July 2014 – Vol. 26 No. 11

Responding to NGSS Critiques – Anticipating the Final Release

Posted: Friday, March 1st, 2013

by Laura Henriques

As you likely know, the final version of the Next Generation Science Standards will be released at the end of this month. The timeline for the adoption of new science standards in California is based on that release date. With the new standards not yet finalized and released, it is a bit premature for CSTA to take a public position on the standards. It is not too early, however, to respond to some comments and concerns voiced in the press. Two in particular are worth noting here as they contradict each other and force us to consider what is important for California students to understand and be able to do. The Fordham Report and an editorial in Science by Janet Coffey and Bruce Alberts level opposing criticism at the second public draft of the standards.

In their response to the second draft of Next Generation Science Standards, the authors of the Fordham Report discuss two overarching concerns. The first is a criticism of the lack of content and the second is disagreement with the linkages between the engineering/scientific practices and content as found in the performance expectations.  Throughout the 71 page report, Fordham Report authors lament specific content areas that are underemphasized or missing. They recommend areas in each of the disciplines that ought to be added so that students have a rigorous, quantitatively based science experience. They are not opposed to students doing labs – “Science cannot be taught effectively without carefully designed and content-matched laboratory and field activities to augment textual materials” (p.64), yet they do not like the fact that these same practices are linked to the performance expectations. It seems as if the authors would prefer to have the practices decoupled from the content, much the way our current state standards have Investigation & Experimentation standards separate from content standards. As we have seen, decoupling the practices and content results in assessments that focus on the easier to assess content without finding out if students can actually do science. The Fordham authors, in their concern about assessment boundaries accurately note that “Lesson planners and already burdened teachers are unlikely to occupy themselves assiduously with material that will never be tested” (P14). While this quote was in reference to assessment boundaries, the upper limit required for all students, the sentiment is true when looking at the doing of science. If the practices are not explicitly linked to content via performance expectations it is very unlikely that assessments will hold students (and therefore teachers and schools) responsible for engaging in the practices of science/engineering.

In contrast, Coffey and Alberts appreciate the possibilities that the practice/content linkages allows but they are concerned with the amount of content that the draft includes.  Coffey and Alberts see great potential in coupling the practices with content. The “emphasis on science and engineering practices could lay the groundwork for productive shifts toward helping students understand how science helps us make sense of the natural world, instead of just what science has learned” (p. 489). They are well aware of the assessment challenges this creates and urge the states/nation to pay careful attention to their development. Their bigger concern lies in the sheer amount of content incorporated into the second draft of NGSS.  They were pleased to see the intent of NGSS to be aligned with the Framework and to focus more deeply on fewer concepts. What they found in the second draft was too much content, which would force more superficial, than deep, learning.

At the heart of the debate is what and how we want students to learn and engage in science.  CSTA supports standards which actively involve all students in learning the content of science.  We concur with the Framework’s vision of science education. “The overarching goal of our framework for K-12 science education is to ensure that by the end of 12th grade, all students have some appreciation of the beauty and wonder of science; possess sufficient knowledge of science and engineering to engage in public discussions on related issues; are careful consumers of scientific and technological information related to their everyday lives; are able to continue to learn about science outside school; and have the skills to enter careers of their choice, including (but not limited to) careers in science, engineering, and technology” (NRC,. 2012, p. 1). A set of standards that engages students in academically rigorous content and performance is necessary for California. Like Coffey and Alberts, we support science/engineering practices being linked to content knowledge and the direction that this will drive instruction and assessment. Certainly there is work to be done before we get there but it is work we anxiously await as it will move California’s schools and students in a direction that will help create students ready for employment, citizenship, and lifelong learning.

It will be interesting to see which direction the authors move in response to the more than 10,000 comments received on the second draft. Like all of you, we are eager to see the final draft of the Next Generation Science Standards!

References:

Coffey, J. & Alberts, B. (2013). Improving education standards. Science 1 February 2013: Vol. 339 no. 6119 p. 489. DOI: 10.1126/science.1225590 Available online at http://www.sciencemag.org/content/339/6119/489.full.

Gross, P., Buttrey, D., Goodenough, U.,  Koertge, N., Lerner, L.S., Schwartz, M., Schwartz, R. , Schmidt, W.H., Wilson, W.S. (2013). Commentary  & Feedback on Draft II of the Next Generation Science Standards. Thomas B. Fordham Institute. Available online at http://www.edexcellence.net/publications/commentary-feedback-on-draft-II-of-the-next-generation-science-standards.html

National Research Council. A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2012. Available online at http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165.

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

3 Responses

  1. My concern is not so much the content of the standards but that California will, once again, botch implementation.

    I have been in education since 1970. A number of radically new subjects and approaches have been imposed on elementary level teachers during those decades with the blithe assumption that elementary teachers know enough to teach practically anything with little or no preparation.

    Specific subjects include Spanish, Music, ESL, Chemistry, and Statistics.

    Somewhat more care was given to changes in approach: diagnostic teaching, individualized instruction, learning stations, cooperative learning, the Madeline Hunter structured lesson, Thinking Maps, journaling, and on and on.

    However, in my experience, most of these reforms in pedagogy have been badly implemented due to insufficient training, misunderstandings of their nature, emphasis on shallow compliance, and lack of follow through by administrators and resource persons responsible for the implementation.

    This time, the changes seem to be in both approach (inquiry – an approach that most teachers lack time and expertise to teach) and content (engineering!!). To do the implementation right, several weeks of summer preparation at the district level is necessary.

    What we’ll get is probably more of the usual – kind of like tossing seeds on the ground, leaving them there, doing nothing further, and wondering why they never sprout.

  2. While I applaud Dr. Henriques for attempting to write a balanced article regarding the two significant sources of national feedback on Draft #2 of NGSS, I hope the readers of this article know that the “team” who contributed to the Fordharm report includes 2 notable Californians, Richard & Martha Schwartz, who also played significant roles in the development of the current CA Science Standards and Framework.

    I am merely pointing out that the Fordham review reflects the educational as well as political biases of their authors, which should be taken into account. And the Fordham Institute also has its biases, as it has consistently given the CA Science Standards its highest ratings, in comparison to the science standards of other states.

    To be fair, it should also be noted that Dr. Alberts, co-author of the editorial “review” of the NGSS, 2nd draft, is the past-President of the National Academy of Sciences. During his tenure, he encouraged and fully supported the development of the National Science Education Standards (NSES), which many consider to be the current “national” Science Standards.

    During the development of the current CA Science Standards, Dr. Alberts, among other notable scientists and science educators, made a formal presentation to the CA Standards Commission, recommending that the NSES be used as the basis for developing the CA Science Standards. His presentation was shamefully treated by several members of that Commission, including Richard Schwartz. Unfortunately, his recommendation was totally ignored; there is very little correlation between NSES and the current CA Science Standards – or the Framework.

    I realize that this is “ancient” history to many, having occurred in the late-1990s. However, I worry that some of the same issues that were paramount then, will re-surface in the near future, as California decides what to do with the NGSS.

    Gary Nakagiri

  3. Thank you Susan and Gary for taking time to read and respond to the editorial.

    Susan – I share your concern about implementation and the need for professional development. You specifically mention the need for elementary folks to get PD. I believe that PD will be needed for all of us — teachers, administrators, teacher preparation faculty and beyond. There are several challenges ahead — first we need new standards, new curriculum, PD, and assessment . It’s a big task but one that could be net really exciting results for California students.

    Gary – I was trying to point out the criticisms that both groups levy against the standards along with the position that CSTA takes regarding science education in general, that content and practice should be intertwined. I do recognize the political agendas that different groups may bring to the table. I wrote this editorial for folks who have not been reading what NSTA, Fordham, or Coffey & Alberts have written in regards to the draft. Every group responding to the latest draft of NGSS has its own agenda (I am guessing AAPT or ACS would lament some of the physics or chemistry content that is not included). What I thought was interesting to point out was the fact that we have diametrically opposed criticism and that the stance of CSTA is more closely aligned with Coffey & Alberts. Certainly I would argue that we want kids doing science in ways that are meaningful. Too often we see science taught as a clerical work — kids simply writing notes and memorizing information that is easily looked up as opposed to doing science investigations and critically making sense of the natural world.

    There will be several opportunities for us to make our opinions heard once the final draft of NGSS is released and a recommendation is made to the State Board of Education. Please take advantage of those opportunities to let your voice and thoughts be heard.

    Laura Henriques

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LATEST POST

CALL FOR PUBLIC COMMENT ON Next Generation Science Standards Systems Implementation Plan for California

Posted: Monday, July 28th, 2014

The California Department of Education (CDE) is pleased to announce that the first draft of Next Generation Science Standards Systems Implementation Plan for California is available online at the CDE’s Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) Web page at: http://www.cde.ca.gov/pd/ca/sc/ngssintrod.asp  The purpose of this document is to assist the CDE, California local educational agencies (LEAs), and support providers in implementing the Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools, Kindergarten through Grade Twelve (CA NGSS). The plan identifies eight strategies and accompanying elements and activities for the implementation of the CA NGSS. By utilizing this plan, the CDE, LEAs, support providers, and all stakeholders will have the potential to transform science education in California to create a different way of thinking about teaching and learning science.

Comments and suggestions for improvement may be submitted to ngss@cde.ca.gov by close of business Monday, August 25, 2014.  If you have any questions, you may call the CDE’s Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Office at 916-323-5847, or submit questions to the NGSS mailbox at ngss@cde.ca.gov .

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Speak Out for Science – Local Control Accountability Plan (LCAP) Regulations Need Stronger Support for All State Standards

Posted: Monday, July 14th, 2014

CSTA and others are requesting that the State Board of Education change the language used to describe the “Implementation of State Standards (Priority 2)” so that all subjects, including science, are addressed in the LCAP.

On Thursday, July 10, CSTA addressed the California State Board of Education to seek a change to the State Board approved LCAP (Local Control Accountability Plan) template. This change will serve to clarify for districts and stakeholders that the state’s priority #2 should address all state adopted standards, including science, and not just Common Core. A quick review of the LCAPs submitted for approval by county offices of education reveals that many districts approached addressing priority #2 as only the implementation of English and Mathematics Common Core Standards. Missing or lacking from many plans is support for the recently adopted Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) for California.    Learn More…

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

Get Ready for December’s NSTA/CSTA Joint Conference!

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014


by Laura Henriques

This year’s NSTA Long Beach Area Conference is being hosted in collaboration with CSTA. There are all sorts of exciting events planned for the conference and we hope you’ll be with us to take advantage of all of them!

The official conference is December 4-6, 2014 but there are will be two full-day field trip options on Wednesday, December 3rd. There will be an array of field trips and short courses as part of the conference. The field trip choices include The Science in your Beer: Chemistry, Microbiology, and Sensory Analysis at Smog City Brewing, Up Close & Personal with Ocean Critters: Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, Slip-Sliding Away: a Palos Verdes Geology Tour, Looking to the Future: Visiting the Endeavour Space Shuttle and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, Journey into Space at the City of Downey, Columbia Memorial Space Center, and Wet & Wild Adventures with the Southern CA Marine Institute. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.

NGSS Implementation Update

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Jessica Sawko

The following provides updates on the status of various aspects of implementing the Next Generation Science Standards in California. Topics covered are statewide assessments for science, curriculum framework development, and NGSS professional learning opportunities.

Assessment

July 15 – 18, 2014 two two-day meetings of science education stakeholders will be held in Sacramento to start the process that was set forth in legislation (AB 484) last year to develop new statewide assessment for science that will comply with federal assessment requirements and align with the Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools. The participants of the stakeholder meeting are California science teachers, individuals with expertise in assessing English learners and pupils with disabilities, parents, and measurement experts. There will be several CSTA members serving as participants in the stakeholder meetings. Our thanks goes to those members who answered CSTA’s call for volunteers and are committing two days of their summer to participate in these important meetings.

Learn More…

Written by Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko

Jessica Sawko is CSTA’s Executive Director.

CSTA Says Good-Bye and Thanks to Board Members

Posted: Tuesday, July 8th, 2014

by Laura Henriques

I would like to use this month’s column to publicly thank our outgoing Board Members. Our spring elections bring new faces and talent to the CSTA Board, but that means we also say good-bye to some colleagues.

There are five Board members whose term just expired, four of whom will be leaving the Board. Their last official Board Meeting was June 14th but we look forward to their continued involvement in CSTA. We also appreciate all that they have done for CSTA.

Heather Wygant joined the Board in 2008. She was fresh from Texas, where she’d been active with STAT (Science Teachers Association of Texas). She served two terms as the CSTA High School representative and one term as Treasurer. She brought us ideas from the Lone Star State and enthusiasm for all things science (especially earth science). While she is officially leaving the Board, Heather will stay active with CSTA serving on the NGSS Committee and the Electronic Communications Committee. Jeanine Wulfenstein, middle school science teacher in Temecula Valley Unified School District, is taking over Heather’s position as Treasurer. Learn More…

Written by Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques

Laura Henriques is a professor of science education at CSU Long Beach and president of CSTA.