Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
Data from the 2012 National Survey of Science and Mathematics Education suggest that schools and districts are woefully unprepared for the NGSS in several areas.
First and foremost, the frequency and duration of elementary science instruction is noticeably inadequate, averaging Horizon Research, Inc. 22 April 2013 only about 20 minutes a day. Without more instructional time devoted to science, students will not have opportunity to engage with the concepts, ideas, and practices described by the NGSS.
Second, schools and districts must equip teachers with the supplies and materials they need for science instruction. Teachers cannot be expected to successfully implement the NGSS without the resources to carry out instructional activities that provide students with opportunities to use the scientific practices in the standards.
Finally, serious consideration should be given to how the professional development system needs to be adjusted, in terms of the amount, structure, and content of science-focused professional development, to support implementation of the NGSS. A substantial proportion of elementary teachers see themselves as inadequately prepared to teach chemistry, physics, and especially engineering topics. Furthermore, program representatives and teachers both indicate that current science-related professional development opportunities are lacking. Considering that the use of science specialists and pull-out instruction for both remediation and enrichment are rare, professional development will be critical for preparing classroom teachers to successfully implement the NGSS.
Although teachers hold some views contrary to learning theory (e.g., providing definitions prior to experience, using hands-on activities primarily to reinforce ideas already learned), they also express views about science instruction that closely align with what is known about how students learn (e.g., most class periods should provide opportunities for students to share their thinking and reasoning, most class periods should conclude with a summary of the key ideas addressed). In addition, teachers generally see themselves as emphasizing reform-oriented instructional objectives, and they report incorporating multiple modes of engagement, frequently utilizing class discussions and hands-on/laboratory activities. The challenge for the field will be making the most of these areas of opportunity while simultaneously supporting teachers to deepen their content knowledge and align their practice more closely with the vision of science instruction expressed in the NGSS.