The draft New York State Science Learning Standards (NYSSLS), were released for public review, on November 19, 2015. A survey to collect feedback on the draft NYSSLS is open until February 5, 2016. It has been approximately 20 years since we have had the opportunity to welcome new science standards. The adoption of new science standards to incorporate the most recent research related to how students learn science and prepare students for their future is overdue. The opportunity new science standards provide occurs infrequently. We need to maximize this opportunity by taking the time to understand the draft NYSSLS and respond to the survey.
The OCM BOCES Center for Innovative Science Education has developed a resources page to support the review and understanding of the draft NYSSLS. You might also find this blog related to the development of the standards helpful. We have also been holding events to review and collectively discuss the draft NYSSLS. Through these events we have discussed the draft NYSSLS with over 100 teachers and administrators from more than 30 districts. Below is a summary of the top five most common comments we heard during discussions.
- NYSED added nine PreK performance expectations (PEs) when creating the draft NYSSLS. During discussions, concerns related to the logic for the additional PreK PEs was expressed. For example, there is no conceptual relationship between the three PreK physical science PEs. Additionally, the rationale for the PreK PEs is not apparent when considering other related PEs. This is illustrated in PS1-,1as this PE is asking students to make claims about solids and liquids before they have had the opportunity to explore and classify materials based on their properties (2-PS1-1). Many teachers and administrators comment that the addition of the 9 PreK PEs was problematic.
- NYSED articulated the process that was used to create the draft NYSSLS from the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), but they have not specified rationales for the changes made. In addition to the 14 K-12 and the 9 PreK PEs added, NYSED made changes to approximately 30 NGSS PEs. Numerous times during collegial discussions of the draft NYSSLS people would ask for the reasoning related to the addition of a PE or an edit to a specific PE. The rationales for changes are not inherently discernable. These questions are left unanswered. It was noted that some of the 30 edits significantly altered the focus of the PE. The edits to the NGSS PEs were not clearly noted by NYSED. However, it is important to note these changes when consulting the available NGSS related resources. NYSED suggests several NGSS related resources as guides for understanding the draft NYSSED and to use as evidence for selected criteria in the associated survey. Furthermore, people frequently suggested the adoption of the NGSS in their entirety without edits.
- The draft NYSSLS follow the formatting of the NGSS by identifying grade level specific standards K-5 and standards in grade level bands for middle school and high school. During discussions teachers and administrators have indicated the desire to have the science standards grade level specific through eighth grade.
- Concerns associated with the addition of 14 new PE by NYSED to the NGSS to create the draft NYSSLS were commonly expressed. The majority of the additions are in the middle and high school levels. Specifically, nine of the additions are in high school, with six of those being in physical science. A major goal of the NGSS is science for all students and with a focus on a few select core scientific concepts. The goal is to reduce the amount of concepts teachers need to “cover” to allow for ample instructional time to support learning opportunities that allow students to develop a deep understanding of scientific core concepts. Feedback during discussions has indicated a concern that the additions made by NYSED do not align with these goals as they are increasing the amount of science concepts. Furthermore, the additional PEs translates into less instructional time for all PEs in the grade level, resulting in less student learning not more.
- The most common feedback that has resulted from discussions with teachers and administrators is strong support for the adoption of new science standards. Our profession recognizes the needed opportunity new science standards will provide to facilitate the improvement in K-12 science instruction and learning. Specifically, it was identified that new standards were needed to allow students to develop a deep understanding of key scientific concepts, science as a discipline, and develop cognitive scientific reasoning skills.
The regional science education community is excited about the upcoming new science standards and hopeful that the final NYSSLS will maximize the opportunity to fundamentally improve K-12 science education. Please take the time to review and comment on the draft NYSSLS. The OCM BOCES Center for Innovative Science Education is available if you have any questions