Saturday, March 17, 2012

Update on the Next Generation Science Standards

On Friday I had the opportunity to attend the Celebration of Teaching and Learning (CTL)  in New York City.  It was a wonderful conference.  I attended a workshop put together by Brookhaven Laboratory first thing in the morning and then listened to the plenary right after (Sal Khan ended up being a much more dynamic and humorous speaker than I thought he would be).  In the afternoon, I heard the sobering data from the MetLife survey that teacher satisfaction has dropped fifteen percent to forty-four percent in the last two years.  With all that is going on in education today, that is frightening, but not entirely surprising.

The most intriguing session for me, however, was getting an update on the development of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  I've been following the process as closely as possible since the release of the NRC's Framework in July, and this was a great opportunity to hear what was cooking behind the scenes at Achieve.  The session was run by Stephen Pruitt (of Achieve fame), Heidi Schweingruber (force behind the Framework), and Peter McLaren (of the CSSS).

Dr. Schweingruber began the presentation with a description of the Framework.  She did a nice job of bringing all those who have yet to read the Framework, or to read NSTA's "Reader's Guide," up to speed.  


I apologize in advance for the terrible images.  The Hilton was stingy with the wifi ($25 bucks, come on now), so all my tweeting and pics came from my Droid.  The image above shows a simple correlation between the Common Core standards and NGSS.  This was very cool to see, but wait, it gets better.

Before turning over the presentation to Dr. Pruitt, Dr. Schweingruber shared the determinants for disciplinary Core Idea selection.  What separates out the included from those not making the cut?
According to this list, an idea would only be listed as a core idea if:
  •  It had broad importance across disciplines or was a key idea in one discipline 
  • It provides a key tool for investigation or problem solving
  • It directly relates to the life experiences of students or important happenings in society
  • It is teachable and "learnable" over multiple grades
She noted that while this "rubric" was tough to use at times, it did help in making the Framework more about depth than breadth.
Dr. Pruitt then shared how Achieve has used the Framework to begin drafting standards.  While "shifts" is becoming a tremendous educational buzzword (add that to your education bingo card), Dr. Pruitt shared the shifts in the NGSS (as of now).  While the pic above is horrible, the shifts include looking at standards as performance expectations, correlating the NGSS with the Common Core State Standards, and integrating science and engineering.

What was really exciting to see was a sample standard!  Dr. Pruitt made clear that this was only a sample, and may not look anything like the draft or final versions.  Still, it presented some interesting food for thought.  Here's the lowdown:
  • Performance Expectations will be written in such a way that each of the three Framework pillars are incorporated (Practices, Cross-cutting Concepts, and Core Ideas).  An example could be: Students will analyze data (Practice) to determine that kinetic energy is proportional (Cross-cutting Concept) to the mass of a moving object and that it grows with the squaring of velocity (Core Idea).  
  • Colors will be used in the standard document to help readers see how the three pillars are incorporated.
  • Correlations to Common Core State Standards will be included below performance expectations to provide for a seamless method for tying relevant standards together (interdisciplinary party, anyone?)
Other intriguing items of note?  The first public draft should be out by April 30th (a month later than originally anticipated), and in this first public draft, performance expectations will be broken down by individual grades for K-5, and then in bands for 6-8, and 9-12.  Achieve is looking to design pathways that states could use to allow for standards to be met in either a grade-by-grade or band format.  In this way, regardless of the states needs, they would be able to integrate the standards into their programs.  Personally, I'm more a fan of having four distinct bands (K-2, 3-5, 6-8. and 9-12) as I think it affords teachers and curriculum designers with more flexibility.  But, I won't knock either option until I've tried it.  I'm anxiously awaiting the chance to provide some feedback!

Mr. McLaren wrapped up the presentation by sharing ways that states are getting involved in the standards process, and just as importantly, how the average Joe and Jane can get involved.  One item he mentioned is that even though the talk has been about the twenty-six "lead states" (of which New York is one), all fifty states and D.C. are putting forth plans for standard release.  He shared his card with all attendees and even sought me out after the presentation to make sure I had all my questions answered.  All three were excellent presenters and great to briefly chat with after the presentation was over.  

This is the first time I've had the opportunity to attend the CTL, and have to say that the four sessions I was able to attend were quite intriguing.  I even had the chance to pose with good ol' Snoopy (note that I in no way endorse MetLife :) ).  



  1. Super review of this conference. Even though I was unable to attend the meeting, this review helped to gain a glimpse (in a great synopsis) of this session that I had hoped to attend!
    Abby Bergman

    1. Glad you enjoyed. The conference was great and it was excellent to get an update on standards development.