K-12 science instruction poised for change

Two years in the making, the final Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were released on April 9. A 41-member team representing 26 states worked to develop the standards, which identify science and engineering practices and content that all K-12 students should master to be fully prepared for college, careers, and global citizenship. The NGSS were built on a vision for science instruction established by the Framework for K-12 Science Education, published by the National Academies’ National Research Council in 2011.

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The lead state partners were Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.

“The NGSS aim to prepare students to be better decision-makers about scientific and technical issues and to apply science to their daily lives. By blending core science knowledge with scientific practices, students are engaged in a more relevant context that deepens their understanding and helps them to build what they need to move forward with their education—whether that’s moving on to a four-year college or moving into postsecondary training,” said Matt Krehbeil, a science education program consultant from Kansas.

“As emphasized in the Framework, an active learning of scientific practices is critical, and takes time. A focus on these practices, rather than on content alone, leads to a deep, sustained learning of the skills needed to be a successful adult, regardless of career choice,” said Bruce Alberts, editor-in-chief of Science, who served two six-year terms as president of the National Academy of Sciences. “We must teach our science students to do something in science class, not to memorize facts.”

The creation of the NGSS was state-driven, with no federal funds supporting the effort. The process was funded primarily by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. Achieve, a non-partisan, nonprofit education organization, coordinated the states’ efforts.

(Next page: What science teachers think of the standards; challenges to adoption)

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