It has now been over a year since the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) were finalized in April 2013. While 26 states actively participated in the development of the standards (the NGSS official site calls them “lead state partners”), the adoption process has been slow and controversial. As of March 2014, the District of Columbia and just eleven states have accepted the standards: California, Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Nevada, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington—ten of which were lead partners during NGSS development. Unlike the rapid-fire state adoptions after the release of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), the NGSS have evoked careful consideration from each state.

If 26 states were active participants in NGSS development, why haven’t more adopted the standards? Timing seems to be a key factor to NGSS consideration. Several states, including Tennessee, have reported that because their current state science standards are not due for review, they are not looking at the possibility of adopting the NGSS. Some states, such as North Carolina and Minnesota, have only recently adopted or revised their current science standards and will not be able to seriously consider the NGSS until their next revision period. Other states, such as New Jersey, are approaching a revision period but are still treading lightly in order to best weigh their options.

As we highlighted in an earlier blog post, the cost implications associated with implementing a new set of standards is a cause of concern for many states. The financial strain of creating new curricula and training educators is a serious consideration for many states that are reviewing already tight budgets. Additionally, a majority of states have been implementing the CCSS and dealing with the costs associated with it, and adding the cost of another set of standards may pose short-term challenges. Even with federal incentives, states in the process of implementing the CCSS have invested heavily in creating new curricula, purchasing required equipment, training their educators and transitioning their students; for instance, Florida has announced the need to delay NGSS review because resources are currently occupied with the CCSS.

Even for those states that have already adopted the NGSS, there is some concern for the amount of training educators will need to undergo. If a state were to implement both the CCSS and the NGSS, elementary teachers, for example, would now be tasked with learning the new standards and revising their curricula for math, ELA and science.

Some states are hesitant to adopt the NGSS because they standardize when subject areas are taught, which may be vastly different from the time that the state currently covers those topics. Other states may feel that their current standards are up to par, or that their own standards are similar enough that it would not be cost-effective to make the change. This has even been the case for some of the lead state partners of the NGSS; Massachusetts, while a supporter of the NGSS, ultimately decided not to adopt. Instead, it revised its current science standards using many of the ideas of the NGSS. The state modeled the disciplinary core ideas and practices of the NGSS, but made some key changes that include presenting middle-school science as grade-by-grade rather than as a grade span, defining college and career readiness for science and technology/engineering (STE), and making technology/engineering its own discipline.

What does seem to be consistent about states considering the NGSS is careful appraisal with multi-source input and plans for gradual implementation. The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) has stated, “It is important to remember that adoption does not mean instant implementation,” and that if standards are adopted, they will be “through a thoughtful transition and implementation process.”
And for those that are either hesitant or not inclined to adopt the NGSS, they may just need more time. Keep an eye out for our next blog post, where an educator weighs in!

Did You Know?

In August, the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and MasteryConnect released a free NGSS app. In addition to a search feature, the app allows for different views of the standards and links any connections to MasteryConnect’s Common Core App. The NSTA has also provided links to free resources geared towards learning about and working with the NGSS.