Caution on Next Generation Science Standards

ngssA new set of science standards to complement the Common Core has been touted as crucial reform to a crucial subject, but the Thomas B. Fordham Institute has recently urged states considering the “Next Generation Science Standards” to “exercise caution and patience.”

Chester Finn and Kathleen Porter-Magee at the Common Core Watch, part of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute, suggest that there are three key reasons why caution is needed considering the new “Next Generation Science Standards.”  The Core of Education blog discussed the new science standards here.

First, Achieve, one of the key organizations in charge of creating the new standards, has not yet completed or released some important ancillary documents related to the science standards. Finn and Porter-Magee elaborate as follows:

These are promised over the next month or so and will address both the alignment of NGSS with the “Common Core” ELA and math standards and a discussion of high school “course sequences” in science that could be crucial in determining the extent to which NGSS itself will sufficiently impart “college and career readiness.” While these documents are not expected to add any science content to the recently released standards, they will provide context for states about the overlap between the Common Core and the science expectations, and they will help articulate content and course expectations and requirements for high school students, including advanced STEM students. This is manifestly important for the entire country, and we hope the promised document does the job.

Second, most states are already in the midst of preparations for Common Core, and it may be wise for them to consider how many changes can be accommodated at the same time:

States are still aligning curriculum to the ELA and math standards, assessments are in the early pilot phase, and much remains to be done by way of preparing both educators and the general public for the major changes that lie ahead. In short: States still have a long road to go to ensure full, smart implementation of their English language arts and math standards. And as yet, there is no clarity as to how or when curriculum or assessments may be developed to accompany the NGSS.

Finally, despite some improvements during the drafting process, there appear to be five similar concerns with the final draft as had been the case for the first drafts. The concerns center around the following:
-Do the standards address a broad enough field of STEM content?
-Are the standards detailed enough to avoid curriculum gaps?
-How much are the standards truly aligned with the rest of Common Core?
-Do the standards focus too much on classroom activities versus student outcomes?
-How fairly do the standards deal with controversial topics, such as climate change?

Expect a follow up as the ancillary documents are released, but in the meantime, it seems reasonable to believe that the Next Generation Science Standards have potential but will need some perfecting.
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