On July 9th, 2014, the New Jersey State Board of Education adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as the K-12 standards basis for New Jersey public schools. With the adoption of the standards, teachers and students alike can expect to see significant changes in the scope and nature of science education compared to traditional models encountered in K-12. Amongst the many conceptual shifts presented, perhaps most exciting is the introduction of Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science as a fourth discipline of science education.
The Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science strand (known as ETS in the standards document), joins the three more traditionally encountered disciplines of science: physical, life, and earth and space systems science, to present a more comprehensive overview of scientific enterprise and its implications. The standards also include a unique organizational structure, and utilize recurring concepts such as the 8 practices of science and engineering to paint a more complete picture of what instruction for mastery of a performance expectation looks like. The organizational structure and tools embedded in each standard, such as cross-cutting concepts, allow teachers to more easily draw connections within and across subject areas for creating more integrative learning experiences. The standards themselves are both exciting and daunting in that they present a solid research based foundation to better prepare students to engage meaningfully in science and engineering consistent with how it is used in the real world, but also require developing an understanding of new concepts and language.
While the standards were adopted this year, the statewide roll-out and evaluation accountability time frame starts during the 2016-2017 school year for teachers in grades 6-12. In the interim, teachers and administrators will be challenged to modify existing curriculum or develop new ways to demonstrate proficiency in both science and engineering / technology studies consistent with the standards. The standards provide an in-depth framework for performance expectations, however lack necessary guidance on execution. This issue requires careful planning and oversight to ensure readiness for the 2016 school year.
For more information on the Center’s work in helping districts understand standards reform, or to develop and implement high quality instructional materials consistent with NGSS, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
– Aleksandr Sadiwnyk, Consultant