March/April 2017 – Vol. 29 No. 6

The NGSS and College and Career Readiness – or – How I Spent My Summer Vacation

Posted: Saturday, September 1st, 2012

By Pete A’Hearn

Both the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) are based on the idea of college and career readiness. So what does that really mean in this day and age? I had the opportunity this summer to spend time finding out. A local business organization, the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, organized a set of field trips to visit job sites in the energy and utilities sectors. Designed for teachers involved in utilities and alternative energy career pathway programs, it was a chance to see which skills and knowledge people working in science related careers were using in their jobs, and what helped them to advance and be successful. We visited a geothermal energy plant, wastewater treatment plants, electrical grid operations, irrigation canals, and spoke with city planners. I also visited a distillery to learn about the process of producing bio-fuels for biology and chemistry classes. In the process, I not only met microbiologists, geologists, engineers, and chemists with college degrees, but also many workers without college degrees who use science everyday in their well-paying jobs. Things I learned:

  • There are many high paying jobs with good benefits and room for advancement that do not require college degrees. They do require certifications to advance and these are heavy on the science and math of the job.
  • Many of these workers will tell you that they are close to retirement and there are not enough qualified workers to take their place.
  • College doesn’t necessarily mean four-year university, but it does mean continuing career education through community college or trade organizations. This continuing education is usually what separates a solid career from low wage, dead end jobs.
  • Employers mention the importance of “soft skills” more often than actual content. These include the ability to work on teams and being a conscientious employee and are lacking in many applicants.
  • Basic algebra skills and the ability to apply them are essential to most of these jobs.
  • The ability to rapidly adopt new technology is essential.
  • There are plenty of jobs even in a time of high employment, but many workers lack the skills and knowledge to take them.
  • The school subjects most often cited as important was “math and science,” but many workers mentioned that good written communication was becoming increasingly important.

So, do the NGSS support this type of college and career readiness? It would seem so, as I can clearly see college and career readiness in the scientific practices, especially:

#4. Analyzing and interpreting data

#5. Using mathematics and computational thinking

#6. Constructing explanations (for science) and designing solutions (for engineering)

#8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information.

The inclusion of Engineering and Technology Standards and the focus on problem solving and teamwork are a huge move toward career readiness. In many ways the NGSS move strongly away from the hostility toward science applications that I perceive in the current California science standards. However, I have a nagging doubt that the content standards are still too bloated and too much a college professor’s wish list, rather than being truly representative of essential college and career skills and giving students the time to really engage in practices and application.

I’d love to hear your opinions on this.

P.S.- In case you are worried, I didn’t spend the whole summer investigating workplaces, there was plenty of time spent at the beach and in the mountains.

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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.

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The pre-publication version of the new California Science Curriculum Framework is now available for download. This publication incorporates all the edits that were approved by the State Board of Education in November 2016 and was many months in the making. Our sincere thanks to the dozens of CSTA members were involved in its development. Our appreciation is also extended to the California Department of Education, the State Board of Education, the Instructional Quality Commission, and the Science Curriculum Framework and Evaluation Criteria Committee and their staff for their hard work and dedication to produce this document and for their commitment to the public input process. To the many writers and contributors to the Framework CSTA thanks you for your many hours of work to produce a world-class document.

For tips on how to approach this document see our article from December 2016: California Has Adopted a New Science Curriculum Framework – Now What …? If you would like to learn more about the Framework, consider participating in one of the Framework Launch events (a.k.a. Rollout #4) scheduled throughout 2017.

The final publication version (formatted for printing) will be available in July 2017. This document will not be available in printed format, only electronically.

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From time to time CSTA receives contributions from guest contributors. The opinions and views expressed by these contributors are not necessarily those of CSTA. By publishing these articles CSTA does not make any endorsements or statements of support of the author or their contribution, either explicit or implicit. All links to outside sources are subject to CSTA’s Disclaimer Policy: http://www.classroomscience.org/disclaimer.