Next Generation Science Standards: NSTA releases statement expressing frustration with draft and process

This is NOT the controversy over the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) that we were expecting.

The National Science Teachers Association has released a statement expressing deep frustration with the most recent public draft and the development process.  They say that some of their arguments date back to the development of the NRC’s Framework on which the standards are being based, and that their concerns were ignored then as well.

Some excerpts from the NSTA statement:

NSTA has raised numerous issues throughout the process of reviewing early drafts of NGSS, as well as the Framework. NSTA is pleased to see improvements in the current NGSS draft that have been made since our last review; however, we continue to have serious and extensive concerns about the current content and architecture of the NGSS. These issues are similar to the ones we voiced in our review in November 2011 and January 2012 and are outlined below. The level of our concern has intensified considerably as a result of an increased number of individuals who have seen and commented on the draft. As we inch closer to a final draft of the standards, the NSTA leadership is concerned that some of the issues we have raised have yet to be addressed and strongly recommends that these issues be addressed now so that they are reflected in the next draft. We offer the following seven recommendations to Achieve and strongly encourage its writers to edit the current NGSS draft to reflect these recommendations. NSTA welcomes the opportunity to work together with Achieve and its writers to address these concerns in the current draft…

NSTA Recommendation 1: The NGSS should include a section on Connections to the Nature and History of Science in a manner similar to the Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science.

NSTA Recommendation 2: The front matter of the NGSS should contain an overarching essay that explains the architecture of the standards, including the relationship between the individual performance expectations in a set and how each performance expectation relates to the practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts within the foundation box. The essay should also make clear how the performance expectations, practices, core ideas, and crosscutting concepts should be used in planning instruction and provide some examples for various topics and grade levels.

NSTA Recommendation 3: Each set of performance expectations in the NGSS should include an opening statement that explains why this set of performance expectations has been grouped together.

NSTA Recommendation 4: Every core idea should have at least two performance expectations that probe it. The first performance expectation should combine the core idea with the practice of modeling, explanation, or argumentation, and the second performance expectation should combine the core idea with one of the other five practices. The connection between these performance expectations and the core idea should be explicit.

NSTA Recommendation 5: The appropriate grade level for students to learn a particular science concept in the NGSS should not differ from the recommendations in the National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Science Literacy unless there is published research that provides evidence in favor of the move.

NSTA Recommendation 6: Any assumptions about the resources, time, and teacher expertise needed for students to achieve particular standards should be made explicit (Note: This is identical to Recommendation 11 on p. 305 of A Framework for K–12 Science Education.)

NSTA Recommendation 7: The survey mechanism used for the next public draft of the NGSS should be more user friendly than the mechanism that was used for this first public draft, and the timing of the release should be sensitive to the schedules of all educators, but particularly the schedules of classroom teachers…

NSTA’s most serious and profound concern with the NGSS first public draft is the explicit omission of nature of science. NSTA feels strongly that nature of science must be included in the NGSS, and we have made this appeal in two earlier reports to Achieve following private reviews. This recommendation was also made to Achieve following the release of the final NRC Framework (see www.nsta.org/about/standardsupdate/recommendations.aspx).

NSTA recognizes that the NRC failed to include the nature of science in the Framework, which serves as the foundation for NGSS and charge to Achieve. We consider this omission to be a major weakness of the Framework. Regardless of the omission, we appeal to Achieve to include Connections to the Nature and History of Science in a manner similar to the Connections to Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science. NSTA is also appealing to the National Research Council to encourage them to support this inclusion in the standards.

I can say from recent personal experience that these sorts of arguments over the NGSS draft have been occurring in the background.  What’s most striking about the NSTA statement is that the acrimony has now gone public.  It remains to be seen what effect it will have on the deliberations of states like Florida that are on the fence regarding adoption.

Thanks to FCS’s Jonathan Smith for bringing this to my attention.

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