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Next Generation Science Standards

What exactly is NGSS?

The Next Generation Science Standards are the new innovative standards to help our students become critical-thinking scientists. The focus is on inquiry-based learning, where students question science phenomenons, investigate and come to their own conclusions. The premise is to teach students how to learn in science, not what to learn. 

NGSS Conceptual Shifts

The science standards have not been updated since 1996, and have been through seven conceptual shifts to better educate our students. 

Below is a break down of those conceptual shifts:

Conceptual Shift #1: Practice and Experience in the Real World

Students need to learn how to perform and partake in science like it’s done in real life. Engaging in scientific practices that question and explore scientific phenomenas will prepare students to be successful in future STEM careers. 

Conceptual Shift #2 : Performance Expectations - Not Curriculum Standards

Students need to learn and work towards performance outcomes to accomplish at the end of units and school years. This has been the goal of curriculum for many years, however, preparing and educating students for a performance task is more beneficial than spending time memorizing information for each detailed standard. Our students need to learn how to investigate, explore, problem-solve, and make logical conclusions.

Conceptual Shift #3 : Building Science Knowledge Coherently from K-12

Many curriculums build in depth as the school grades increase, however, NGSS is organized to grow more smoothly, and in a more practical way. This helps students truly understand how the world of science works and how to live and perform in it. The only downfall, is each year is crucial and teachers have to assume the prior information has been taught and mastered. Until students mastery the content, they cannot move forward. If this can be done, year-to-year, students will have a deep understanding of scientific principles. 

Conceptual Shift #4 : Depth and Application

Students are provided with more in depth science material which helps them apply that knowledge year after year. The concept behind the deeper understanding focuses on core ideas with details as supplemental. Students need to understand "the big picture."

Conceptual Shift #5 : Engineering & Technology Integration

Engineering and technology are becoming more prominent in science standards and holding them to the same standards as other science focus areas. These new and improved focal points have a huge impact and relationship to our world and real life. Integrating these practical concepts is more sensible for the future and education of our students. 

Conceptual Shift #6 : NGSS More Aligned with the Future

Our world is advancing and the standards for college and future careers have sky-rocketed. With the innovative path our world is on with new advancements in science, technology, and engineering, our schooling for K-12 needs to match those efforts to properly be prepared.

Conceptual Shift #7: Common Core Aligned

With the national roll out of Common Core State Standards it’s important that the NGSS tie into that. Both these sets of standards hold our students to higher and intelligent standards that will help them succeed throughout their lives. Being aligned together only doubles their opportunity to learn and do so.

Three Dimensions of NGSS

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There are three dimensions in NGSS, and they work together to provide students with a deeper understanding of science. The three dimensions are the SEPs, DCIs, and CCCs.


Science and Engineering Practices

The Scientific and Engineering Practices simply provide an innovative way students can learn from inquiry-based learning. There are many similarities, however, SEPs are more comprehensive and were created to engage students in a science community. In addition to inquiry-based practices, SEPs include Developing and Using Models, Constructing Explanations, and Engaging in Argument from Evidence. SEPs will help students have that evidence and data drive discussion to understand the concept or phenomenons. Together, as a community, they can generate reasoning, and reliable scientific knowledge.


Disciplinary Core Ideas

Disciplinary Core Ideas are the key ideas in the science that are focused on in schools. Before they can be considered a core idea, there are criteria that they need to make. They must be relevant, meaningful, and have explanatory power and assist the understanding of scientific phenomenons. These ideas need to have multiple layers that allow each grade in school to dive deeper into the phenomenons. 


Crosscutting Concepts

Crosscutting Concepts are the "lenses" or perspective that students can evaluate and explore science through. They provide students with the thinking tools to help understand science information. The ability to use a combination of these concept will only provide students with a deeper understanding of what's being examined. They help us analyze and make sense of what the science is telling us. 

Frequently Asked Questions

1. When were NGSS developed?

The writing for NGSS began in 2011, and was completed and released in 2013.

2. Are the performance expectation assessments?

The performance tasks for NGSS are not assessments, however, teachers can use the premise of the performance tasks to assess their students. 


The point of the performance tasks are to teach our students specific skills they should know how to do independently by the end of each grade. They serve as endpoints, because assuming each endpoint and task has been accomplished, the next grade’s teacher can continue to progress in that subject matter. 


Each performance expectation includes skills from each dimension in NGSS, which makes it difficult to access all performance tasks in one assessment phase. The tasks should be used to guide assessment. However, multiple assessments will be needed to judge a students ability to compete each performance expectation. 

3. Do schools have to teach NGSS?

Only 40 states, including California, have adopted the NGSS. Schools in states that have adopted NGSS are required to teach the NGSS. 

California adopted NGSS in September of 2013. 

4. Are the NGSS the same as the CCSS?

The NGSS are a separate collection of standards focusing on science disciplines. The CCSS are a different set of standards that focus on English Language Arts and Mathematics. They are different standards but should be interconnected for the most effective learning experience for students. 

5. How will the NGSS prepare students for college and life?

Our world is remaining innovative and companies are creating innovative products and concepts at an accelerated rate. To keep up with this Science and Technology industries, Education needs to improve their implementation of Science and Mathematics on top of professional skills needed to be fully successful in any career. There needs to be a focus on applying science, engineering, and technology knowledge, and less on memorizing facts for assessments. Students K-12 need to build on knowledge of real-world phenomenons and have a true understanding on how science basic principles are what they are.


Having an understanding for science will serve as the foundation for success, but teachers and education need to increase rigor and challenge students the way that life, college, and careers will. We need to teach students to be life-long learners and continue to always problem solve, and critical think. These skills will help students successfully apply their science skills in their professional careers. Knowing there’s a need for increased education is not the solution, education as a whole needs to implement higher expectations and higher order thinking skills. This change to instruction will provide students with the readiness they'll need to be successful in future jobs, specifically in technology, science, and engineering.

6. Crosscutting Concepts are confusing, can you explain them?

For years, we have been throwing science facts at students indicated to be memorized for assessment purposes. However, knowing simple facts will not make our students successful scientists and engineers. They need to learn how to analyze and make connections of the facts to explain scientific phenomenons. 


The basic science facts can be considered the ingredients for a chocolate cake. Just having the ingredients does not produce a wonderful cake. In order to bake the perfect cake, the baker must have the right equipment and recipe directions. The crosscutting concepts (and the SEPs) serve as the equipment and recipe to transform the ingredients into a delicious cake. They need to be taught HOW to use the ingredients, not just be told, that they indeed need to be used. 


Just like baking, students need to learn how to think about science, not just what information to learn. Through crosscutting concepts they learn how to produce information based on the fundamental facts. 

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