Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Education Commissioner Terry Holliday

Spring is officially here, and with it comes the release of the first draft of the Next-Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

As with the Common Core State Standards initiative that produced new K-12 mathematics and English/language arts standards, the development of new science standards will play a critical role in our efforts to prepare all Kentucky students to succeed in college and the workplace.

National science standards have not been revised for 15 years, and much has changed in that time. Meanwhile, American students continue to lag internationally in science education, making them less competitive for the jobs of the present and the future. A recent U.S. Department of Commerce study showed that over the past decade, growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) jobs was three times greater than that of non-STEM jobs. The report also showed that STEM jobs are expected to grow at a faster rate than other jobs in the coming decade.

Certainly we in Kentucky are attune to this and have been working to improve achievement and access for students in the STEM disciplines. Our efforts are being driven by 2009’s Senate Bill 1, which, among other things, mandated that Kentucky implement new academic standards that will prepare the state’s children for a competitive world environment. We are looking to the NGSS progress to help us meet this mandate in science. The release this spring is important because it will allow teachers and educators to review what is being developed and give them the opportunity to shape the standards before they are adopted. As with any changes we undertake in Kentucky, teacher and educator input is critical. The development of the NGSS is a two-step progress and is being managed by Achieve, a non-partisan education non-profit organization. The first stage of the process involved the release of a Framework for K-12 Science Education by the National Research Council last summer. This framework describes the conceptual basis for the organization and content of the NGSS. The framework can be downloaded and read for free here

The National Science Teachers Association also has released a Readers Guide to the Framework. This Reader’s Guide unpacks the three key dimensions of the framework — scientific and engineering practices, crosscutting concepts and core ideas in each specific discipline — allowing teachers, administrators, curriculum developers, university professors and others to more easily grasp how the soon-to-be-released Next Generation Science Standards will differ from the current standards. The Readers Guide can be downloaded for free here.

The second stage of the process is the development of the science standards based on the framework. As one of 26 designated Lead State Partners, Kentucky is actively involved in this work and has agreed to give serious consideration to adopting the NGSS once completed next winter. (As with the Common Core State Standards in mathematics and English/language arts, individual states will have to decide whether to adopt the new science standards.)

While Kentucky Department of Education staff and other Kentuckians have been engaged in this work, I strongly encourage teachers and educators to take this opportunity to voice their opinions during the NGSS public comment period this spring. The public comment period runs until June 1, and the draft standards can be found here. Your insights are critical to the development and eventually implementation and success of these new standards. We cannot do it without you.