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