February 2016 – Vol. 28 No. 6

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 past-president of CSTA. She serves as chair of CSTA’s Nominating Committee and is a co-chair of the NGSS Committee.

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

Leave a Reply

LATEST POST

Applications Invited for Appointment to the California Practitioners Advisory Group

Posted: Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

The State Board of Education (SBE) is currently seeking applications to fill up to 15 positions on a newly constituted advisory committee, which will be called the California Practitioners Advisory Group (CPAG), to provide input to the SBE on ongoing efforts to establish a single coherent local, state, and federal accountability system. The advisory committee will also serve as the state’s committee of practitioners under federal Title I requirements.

All applicants must currently meet one or more of the practitioner categories listed below:

  • Superintendents or other Administrators
  • Teachers from traditional public schools and charter schools and career and technical educators
  • Principals and other school leaders
  • Parents of student(s) currently enrolled in the K-12 public education system
  • Members of local school boards
  • Representatives of private school children
  • Specialized instructional support personnel and paraprofessionals
  • Representatives of authorized public chartering agencies
  • Charter school leaders
  • Education researchers

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.

Review the High School Draft of the K-12 Computer Science Framework

Posted: Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

The first review period for the K-12 Computer Science (CS) framework – developed by Code.org, the Computer Science Teachers Association, and the Association for Computing Machinery, along with more than 100 advisors within the computing community – begins February 3 with the release of the high school (grades 9-12) layer of concepts and descriptions of K-12 practices. We invite you to review the framework and participate in the opportunity to shape a vision for K-12 CS education. 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.

2016 – Already a Busy Year in California Science Education

Posted: Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

by Lisa Hegdahl

As I write this message, it is the waning days of January. Only the first month of 2016 and yet a great deal is happening in Science education within the California Science Teachers Association and the state of California as a whole. Indeed, this an exciting time to be a science educator. Let’s take a look back at all that has taken place these past few weeks.

California Science Framework Public Review Sessions

Science educators gathered in San Diego on December 2, 2015 to review and provide feedback on the first public draft of the California Science Curriculum Framework.

Science educators gathered in San Diego on December 2, 2015 to review and provide feedback on the first public draft of the California Science Curriculum Framework.

The beginning of January 2016 found California at the end of the first public review of the draft California Science Framework.  A dedicated, 25 member, CSTA NGSS Committee under the leadership of co-chairs Laura Henriques, Past President of CSTA, and Peter A’Hearn, CSTA Region 4 Director, coordinated 30 Framework review sessions in 22 California counties in which 625 educators participated. In addition, many people sent their feedback directly to the California Department of Education. The members of the NGSS committee, those that read the Framework, and those who attended and hosted review sessions, volunteered in order to make the Framework useful for all of us. This represents countless hours of personal time. You can be confident that CSTA will keep you informed about the dates for the 2nd public review of the draft CA Science Framework currently scheduled for June-July 2016. A copy of CSTA’s response to the first draft is available here (1MB). I will be attending the two meetings where public comments are considered (February 19 and March 18) by the Science Subject Matter Committee of the Instructional Quality Commission to advocate on behalf of CSTA membership. 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.

The NGSS Crosscutting Concepts ARE Science Content!

Posted: Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Pete A’Hearn

“How come if people evolved from monkeys, monkeys aren’t turning into people now?”

Evolution-Ahearn-1

I’m going to bet that any science teacher who has taught evolution has run into this question at some point. There are a bunch of incorrect assumptions behind the question, including the idea that evolution is a process that we could observe occurring during our lifetimes. This idea is directly addressed as part of the NGSS Crosscutting Concept of Scale, Proportion, and Quantity with the idea that:

  • Phenomena that can be observed at one scale may not be observable at another scale.

and

  • Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

(Note that this is not the crosscutting concept called out in the middle school evolution topic. Teachers will need to used multiple crosscutting concepts as well as multiple practices in building coherent units – not just the ones highlighted in the standards). Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by Peter AHearn

Peter AHearn

Peter A’Hearn is the K-12 science specialist in the Palm Springs Unified School District and is Region 4 Director for CSTA.

The Big Idea Page: A Creative Way to Emphasize the Crosscutting Concepts for Three Dimensional Learning

Posted: Monday, February 8th, 2016

by Jennifer Weibert

Making three-dimensional learning a reality in the classroom of teachers starting to implement the NGSS can be a struggle. In many cases, the Crosscutting Concepts are often an afterthought. According to A Framework for K-12 Science Education, “…the purpose of the Crosscutting Concepts is to help students deepen their understanding of the disciplinary core ideas, and develop a coherent and scientifically based view of the world” (NRC, 2012). This is achieved via the Crosscutting Concepts, “because they provide an organizational schema for interrelating knowledge from various science fields into a coherent and scientifically based view of the world” (Achieve, 2016). The NGSS were designed for all three dimensions (Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas, and Crosscutting Concepts) to work together allowing the teacher to create an environment where students make sense of real world phenomena. To measure the success of this in an NGSS aligned classroom, teachers need access to evidence of student understanding and thinking. The Big Idea Page was my solution for that. Learn More…

Powered By DT Author Box

Written by NGSS Early Implementer

NGSS Early Implementer

In 2015 CSTA began to publish a series of articles written by teachers participating in the NGSS Early Implementation Initiative. This article was written by an educator(s) participating in the initiative. CSTA thanks them for their contributions and for sharing their experience with the science teaching community.