MIT Stem Pals
  March 2012  

The Next Generation of Science Standards...10 Things You Need to Know
From Mike Kaspar
Mike KasparOver 15 years have passed since science standards were comprehensively reviewed and much has changed over those years. The list is long. Think Facebook, the internet, Google, the i-phone, not to mention all the advances in biotechnology such as the use of DNA in crime investigation and the way we see our universe, like the relegation of Pluto from planet to dwarf planet.

To update the science standards, the National Research Council (NRC), the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA), the American Association of the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and Achieve, Inc. have embarked on a two-step process to develop the Next Generation of Science Standards (NGSS). Termed ‘next generation’ the organizers did not want the science standards confused with common core standards that exist for English/Language Arts (ELA) and Mathematics and which have had the misfortune of being labeled ‘national’ standards to the chagrin of the U.S. Department of Education.

Of the four main organizers, Achieve is the workhorse of the group and is responsible for the organizing and writing of the new standards. It is also probably the one of which the least is known or, at least, not with the same national recognition as the NRC, NSTA or AAAS. Created at a National Education Summit at the same time as the current science standards were released, Achieve, Inc. was one of the first of its kind. Formed in 1996 as an independent, bi-partisan, non-profit education reform organization to support standards-based education reform efforts across states, Achieve remains the only education reform organization led by a Board of Directors of governors and business leaders. It is considered to be one of the most influential education policy organizations in the nation.

The process is complex and there is lots of information swirling around the NGSS. To help get a handle on the main points, here are 10 highlights:

  1. The two step process for developing the NGSS includes 1) the development of a Framework to identify the science all K-12 students should know ( and 2) states develop/write standards faithful to the Framework.
  2. The NGSS are NOT national standards
  3. The release of the NGSS is expected in Fall 2012 with public drafts available in the late spring/early summer 2012.
  4. The writing team is composed of 40 members ( from 26 states representing the states, K-12 and postsecondary education as well as the scientific, engineering and business communities. The 26 Lead Partner States are: 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.
  5. The NGSS will be released for public comment twice during the development process before the final document is released.
  6. The major sponsor/funder of the NGSS project is the Carnegie Corporation of New York.
  7. Each state will decide whether to create assessments aligned to the NGSS.
  8. In the Framework, the NRC uses the term ‘practices’ instead of ‘skills’ to emphasize that engaging in scientific inquiry requires coordination of both knowledge and skills simultaneously. This is where STEM fits in. Science practices will also include practices of engineering. Strengthening the engineering aspects of the NGSS will clarify for students the relevance of science, technology, engineering and mathematics to everyday life.
  9. The NGSS includes “crosscutting concepts.” The NRC Framework describes these concepts as those that bridge disciplinary boundaries, having explanatory value throughout much of science and engineering. This is another good way to see how the disciplines of STEM are embedded across the curriculum. Crosscutting concepts help provide an organizational schema for interrelating knowledge from various science fields into a coherent and scientifically-based view of the world.
  10. Your input is valued. When the public view period is open, be sure to look over the NGSS and give feedback to Achieve.

Mike Kaspar, Ph.D. is Senior Policy Analyst at the National Education Association.

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