Introduction the Next Generation Science Standards: 4 Things to Know

Happy 2015! It’s that time again–time to make your New Year’s resolutions. If you are a K-12 teacher and have not yet familiarized yourself with the new science standards then this blog’s for you! To help you get acquainted with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), here are 4 things to know…


1) Why the new standards were needed:

The last set of national recommendations for science education were published almost 20 years ago (in 1996!). We have new information about effective teaching and learning, a dearth of skilled workers for the job openings in the STEM fields, and we desperately need a citizenry who can make informed decisions on topics such as health and the environment. Not only did we need new standards, but they were long overdue!

2) What’s different about the new standards:

  1. NGSS values depth over breadth in terms of the amount of content to be covered in a science class.
  2. NGSS includes engineering and technology (even though they are distinct fields, they are highly connected to science).
  3. NGSS better defines what it is that scientists and engineers do (the 8 “science and engineering practices” provide a clearer picture than the term “inquiry”).
  4. NGSS advocates three-dimensional learning (i.e., having students carry out the science and engineering practices in order to learn the core ideas and crosscutting concepts). Students should learn the practices in context (they should not be taught separately from the content).
  5. NGSS and the Common Core State Standards are aligned.
  6. Concepts and skills build on each other through the grades.

3) What NGSS-aligned instruction looks like in the classroom:

Check out the video below for an idea of what NGSS can look like in action in a third grade classroom where students are investigating the following question:

Why can a singer shatter a glass with his voice?

For those who teach older or younger students, as you watch the video, consider the implications for your grade level.

[click on the picture below to see the video]

4) How to read and navigate the standards:

Complete the following activity to familiarize yourself with the Next Generation Science Standards. This activity uses the sound unit (from the video above) as the context.

Use this handout to record the appropriate information as you go through the following steps:

  1. Go to:
  2. Click on the tab:   Next Generation Science Standards
  3. Click on:   View the NGSS in Disciplinary Core Idea (DCI) Arrangements
  4. Scroll toward the bottom of the page until you see Physical Sciences and Middle School (6-8), then click on:   MS-PS4 Waves and Their Applications
  5. In the white box you will see 3 “Performance Expectations” (PEs) aka “standards”:
    Select thoseyou think apply to the sound unit the best (in this case there are two that fit well) and record them in your handout (include the code and description in black). Note: sound is a type of mechanical wave.
  6. The blue, orange, and green boxes are called the “Foundations Boxes” because the PEs or standards were written based on the info in these 3 boxes.
    –The blue box describes the “science and engineering practices” (SEPs).
    –The orange box describes the “Disciplinary Core Ideas” (DCIs) or content.
    –The green box describes the “crosscutting concepts” (XCCs) or big ideas that span the sciences.

    • Write the appropriate bolded headings (i.e., only those explicitly linked to the two PEs you identified) from each foundations box in your handout
    • Click on the bolded title in the DCI (orange) box. This will take you to A Framework for K-12 Science Education (the book that was used to write NGSS). Scroll through the pages until you find the grade band end points for middle school. Record what students should know by the end of grade 8 in your handout.
  7. Go back to the standards. Below the foundations boxes, you will see “Common Core State Standards Connections”:
    Record the appropriate ELA and Math CCSS (i.e., those explicitly linked to your identified PE) in your handout. Include the code and write out the CCSS.

Now you have the basic information you need to begin developing NGSS-aligned units–Happy Planning!

Post your questions and comments about planning with NGSS below…


Loading comments...

You must log in before we can post your discussion point.
Don't have an account? Sign up only takes a few seconds
Load More Comments