School leaders, educators, and other stakeholders who’d like to weigh in on the second draft can read learn how to do so here. The final standards are expected to be released in March.

“Core ideas” in the standards must meet two of four definitions, as specified by the NRC:

  • Have broad importance across multiple sciences or engineering disciplines, or be a key organizing principle of a single discipline;
  • Provide a key tool for understanding or investigating more complex ideas and solving problems;
  • Relate to the interests and life experiences of students, or be connected to societal or personal concerns that require scientific or technological knowledge; and
  • Be teachable and learnable over multiple grades at increasing levels of depth and sophistication.

(Next page: How—and why—the new science standards are being developed)The standards are being constructed in a two-step process involving the NRC, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve. During the first step, the NRC developed the “Framework for K-12 Science Education” in July 2011. This framework uses up-to-date science and science learning research to identify critical K-12 science concepts.

The second step involves creating the standards themselves. That process is managed by Achieve and led by 26 participating states.

“Lead state partners” will develop plans for implementation of the new science standards at the school level. Those 26 lead state partners are working with the Next Generation Science Standards writing committee to offer leadership and guidance. Those state partners will designate state science leads to provide input on issues such as the actual standards, adoption, and implementation; be vocal advocates for the new standards; form committees to react to drafts and discuss adoption issues; and more.

Year after year, reports suggest the U.S. is not keeping pace with students’ science performance in other countries.

Drafters of the new standards point to a number of reasons why U.S. science standards must be revamped with increased rigor, including:

  • Diminished national capacity for innovation.
  • Reduction of the nation’s competitive economic edge.
  • Lagging U.S. student achievement.
  • The need to prepare students for careers in the modern workforce.
  • The need for scientific and technological literacy for an educated society.

“The second public draft of the Next Generation Science Standards is a significant step forward in developing exemplary new standards that all states can support,” said NSTA President Karen Ostlund. “When completed and adopted, these new science standards will change the way science is taught and learned in classrooms nationwide by fully engaging K-12 students … in a way that will deepen and strengthen their knowledge and skills in science.”

Ostlund said the NSTA is pleased with changes made based on feedback from the first draft of the standards, and that the group will continue to work with the standards’ writers to advocate for additional changes and rigor.

“The levels of achievement called for … are ambitious, and we call on all stakeholders to help us build the capacity to adopt and implement the new standards and provide the broad support that schools and teachers will need in the months and years ahead,” she said.

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Laura Ascione

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