Summary of AAPT Sponsored Discussion Group Response to Achieve on the Next Generation Science Standards First Draft
May 31, 2012
General comments provided to Achieve about first draft of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are based on the discussions at a meeting of experienced high school physics teachers and representatives from the American Association of Physics Teachers, the American Physical Society, the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Physics, the American Society for Engineering Education, and the Department of Energy on May 29, 2012. The major flaw of the current NGSS document is, in the opinion of this group, its lack of intellectual support of the National Research Council’s A Framework For K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas (http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=13165). The group believed that the over-arching goals set forth in the Framework are praiseworthy (integrating practices of science and engineering to engage students to want to learn about science and to approach science as a multi-disciplinary endeavor). The group had anticipated that the Science Standards would extend the intellectual and pedagogical structure of the Framework to the formulation of the Science Performance Expectations. Unfortunately, the NGSS document does not fulfill that anticipation.
The performance expectations seem to have been generated by picking one disciplinary core sub-topic and attaching it randomly to one of the science and engineering practices. The group argued that for each disciplinary core sub-topic there should be several performance expectations, each involving one or more science and engineering practices.
The group was surprised by the lack of connection with previous articulations of science education standards. For example, the AAAS Benchmarks have formulations that would have been useful in framing the NGSS document. Also, the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics have clarity of language, a straightforward progression of concepts, clear examples and so on, all of which could have provided models for the NGSS.
Other important pedagogical issues, such as equity, development of enrichment of understanding in progressing through grades and grade bands, etc. are all in the NRC Framework, but are absent (or at least well hidden) in the current NGSS document.
Finally, based on the group’s experience working with a wide range of K-12 science teachers, they argued that successful implementation of the Framework and the NGSS will require substantial changes in the preparation of K-12 STEM teachers and enhanced and continuing professional development of current K-12 STEM teachers, particularly at the elementary school level. Even teachers with excellent content knowledge will need professional development activities to assist them in implementing the science and engineering practices both in student learning and in student performance assessments. The NGSS should make that need explicit so schools of education, college and university STEM departments, STEM professional societies, state STEM teacher groups, and funding agencies can begin planning for the required professional development.