Super excited today as the Next Generation Science Standards roll out for the public.
I've been a part of an amazing process to help write, revise, edit these standards as the National Research Council's 18 expert writers and Achieve have circulated draft after draft to get to this point. My state's efforts have been headed up by Matt Krehbiel from the Kansas State Department of Education who assembled another group of teacher and industry leaders to review, comment and recommend changes throughout the process. Let me tell you Krehbiel rocked this!!! It was an outstanding experience...one of the best I've witnessed and I've done a lot of these kinds of committees.
Two years this process has been going on.
Simply what happened was that the writers would create a set of standards they thought would help K12 develop proficient science students....prepare them to go to college and be successful. Those draft standards would be sent out to the lead states for their review and comment. That's where the committee I was on would go to work. We had teachers, representatives from business and industry and higher education on the committee. It was really a diverse set of interests, expertise and geography (I think there was about 50+ people on the committee so it was big). Our committee would break down things and work thru reading everything and then seeing where we could make suggestions, improvements, point out hole/omissions and identify where clarification would be needed.
The collaborative process
For me, sometimes I worked with middle school standards which makes sense because I have almost 20 years of middle school science experience. Other times I worked with the engineering standards because I have also taught math and computer tech. The exciting part of working on the engineering standards was the chance to collaborate with real world engineers and high school teachers. I can tell you that as we thought about the biology standards, for example, it was wonderful to think about how to best incorporate biotech....and right in our room was a biotech company representative. We'd craft something and then could bounce it off her industry expertise....a real collaboration between education and industry.
Somehow Krehbiel would summarize all this input. That is no small task because this Kansas group was very vocal, extremely passionate about what they felt was best for kids and what would promote the highest levels of learning. So he did above and beyond to find a way to let the diversity of ideas bubbling thru in a concise way that could help Achieve and the authors.
Back and forth the drafts and reviews would go. With each iteration, you could see the impact that the teacher's voice was having on the standards. I think that was probably the most gratifying thing about this work. So often things happen to me, as a down-in-the-trenches-teacher, and I have no voice, no input, no way to influence the process.
NGSS connected and cross-referenced to Common Core for ELA and Math
I also really like how the standards cross-reference back to ELA and Math Common Core standards. It makes the actual document a little complicated, but I welcome that degree of complexity if it takes the guesswork out of where, how and why NGSS connects back to the skills and process of Common Core. You'll also see that each page of standards actually "houses" the science concepts, the cross-cutting concepts (things I think we used to call the Big Ideas of Science) and the Practices. Again....it makes this one page jammed packed and a little overwhelming to look at....but soon enough I adapted to the format and now have grown to appreciate how clever and convenient it is for a teacher that is doing their planning and lesson design.
Energized and elevated with teacher voice
But in this NGSS, I can tell you there is lots of teacher voice. And imagine. This Kansas committee was only 1 of the 22 states that chose to participate. I can't tell you what went on in those states, but if it was anything like what I witnessed here in Kansas.....there was a huge amount of teacher input to these standards. Thank goodness the State Board voted to let us participate as a lead state. This way our input was heard (and I could tell you multiple places where I could see changes made that responded to comments that I personally helped make). It won't feel like something that WashingtonDC did to us....it's our document.
In my state, the standards will come up for review by the State Board of Education. I feel that they represent the best we could write. Are they perfect? Probably not but I feel like they are pretty darn good and will elevate the "bar" for science teaching in our state.
Take a look. Read thru them. Imagine where our students will be after they've had a chance to model, use scientific argumentation, modeling of different phenomenon, investigate, compare the pros/cons of these approaches, design a tool to ________, etc etc etc.
I think these will excite and energize our profession.