NGSS Science Standards

The NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards) will be released on Wednesday, January 9th. Just to be clear, this is not the same as the Common Core Literacy in Science Standards, nor is this a federally funded initiative. States can choose whether or not they are going to adapt the NGSS- though I know that my state of MA is planning on incorporating it by 2016, and I do think that most states will also choose to adopt them.

I had the opportunity to work with some teachers at my school and to review the rough draft of the NGSS and make suggestions and submit our suggestions online. There was a LOT of submitting to do.

The online survey that was used was very helpful- but long and tedious. Every proposed standard had many different elements to it, which makes sense, because the purpose is to get as specific feedback and constructive criticism. The survey was based on a scale of 1-5 for some questions, and for others we would simply type the answer. Questions such as  do you think that the proposed standard is relevant. Secondly, do you think that the standard is easy to read? Which sadly, most of them were NOT easy to read. As a team we made a point that the standards should be easy to read for educators, students, and parents. Why use such fancy language? Who are you trying to impress? I wish I had saved an example, but I never thought I’d be writing a blog post about it! They were sometimes even choppy- as if they copied and pasted about 4 different peoples ideas of how the standards should be stated into one. Also, I am all for high vocabulary, but don’t word it so that it takes a science teacher more than one time to really grasp what it is saying. There is a lot of work to do.

I think that most of the standards were relevant, but only about 80% of them. There were some about the parts of the brain and the nervous system… in detail. I think that we cram too much into our 180 days of biology (in MA at least), so maybe that is shaping my view, but I do not think that a common biology class should be covering the nervous system in detail. That was only one example- and the only one that really stuck out in my mind. The MA standards currently require 11 body systems to be taught… on top of biochemistry, cells, cell division, cell processes (photosynthesis, cell respiration), genetics, evolution, ecology, population genetics and classification.  It might not sound like much, but it is. The perfect situation in my humble opinion? Everything I mentioned above minus the body systems. I LOVE teaching anatomy but it’s too much for my bio kids! At the end of the year what do they remember? There is barely any time to soak it all in- we are moving so fast to get through so much.

I actually stumbled across this PDF from the NGSS website pertaining to the May feedback: Responses to the May Public Draft

I teach in MA, and yes, we do have high standards but our kids do better than other states, so we must be doing something right. I just wish it wasn’t so much! If we do have to teach more subjects, I wish that our schools could somehow split Biology into a Bio I and II.

I was told that a high school science textbook in Japan is a third the size of an average U.S. science textbook. I have not been able to test whether or not this is true, but it would make sense. I know that my students only use about one-third of what is offered in their textbook. We don’t cover nutrition, the embryonic cycle, plant life, nor do we go into great detail about protists, bacteria or the phyla of the animal kingdom. We offer classes to upper classmen that do, but there simply is not enough time or energy to cover it in sophomore biology.

So, my questions for you are:
Do you feel like you are covering too much material or not enough?
Does your school split the biology class?
What types of standards would you like to see in the Common Core Science Standards?

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