A new report by the National Research Council offers guidance to schools on necessary steps for putting the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) into practice over the next decade.

Next Generation Science Standards were drawn from A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas, a 2011 Research Council report. Next Generation Science Standards. The standards are based on the ideas that science and engineering involve both knowing and doing; that developing rich, conceptual understanding is more productive for future learning than simply memorizing discrete facts; and learning experiences should be designed with coherent progressions over multiple years.

These concepts are why American students do poorly on standardized tests, compared to countries that teach by rote or memorize facts - which leads to educators and students being routinely criticized - but result in American adults leading the world in science literacy, science output and Nobel prizes.

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The committee's recommendations cover the major elements of the education system that should be considered when implementing the NGSS, including:

  • Teacher and leader learning: State, district, and school leaders should develop comprehensive multiyear plans for professional development for teachers and administrators that balance existing resources, meet expectations for milestones in NGSS implementation, and take advantage of available tools and partners.

  • Curriculum resources: Because full sequences of curriculum materials designed explicitly for NGSS have not yet been developed, states, districts, and schools should not rush to replace course materials. Instead, district leadership teams should work with teachers to revise existing curriculum units and identify supplemental resources to support the new vision of instruction.

  • Assessment: Because past science assessments have chiefly focused on knowledge of facts and procedures, rather than scientific and engineering practices, state science education leaders should create a new system of assessment and monitoring, as well as support teachers in carrying out this change.

  • Collaboration, networks, and partnerships: Science education leaders should reach across the traditional boundaries of schools, districts and, states to share information and expertise and identify potential partners, such as informal education institutions, community organizations, and businesses.

  • Policies and communication: State, district, and school leaders should ensure that state and local policies are consistent with the goals of implementing NGSS, as well as develop a strategy for communicating with parents and community members about the new standards and their implementation.

  • Instruction: Science education leaders should clearly communicate an approach to instruction that is consistent with the framework and NGSS and ensure that their actions, policies, and resource allocations are aligned to support it. Teachers should develop a classroom culture that reflects this approach and make assessment part of instruction.

Along with an understanding of the vision described in the framework, the committee identified the following seven principles by which implementation of the NGSS should be guided:

  • Attend to what is unique about science.

  • Develop and provide continuing support for leadership in science at the state, district, and school levels.

  • Build and leverage networks, partnerships, and collaborations.

  • Take enough time to implement well.

  • Make equity a priority.

  • Ensure that communication is ongoing and relevant.

  • Ensure coherence across levels (state, district, and schools), across grades, and across different components of the system -- curriculum, assessment, instruction, and professional development.

"The NGSS present a vision of science and engineering learning that brings these subjects alive for all students, emphasizing the satisfaction of pursuing compelling questions and the joy of discovery and invention," said Helen Quinn, committee chair and professor emerita of particle physics and astrophysics at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center at Stanford University. "While 13 states and the District of Columbia have already adopted the NGSS, achieving this vision in all science classrooms will be a major undertaking and will require changes to many aspects of science education."

The report was sponsored by the National Science Foundation, College Board, and Burroughs-Wellcome Fund.

Committee on Guidance on Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards

Helen Quinn* (chair)
Professor Emerita of Particle Physics and Astrophysics
SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory (retired)
Stanford University
Palo Alto, Calif.

Matthew Krehbiel
Science Program Consultant
Kansas Department of Education

Michael Lach
Urban Education Institute
University of Chicago

Brian J. Reiser
Professor of Learning Sciences
School of Education and Social Policy
Northwestern University
Evanston, Ill.

Marshall S. Smith
Visiting Scholar
Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
Stanford University
Palo Alto, Calif.

Cary Sneider
Associate Research Professor
Portland State University
Portland, Ore.

Roberta Tanner
Loveland High School
Thompson School District (retired)
Loveland, Colo.

Heidi Schweingruber
Study Director

Member, National Academy of Sciences