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MSPnet Blog: “NGSS So far: Is the hippo dancing?”

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posted August 14, 2015 – by Brian Drayton

When the NGSS were being rolled out a couple of years ago, Rebecca Hite wrote a blog post (here) in which she expressed hope for the NGSS, along with a realistic sense of the challenges facing their implementation:

Like the hippo, educational reform is monumental and often ungraceful; to make this creature dance would seem almost impossible. The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are a similar behemoth; we have these great, peer-reviewed, research-based pedagogical standards at the ready to transform science teaching and learning for generations, but on top of everything else that a teacher is responsible for in a day, application can seem a colossal task—especially given the NGSS’s emphasis on process-oriented tasks and the integration of crosscutting concepts and engineering practices.

When I’ve talked with teachers about the NGSS, I hear a lot of variations on “They look good, they moved in the right direction, pretty complex, though, and I am worried about how to incorporate the practices.”  Other teachers have see the “practices” strand as supporting a return to (or continuation of) their ideas about inquiry-oriented teaching.  Publishers and other “education industrialists”  have plunged into the creation and marketing of a range of NGSS-compatible products, of course, and educators in various positions in the educational firmament have worked hard to advocate, articulate, and explain.

On the one hand, I am very skeptical about standards in general, especially when they are used as policy drivers.   I agree with Alberto Rodriguez in wondering why we needed these now, and what the evidence is that the NRC standards had either helped or not, and what the evidence is that the NGSS represents the right direction for change ( See “What about a dimension of engagement, equity, and diversity practices? A critique of the next generation science standards,” in the  Journal of Research in Science Teaching vol 52 pages 1031–1051September 2015 — alas, behind a paywall!!)

On the other hand, I can see how standards can stimulate science teachers to think about their work in fresh ways, and engender some useful collegial discourse.   And in any case, in many states, teachers are having to deal with them, with enthusiasm or without;  and materials and assessments are being tailored to them, so that even in “nonNGSS” states, they are having an impact on science teachers’ lives.

So I’d love to hear (especially if you are a science teacher) — have you been part of the implementation of the NGSS in a school or classroom?  Living with the NGSS, have you changed your mind about them since they first came out?  Have they helped change science teaching, or provided fresh support for good teaching that is already in place?  Does the “practice” emphasis come through, or is it swamped by a content focus?  Are you reaching different students?  Or is it still too early to tell?