NGSS: Will There Be More or Less to Cover?
by Peter A’Hearn
The first period of public review for the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is completed and I hope that many of you took the time to review the units that you are most familiar with. NSTA has posted an official response which in my opinion makes several good points and notes some key concerns.
Yesterday I went to a meeting on the common core standards for literacy in science and technical subjects and noted some important parallels with the NGSS and some common concerns. Unlike the NGSS, which are still in the middle of their revision process and may or may not eventually become adopted by California, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are a done deal. Testing on these standards, written for math and Language Arts, begins in 2015. What will happen to testing in science and social studies at that time is an open question and one that is currently being discussed by the AB 250 work group. (They are currently seeking public comment, click here for more information.)
So what is in the CCSS for science teachers? On the math side there is a huge new emphasis on application, which could mean science and engineering if that is the way the testing and curriculum development go.
On the English/Language Arts side, there is a much greater emphasis on reading informational text. This should be 50% in elementary, 55% in middle school, and 70% in high school. Compare this to current curriculum, which is heavily focused on stories and literature. So this means that especially in elementary, there may be much more reading of science in ELA classes. The danger of this is that folks think reading about science is a replacement for doing science and this actually leads to less real science in elementary. Also we can hope that the testing and curricula for elementary ELA line up with science and other subjects- this would mean that the selected passages for reading and tests would actually be about grade level science subjects (or history, or art) instead of just random as it is now.
On the writing side, there is also a much greater emphasis on writing to explain and writing to persuade. This parallels two of the science practices emphasized in the NGSS: engaging in argument from evidence and constructing explanations. These changes offer both an opportunity and a possible pitfall: the opportunity to get more time and respect for the types of literacy used in science, the pitfall is that science will be seen as a support for ELA and not an important subject in its own right (sound familiar?). An emphasis on reading and writing in science is a good thing, but not if it actually pushes out doing science. It occurred to me at the meeting that if the CCSS increase the amount of time spent reading and writing about science, and the NGSS increase the amount of time spent doing science, then the thing that will have to give is lecture and notes-this will have to be an increasingly small part of what happens in science classes, and I have to think that’s a positive step.
For all of this to happen, there is broad agreement that breadth of coverage of standards will have to be greatly reduced. This is in fact one of the charges given to the committee writing the NGSS-to cover fewer topics in greater depth (a colleague of mine recently pointed out that to “cover” means to hide or obscure). So my question this month is, “did they do it?” When you look at your subject or grade level in the NGSS is there less there to cover? Will you have time to go into depth and engage in experimentation and argument and constructing explanations? Or did the committee do what committees naturally do and give everyone their pet subject and thus bloat the standards? My reading suggests that in some subjects and grade levels the standards writers showed great restraint and in others they failed. I’d love to hear your impressions.
Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District, Co-Chair of the 2013 Conference Committee, and a member of CSTA.
by Michelle French
Since the public reviews of the Next Generation Science Standards have come to a close, like many primary teachers, I’ve been wondering what science will look like in kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Learn More…
“SOL Grotto, 2012. 1368 glass tubes, paint. Fabrication: Matarozzi Pelsinger, Rael San Fratello Architects. SOL Grotto is a contemporary take on a grotto or Throeau’s cabin – a spartan retreat that is a space of solitude and close to nature – where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light. The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company S#@t Out of Luck. 1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation. The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden. The form of the electric blue array evokes Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds can call reality into question.”
Responses from Readers:
Peter A’Hearn: Rush hour in little blue circle land.
by Valerie Joyner
Congratulations to CSTA member and STEM Educator, Katherine Schenkelberg, of West High School, in Torrance, CA! Katherine was recently awarded one of the 2013 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards. An appointed panel of experts selected her for her innovative use of data-collection technology. “The use of data-collection technology in the classroom helps foster students’ interest in STEM education and provides them with engaging, hands-on opportunities for scientific investigation,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “For ten years Vernier and NSTA have recognized innovative STEM educators through this award and this year’s winners are no exception – their projects and programs truly utilize the power of data-collection technology as part of the teaching and learning process.” Learn More…
by Tim Williamson
Members of the California Science Teachers Association are now in the process of voting for qualified CSTA members to fill the seven openings on the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2013-2015 term.
The election is being conducted electronically and opened for voting on April 16, 2013. Voting will close on May 16, 2013. All CSTA members were sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who request a paper ballot have been mailed a ballot and candidate statements. Learn More…