Tricia Shelton

Tricia Shelton

By Tricia Shelton

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the Framework for K-12 Science Education articulate a beautiful vision for our students. The overarching goal of the standards is a coherent and rigorous science education for all students that enables them to be critical consumers of science and attain the scientific literacy necessary to be informed citizens, able to engage in public discourse and decision-making on issues of science, engineering, and technology. For those who are so inspired, attaining proficiency in the standards provides students with the foundation needed to pursue much-needed STEM careers.

While the vision for three-dimensional science teaching and learning is clear, there is no single path for how to implement the Next-Generation Science Standards (Kentucky Core Academic Standards for Science). There are, however, thousands of K-12 teachers who can play a central role in transforming science teaching and learning to meet the vision, creating models for translating the standards into strong curriculum and inspired instruction. Kentucky students need you to be one of those voices.

How can teachers build aligned NGSS curriculum and instruction? Through individual reflection and productive struggle, conversation and collaboration with science educators nationwide, and partnerships with classroom supporters, teachers can develop and implement a shared vision for classroom teaching and learning in science.


Teachers all over the nation are finding that if they take the approach of actively engaging in adult learning through reflection on how their new approaches to science teaching are working and being mindful when reviewing resources for implementation, the path seems less daunting. There is always that temptation to look for the easy answers about “How to do the NGSS.” Following someone else’s plans without thoughtful reflection, analysis and debate will not enable us to reach our own understanding. Without our own deep understanding, we cannot truly shift our classrooms in a sustained way to the deep thinking and critical perspectives required in NGSS.

As Brunsell, Kneser, and Niemi so effectively state in one of my favorite new resources, Introducing Teachers and Administrators to the NGSS, (NSTA 2014), “The NGSS represents an evolution of our understanding of the standards, not a complete break with the past.” If we develop a deep understanding of the standards and build our capacity as teachers to coach students toward independent thinking and lifelong learning, we will be able to utilize many of our resources by making revisions and shifts in design, and we will be able to develop our own skills as critical consumers of new resources.

The productive struggle of “figuring it out” for ourselves with support from others is what leads to deep understanding. We know this for our students; what if we applied the same principles to our own learning? What could we build together if we applied this thinking to ourselves when it comes to the standards?

Need support for reflection? NGSSblogs Project

Conversation and collaboration

The NGSS is an opportunity for us to collaborate and have conversations around a national common language. By elevating collective conversation, teachers can build paths to NGSS implementation that empower both teachers and students. Share your NGSS experiences, have conversations with the teacher down the hall, in the next district, on the other side of the state. Collaborate with those teachers by sharing your best lesson and work together to braid it into the NGSS. Learn from each other and together.

The reflection required for sharing powers your own growth, while making your reflections public moves the thinking and learning of others. Imagine the resources we could compile if teachers shared what was working (and not working) with standards implementation in their own classrooms? By building together, we can assemble an ever-evolving resource bank of NGSS support. Here are some opportunities for conversation, collaboration and sharing:

Partnerships with classroom supporters

If the reflection and collaboration support our deep understanding of the NGSS and opportunities to learn and share together, how can we collectively determine a sense of what is “good enough?” How can we ensure we have quality resources, models and unit progressions for NGSS teaching and learning? Through partnerships and community support, we can work together to create models of great classroom teaching and learning. Achieve has managed the partnerships in developing the work on the Next Generation Science Standards from the beginning, and continues to lead by providing resources and support for teachers during implementation. The EQuIP rubric, for example, is a tool for determining how closely instructional materials align with the standards. Evidence statements providing detail on what students should know and be able to do to meet performance expectations have just been released. Visit here.

Another national partner and supporter of classroom teachers is the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA). The NGSS@NSTA Hub is a treasure trove of resources for teachers to learn about the NGSS and translate that learning into the classroom. Resources include articles, webinars, videos, models and, coming soon, an interactive database to support teacher collaboration. Tools and resources like these provide support for teachers to collaborate and build instruction and curriculum.

In our state, we have a commissioner and a state Department of Education who are passionate about supporting teacher leaders; they are advocates for not telling people what to do, but for bringing people together to figure it out. The regional Science Leadership Networks are supporting teachers in building assessment models and learning experiences around the standards, and these groups will be assisting a design vendor in the development of an assessment framework for science. Our state and community partners are providing ongoing support for us to do the work of building instruction and assessment models together.

To reimagine science education, we need more than a set of standards that capture a vision. Teachers are the catalysts for transforming science education; teachers have the practical experience and the day-to-day connections with students to make this happen. Our state department and community and business partners in Kentucky and beyond are ready to provide us with support.

Please become part of the work of building the kind of classroom experience that inspired us to become teachers in the first place – a place of discovery and wonder that leads to investigating our world and building our own understanding of the world. The NGSS is our opportunity to share our voice, our passion, and our gifts on a state and national level to help transform science education. What can you contribute to transform science classrooms to support science literacy so we can ensure those we teach today are ready for tomorrow?

Visit http:/ for more information about our virtual community powered by teachers for teachers and share your talents by becoming part of the conversation.

Tricia Shelton is a science teacher/teacher leader at Boone County High School and a 2014 NSTA Distinguished Teaching Award winner for her contributions to and demonstrated excellence in science teaching.​