Q&A: The Next Generation Science Standards

Ann Franke

By: Ann Franke, WASCD Com­mu­ni­ca­tions Chair
Direc­tor of Sec­ondary Edu­ca­tion, Eau Claire Area School District

 Why were the Next Generation Science Standards Developed?

States have pre­vi­ously used the National Sci­ence Edu­ca­tion Stan­dards from the National Research Coun­cil (NRC) and Bench­marks for Sci­ence Lit­er­acy from the Amer­i­can Asso­ci­a­tion for the Advance­ment of Sci­ence (AAAS) to guide the devel­op­ment of their cur­rent state sci­ence stan­dards. These two doc­u­ments are around 15 years old. Need­less to say, major advances have since taken place in the world of sci­ence and in our under­stand­ing of how stu­dents learn sci­ence effec­tively. In addi­tion, the focus on STEM (Sci­ence, Tech­nol­ogy, Engi­neer­ing and Math) has increased the need for updated sci­ence standards.

What are the components that make up the Next Generation Science Standards?

The Prac­tices: The prac­tices describe behav­iors that sci­en­tists engage in as they inves­ti­gate and build mod­els and the­o­ries about the nat­ural world and the key set of engi­neer­ing prac­tices that engi­neers use as they design and build mod­els and sys­tems. The NRC uses the term prac­tices instead of a term like “skills” to empha­size that engag­ing in sci­en­tific inves­ti­ga­tion requires not only skill but also knowl­edge that is spe­cific to each prac­tice. Part of the NRC’s intent is to bet­ter explain and extend what is meant by “inquiry” in sci­ence and the range of cog­ni­tive, social, and phys­i­cal prac­tices that it requires.

Cross Cut­ting Con­cepts: Cross­cut­ting con­cepts have appli­ca­tion across all domains of sci­ence. As such, they are a way of link­ing the dif­fer­ent domains of sci­ence. They include:

  • Pat­terns, sim­i­lar­ity, and diversity;
  • Cause and effect;
  • Scale, pro­por­tion and quantity;
  • Sys­tems and sys­tem models;
  • Energy and matter;
  • Struc­ture and function;
  • Sta­bil­ity and change.

The Frame­work empha­sizes that these con­cepts need to be made explicit for stu­dents because they pro­vide an orga­ni­za­tional schema for inter­re­lat­ing knowl­edge from var­i­ous sci­ence fields into a coher­ent and scientifically-​based view of the world.

Dis­ci­pli­nary Core Ideas: Dis­ci­pli­nary core ideas have the power to focus K-​12 sci­ence cur­ricu­lum, instruc­tion, and assess­ments on the most impor­tant aspects of sci­ence. To be con­sid­ered core, the ideas should meet at least two of the fol­low­ing criteria:

  • Have broad impor­tance across mul­ti­ple sci­ences or engi­neer­ing dis­ci­plines or be a key orga­niz­ing con­cept of a sin­gle discipline,
  • Pro­vide a key tool for under­stand­ing or inves­ti­gat­ing more com­plex ideas and solv­ing problems,
  • Relate to the inter­ests and life expe­ri­ences of stu­dents or be con­nected to soci­etal or per­sonal con­cerns that require sci­en­tific or tech­no­log­i­cal knowledge,
  • Be teach­able and learn­able over mul­ti­ple grades at increas­ing lev­els of depth and sophistication.

Will the new standards be the new National Standards for Science?

The deci­sion to adopt the stan­dards and make them con­sis­tent among states will lie in the hands of the states them­selves. Accord­ing to the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards web­site: “The goal is to cre­ate robust, forward-​looking K – 12 sci­ence stan­dards that all states can use to guide teach­ing and learn­ing in sci­ence for the next decade” (www.nextgenscience.org). At this time, there is no fed­eral man­date that states adopt the standards.

Has Wisconsin adopted the Next Generation Science Standards?

As of mid-​August, Wis­con­sin has not adopted the Next Gen­er­a­tion Sci­ence Stan­dards. At the end of May, the Joint Com­mit­tee on Finance approved a motion that would ensure that the state take a com­pre­hen­sive look at the Com­mon Core State Stan­dards in Eng­lish Lan­guage Arts and Mathematics.

Accord­ing to a report in the Mil­wau­kee Jour­nal Sen­tinel, this motion will not impact the imple­men­ta­tion of two new test­ing pro­grams for Wisconsin’s stu­dents. The state will adopt SMARTER Bal­anced test­ing in grades 38 and the ACT test­ing suite in grades 911 to gauge stu­dent growth and achieve­ment in read­ing and math. How­ever, it is unclear whether this motion will pre­vent the state from imple­ment­ing com­mon aca­d­e­mic stan­dards in other areas, such as sci­ence and social studies.


Mar­ley, P. (2013). Bud­get panel delays imple­men­ta­tion of com­mon core stan­dards for schools. Retrieved from: JS online

Next Generation Science Standards Website

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