The Next Generation Science Standards: An Historic Opportunity for K-12 Earth and Space Science Education
Friday, 19 December 2014: 1:55 PM
The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) provide an historic opportunity to significantly improve Earth and space science (ESS) education nationally at the K-12 level. The increased emphasis on ESS related topics in the NGSS relative to previous standards provides a real opportunity for ensuring all K-12 students in adopting states learn about the ESS - allowing us to reach many more students than are currently are exposed to our discipline. The new standards are also exciting in that they explicitly couple science and engineering practice, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas in such a way that student must actively demonstrate their understanding through actions rather than through mere regurgitation of memorized responses. Achieving mastery of NGSS Performance Expectations will require practice with higher-order learning skills - with students engaging in the practices of scientists and engineers. Preparing students for this mastery will be a challenging task for teachers, since in many states professional development support is limited at best for the current curriculum - let alone the curricula that will be developed to address the NGSS. As adoption of the NGSS expands across the country, states will be at various levels of implementation of the new standards over the next several years - and there is real concern that teachers must have sufficient professional development to be able to be successful in preparing their students - particularly in view of likely coupled assessments and teacher evaluations. NESTA strongly supports implementation of the NGSS, and the rigorous and compelling ESS education it will engender, when coupled with a strong emphasis nationwide on teacher professional development. For the past two years, the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) has continued our leadership in K-12 ESS education through workshops, web seminars, events and publications that emphasize implementation of the NGSS in ESS-related courses. Our recent survey of K-12 Earth and space science educators confirms widespread enthusiasm about the potential offered by the new standards, as well as concern about the urgent need for professional development to support teacher implementation of the standards.