NGSS is Science Education Plague

12 Nov

Three bad ideas have taken root in California; common core, charter schools and NGSS (Next Generation Science Standards and Framework). There is growing awareness of the draw backs associated with common core’s top down control of schools and the often fraudulent and unstable charter school movement. On the other hand, most people have not heard of the NGSS. Monday, I was required to attend a “professional development” day focused on NGSS.

I teach math and physics at Mar Vista High School in Imperial Beach, California. It is a magical place. The school sits about 6 blocks from the beach. Once, I actually walked down that beach and made an unconventional crossing into our neighbor suburb, Las Playas de Tijuana. Mexico is that close. Naturally, a lot of Spanish is spoken by our amazingly peaceful and kind students.

My district has set up cohorts made up of teachers from four high schools, tasking selected teachers in the various subject areas with leading professional development activities. Since I teach in two core areas, math and science, I am required to go for both NGSS and CCSS indoctrination (buying into these regimes is required for teacher leaders and administrators if they want to keep their jobs). Unfortunately, the creation of both NGSS and CCSS was led by testing company executives and CEO’s like Louis Gerstner from IBM and not experts in pedagogy.

These business executives have recklessly foisted their misguided education policies on America; not even pilot testing the transmogrification they propose. Political pressure driven by a few billionaires causes these changes to be abruptly instituted. Instead of a reasoned and thoughtful roll out of radical curricular changes, schools are forced to transition to them immediately, creating extreme discontinuities in the learning sequence.

For our NGSS training, we started with a November article in Science Scope magazine by Joe Krajcik called “Three-Dimensional Instruction – Using a New Type of Teaching in the Science Classroom.” He tells us that “Classrooms incorporating three-dimensional learning will have students build models, design investigations, share ideas, develop explanations, and argue using evidence, all of which allow students to develop important 21st century skills such as problem solving, critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and self management.” Honestly, the only thing that appears new here is developing 21st century skills instead of 20th century skills.

These are all known principles of cognitive development that have been around for more than a century. They reflect the work of Dewey, Vygotsky and Piaget. It is the constructivist approach. I endorse that kind of pedagogy, however, the poorly written NGSS standards (close to undecipherable) are being forced onto students without matching cognitive readiness, violating Vygotsky’s “zone of proximal development” theory.

For example, approximately 30 core ideas are to be investigated by students and assessed in kindergarten through 2nd grade. Six science standards are to be introduced in kindergarten including earth’s systems, motion and stability, forces and interactions, and engineering design. At the same time, CCSS require that these babies learn to read, write and do math. Not even the Chinese expect babies to forgo childhood to be scholars destined to advance the economic engine. It is a huge mismatch in cognitive development that portends permanent damage.

The disturbing part of my training was the sight of three bright young teachers caught up in this “corporate education reform” sausage grinder. The week before our cohort met they were pulled out of classes for a day to work with district curricular leaders on planning the event. They gathered materials, planned a lab activity and tried very hard to take us through a demonstration lesson that illuminated the three dimensions of learning. We all had a nice day off from teaching and tried not to be negative Nancy’s, but none of the real issues with NGSS were discussed.

At the high school level, NGSS standards require integrated science just like common core requires integrated math. My school tried integrated math in the 1990’s and abandoned it as a bad idea. Now, I am teaching integrated math III. However, science is different than math. Most math teachers have enough background in algebra, geometry and statistics to teach any level of integrated math. It is the rare science teacher who has expertise in all science domains: earth science, biology, chemistry and physics.

NGSS writers posited that chemistry and physics principles like Newton’s laws, the gas laws, and atomic structure would be so thoroughly apprehended by 8th grade, that it would not be necessary to teach them in high school. In high school, student are to create reports and videos that explain the energy transformations behind global warming and how Darwin’s laws of evolution correctly explain the development of life. There are almost no high school chemistry or physics standards in NGSS.

I personally believe that the existence of global warming caused by human activity (burning fossil fuels) is settled science. I also think Darwin was a gifted scientific observer whose theory of evolution is well founded. On the other hand, why overweight the standards with these two controversial topics? I am not saying ignore them, but they are central to these new science standards and they do not need to be.

NGSS was never pilot tested and was rushed into existence before people had a chance to vet it. Therefore, NGSS is full of errors and horribly misaligned.

NGSS is another of those dreams held by a rich powerful man that has been ramrodded into existence. Luis Gerstner the former CEO of IBM started campaigning for these standards in 1995. In 1996, he talked the National Governors Association into making him chairman of a new non-profit named Achieve Incorporated. Achieve was charged with making his standards dream a reality. He remained the chairman of Achieve until the standards were completed in 2013 and copyrighted by Achieve Inc.

Unlike Bill Gates, Gerstner did not drop out of school. And not only did he complete school himself, he hired many people who had been to school. These are his only qualifications for leading education policy in America. Like Gates’s common core, Gerstner’s NGSS is terrible education policy that came about because America’s democratic process and the principal of local control of education were sundered.

10 Responses to “NGSS is Science Education Plague”

  1. Ed Detective November 13, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on World's Greatest Detective of Education and commented:
    Oligarchs playing mind control games with an entire nation of youth. Is this not evil?

  2. Jay Fogleman November 4, 2017 at 1:16 pm #

    Though your concerns about the common core and NGSS are thoughtful and well articulated, several of your statements about the NGSS are misleading. The NGSS standards are based on the NGSS Framework published by the National Research Council (See https://www.nextgenscience.org/framework-k-12-science-education). The Framework is not based on a corporate agenda, but on forty years of science education research, as well as feedback from many scientists and teachers. The NGSS does not advocate a particular organization of courses, e.g. integrated or subject-specific. One purpose of the NGSS is to clarify for classroom teachers what is understood about how best to represent science to young learners as more than just a collection of facts or vocabulary words. Given that the NGSS align with your own constructivist views of teaching and learning, I encourage you to read the Framework and keep an open mind regarding how you can use your district’s NGSS momentum to strengthen your own program.

  3. tultican November 7, 2017 at 12:01 am #

    Sorry I so lagged responding to your thoughtful comments. However, I do disagree and by the way I did read the frameworks document. Like I wrote, “Luis Gerstner the former CEO of IBM started campaigning for these standards in 1995. [actually 1994 if you count his book] In 1996, he talked the National Governors Association [which he hosted at the IBM facility in upstate New York] into making him chairman of a new non-profit named Achieve Incorporated. Achieve was charged with making his standards dream a reality. He remained the chairman of Achieve until the standards were completed in 2013 and copyrighted by Achieve Inc.” By writing “corporate education standards” I am pointing to the fact that these standards were a top down development motivated by corporate leaders and not education professionals. NGSS was pushed hard by Gerstner and Bechtel.

    I thought the frameworks could be valuable as a text for graduate studies in developing science curriculum. I have personal friends who worked on the frameworks and have high regard for their thinking, but the standards that resulted are awful. They are difficult to read, confusing and pedagogically misaligned. And the standards do require integrated science.

    Politicians and billionaires need to stop meddling in education because they do not even know what they don’t know. Educators and parents should lead education curriculum. Authoritarian standards are a danger to good education.

  4. William P Graves June 12, 2018 at 6:51 am #

    I’m a high school science teacher in the state of California. I’m credentialed in Biology, Physics, Chemistry, and Psychology. Please. Let’s use our common sense. Stop trying to rationalized ngss. Any person with any level of common sense sees The fraudulence of NGSS. It truly frightens me that so many leaders in education lack any degree of common sense. I do feel slightly hopeful that at least two respected groups have correctly rejected the NGSS. One group is the Fordham Institute and the other is the National Physics Teachers Association. Both have rejected the NGSS due to its total and complete lack of common sense.

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