Monday, January 16, 2017

In a Nutshell - Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

On Wednesday, January 25, 2017, 10:00 AM, Cross Building, Room 202 will be a hearing on LD 49, a proposal to saddle Maine students with more inferior standards. Let the Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs know that these standards weren't acceptable last session and they aren't now.

What is the problem with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)? NGSS is not about science. It bypasses genuine principles of science replacing them with socio-political indoctrination – this will never promote a scientific thought process. The fundamental basis of these standards is contrary to actual scientific principles and practice. Science is filtered and limited and if taught correctly, science students become problem solvers and critical thinkers. They are taught that all facts must be considered. Therefore, limiting information is counter-intuitive to good science. NGSS is confusing and incompetent.

How does NGSS view Science? NGSS programs young minds toward a particular philosophical viewpoint, rather than experimental observation, with the aim of promoting social activism. Science taught only with philosophically biased information reflects only the author’s viewpoint and desire to dominate the topic and has no value in science education or as proof in empirical science.

The National Academy of Science clearly states what the method and purpose of Science Education should be, “…that the search for knowledge and understanding of the physical universe and of living things that inhabit it should be conducted under conditions of intellectual freedom, without religious, political, or ideological restrictions….that freedom of inquiry and dissemination of ideas require that those so engaged to be free to search where their inquiry leads….without political censorship and without fear of retribution in consequence of unpopularity of their conclusions. Those who challenge existing theories must be protected from retaliatory reactions. “ (National Academy of Science – Resolution 1976).

Science in the Classroom: “…Without freedom to inquire, the scientific enterprise would be ruled by intimidation rather than understanding through inquiry.  If we don’t help students develop sound investigative skills at a very early age, there is no reason to believe that students will be able to think critically and scientifically as they grow older.” (Science in the Elementary School by John Renner, Don Stafford & William Ragan, Harper & Row, 1976)

What do we get with NGSS? The following is an excerpt from the Fordham 2013 report, “Evaluation of NGSS”. Fordham has “long favored high-quality multi-state, even “national” academic standards,” so long as they originate with, and are voluntary for, states. p15. This however is what Fordham found with NGSS. They Identified five significant flaws (Jan. 2013):

  1. Much essential content was omitted. 
  2. The grade-to-grade progression that was a strength of the National Research Council Framework was not fully realized in the NGSS. The result was that some content that was never explicitly stated in earlier grades was nevertheless assumed in later grades.
  3. A number of key terms (e.g., “model” and “design”) were ill defined or inconsistently used and a number of actual errors were scattered throughout. 
  4. Recommended “practices” dominated the NGSS, relegating essential knowledge—which should be the ultimate goal of science education—to secondary status. 
  5. The articulation of “assessment boundaries” in connection with many standards threatened to place an unwarranted ceiling on important learning. How many teachers (due to time restraints) will actually teach students—even advanced students—content and skills that they know in advance “won’t be on the test”? 

Also from the Fordham report on NGSS - Physical Science, Chemistry, and Physics Overview: “NGSS physical science coverage is mediocre throughout grades K–5. Sadly, its quality declines rapidly and steadily in middle school, and still further at the high school level, where little positive can be said. Indeed, the physical science standards fail to lay the foundation for advanced study in high school and beyond, and there is so little advanced content that it would be impossible to derive a high school physics or chemistry course from the content included in the NGSS.

The Thomas B. Fordham Institute, (Science Standards, Chester E. Finn Jr. , Kathleen Porter-Magee/Apr 22, 2013) cautions states to consider other options and advises that:

  • Several states have done quite a good job of this on their own.
  • NGSS is therefore not the only possible alternative available to states seeking to replace weak standards with better ones.  
  • Nobody should be talked (or pressured) into hasty decisions that they might later regret regarding so critical an element of American education.”

If Maine would like to consider replacing the Maine Learning Results in Science, we should consider proven, tested, high achieving ones that are not privately owned and which therefore cannot be altered, for instance, the ones used by IN, SC, VA and CA. 

Quick Overview
  • These standards are weak, shallow and lacking in content, especially for grades 6-12 (Life Science, Physical Science, Earth/Space Science, Engineering design).
  • Assessments and explorations, although hands on (which is great), seriously lack practical and academic applications.
  • Valuable foundational academic content is lacking.
  • Use of scientific practices is wholly inadequate and misguided.
  • Use of math is extremely minimal and does not support the whole scope and breadth of Chemistry and Physics.
  • Where is the Chemistry?  Where is the Physics?
  • NGSS introduces socio-political infusion into the field of Science. With NGSS, theory is taught as fact. Examples include:
  • Earth System - Man is bad for the planet.
  • Man causes global warming. This is more about indoctrination, not science. The Science surrounding this theory is highly debatable and any theory of anthropogenic causation should be presented as such. 
  • NGSS focuses just on the sustainable energy sources of wind and solar power to the exclusion of other forms of energy. This is not balanced information. 
Political biases guide the NGSS principles, NOT science. We give this bill a recommendation of Ought Not To Pass!

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