The recently completed Next Generation of Science Standards document attempts to address the needs of a variety of learners. The team tasked with writing the standards document is dedicated to promoting equity in schools and addressing the challenges and opportunities present among a variety of learners. This commitment to diversity in science curriculum is evident in the work they have completed so far. As the documents continue to be revised and refined, this commitment will continue until every learner has an entry point and avenue for continued scientific growth.
The most recently released National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) data shows that only 32 percent of eighth graders proved to be proficient on the 2011 science assessment. Specific sub-group data details some gender differences in scores such as male students scoring five points higher than females, and achievement score variations among some cultural and socioeconomic groups. This data strengthens the case for including diversity in the science curriculum and the necessity for a set of comprehensive science standards that is applicable to all students.
It is important to remember that the Next Generation Science Standards are still in draft form. The first version was released to the public in May, 2012 and, after a three-week window followed for feedback, the committee is revising the draft, with the next draft due for public release in Fall, 2012.
Supporting documents were also released including an overview of the section which focuses on diversity entitled "All Standards, All Students." Created by the equity and diversity team, an arm of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), writers focused specifically on diversity in science curriculum. This section aims to address the needs of a variety of learners. It will identify instructional strategies, additional resources, and possible targeted adaptations and modifications to make the NGSS a document that benefits all learners. The final version of this chapter will include vignettes focused on support for student groups such as English Language Learners (ELL), students with disabilities, economically disadvantaged students, and racial and ethnic minorities. The May release included research and additional information on the NGSS in regards to:
- English Language Learners (ELL): Because science education requires a vast vocabulary of technical and content-specific vocabulary, many English language learners struggle because of language skills. The Next Generation Science Standards encourage teachers to integrate instructional strategies used for literacy development, such as activating prior knowledge, explicit instruction on reading strategies, and the use of graphic organizers. Teachers may also want to teach the specific genre of scientific writing and record keeping.
- Students with Disabilities: The Next Generation Science Standards are written for special needs students in the inclusion classroom, resource room setting, or self-contained classroom. The writing panel encourages teachers to use a variety of instructional methods, based on students' Individualized Education Programs (IEP) or growth goals, so that students may fully learn the scientific concepts. Accommodations and modifications can easily be made to the standards documents to alter delivery, practice, application, or assessment.
Every child deserves the equal opportunity to learn science. We are very pleased about the steps that the NGSS will take to make science learning accessible to children of multiple intelligences, as well as those with diverse cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds. It is an exciting time in education!
Get a leg up on the NGSS—coming this fall. Download our FREE on-demand webinar, “Cutting Edge Science,” and see how the standards will impact your instruction.