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Final Version of New Science Standards Released: What Changes Were Made?
posted by: Cindy Omlin | April 15, 2013, 11:10 PM   

A version of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) has been in the works for two years now. These standards attempt to merge science teaching across the country, much like the Common Core State Standards do in English language arts and mathematics. The new science standards were also developed similarly, with several states forming a partnership and authorizing a committee to create them. 

In January, the standards were made available for one last public comment period and then pulled as the final version was worked on. At the time, we broke down the basic setup along with what was being attempted through these standards. We also noted that they lacked the simplicity of the Common Core State Standards and seemed to be too confusing to follow (So confusing, in fact, it will be helpful for you to refer back to that article before proceeding further). Yesterday, NGSS released the final version of the standards, so what did they change after the comments by teachers?

According to their own document, they:
• Edited 75% of the performance expectations.
• Removed about 33% of the performance expectations and disciplinary core ideas.
• Added Engineering Design performance expectations.
• Added what they called "storylines" to the beginning of each grade level.
• Added examples of how to use the standards with diverse groups of students.
• Changed the way that performance expectations were numbered.

What does this all mean?

In reality, not much has changed as far as the structure of reading the standards go. Each standard still has just as many components as before, which is where teachers will need the most help interpreting what the standards require.

The performance expectations, which make up the heart of the standards, have seen some changes. For example, the standard:

MS-PS2-b Design an investigation to produce empirical evidence supporting the claim that the change in the motion of an object depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. [Clarification Statement: This performance expectation addresses both balanced (e.g. Newton's First Law) and unbalanced forces. Both frame of reference and appropriate choice of units should be specified.] [Assessment Boundary: Forces and change in motion are limited to one-dimension. The use of trigonometry is not an expectation. F=ma is not directly assessed. Only experiments in which one variable is changed are to be assessed. Assessments of measurements of the change in motion are qualitative.]

Has been changed to:

MS-PS2-2 Plan an investigation to provide evidence that the change in an object's motion depends on the sum of the forces on the object and the mass of the object. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on balanced (Newton's First Law) and unbalanced forces in a system, qualitative comparisons of forces, mass and changes in motion (Newton's Second Law), frame of reference, and specification of units.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment is limited to forces and changes in motion in one-dimension in an inertial reference frame and to change in one variable at a time. Assessment does not include the use of trigonometry.]

The wording is different, but the intent is the same and the standard really hasn't changed much. In other cases, the changing of the performance expectations makes quite a difference. For example:

MS-LS1-d Design and conduct an investigation to gather evidence to support explanations that the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells working to form tissues and organ specialized for particular body functions, and that scientific advances in understand of those systems have led to improvements in nutrition, health and medicine. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the interaction of subsystems within a system (i.e. circulatory, excretory, digestive, respiratory, nervous).] [Assessment Boundary: The assessment should provide evidence of students' abilities to identify evidence supporting explanations for the interactions of body systems, and the normal and abnormal functioning of those systems. Assessment should not focus on the mechanism of each body system.]

Has now changed to:

MS-LS1-3 Use argument supported by evidence for how the body is a system of interacting subsystems composed of groups of cells. [Clarification Statement: Emphasis is on the conceptual understanding that cells form tissues and tissues form organs specialized for particular body functions. Examples could include the interaction of subsystems within a system and the normal functioning of those systems.] [Assessment Boundary: Assessment does not include the mechanism of one body system independent of others. Assessment is limited to the circulatory, excretory, digestive, respiratory, muscular, and nervous systems.]

This time the change has a large impact on how the standard will be taught and gives the teacher a better idea of what is expected.

These changes--or the lack of them--will still seem like nothing, however, if the standards are not adopted. And as of this writing, no state has announced that they will be adopting the standards.

Originally posted by Melissa at AAE.

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