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California Adopts New ‘Next Gen’ Science Standards

Hillel Aron | September 5, 2013

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scientistThe State Board of Education yesterday approved a new set of science standards, dubbed the Next Generation Science Standards, which emphasize “a deeper focus on understanding the cross-cutting concepts” of scientific disciplines, according to a press release by the California Department of education.

The standards were developed in a collaboration with a number of states over the last 18 months. State Superintendent Tom Torlakson will now design a plan and a timeline for implementing them.

“The adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards in California mark a crucial step in making sure our students are prepared to succeed after they leave our classrooms,” Torlakson said. “Scientific information and technology have changed remarkably since the last time California updated its science standards, and how and what we teach have to change with them.”

NGSS, the science equivalent to the Common Core standards or English and math, emphasizes a deeper understanding of concepts within scientific disciplines, integrating engineering and science practices to help students understand the workings of science and the natural world. They also provide a progression of learning from kindergarten through grade 12 so students learn step by step the knowledge and skills they need for college and careers.

State education officials said the new science standards are critical for students who intend to pursue jobs in the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and math, a major component of California’s economy. They cited a 2011 U.S. Department of Commerce study, “STEM: Good Jobs Now and For the Future,” that said jobs in the STEM fields grew three times faster than other jobs over the previous 10 years. The report also forecast that STEM jobs are expected to continue to grow at a faster rate than others in the coming decade.

A recent report by the Thomas B. Fordham Institute pointed to one possible flaw in NGSS, that they do not adequately align with the mathematics section of the new Common Core standards.

“Given the critical overlap between science and math, as well as the NGSS authors’ intention to align their science expectations with the common core math standards, these shortcomings signal a need for caution on the part of states that are serious about implementing the [common core] but that are also considering adopting the NGSS,” reads the report, in part.

For more commentary, see this Ed Week blog post.

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