This year marks the 10-year anniversary of the release of Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), a landmark effort by more than two dozen states to change how science should be taught in American schools.
NGSS significantly rewrote the paradigm for teaching science, impacting everything from curricula to assessment, and launched a tectonic shift in classroom teaching. Since the release, at least 44 states have adopted NGSS or standards based on its precursor, the Framework for K–12 Science Education.
“The new standards were a milestone in science education, the type of change that only comes around once in a generation,” said Chris Lazzaro, director of science at New Meridian.
Yet, while much has been written about changes to curricula, learning materials and professional development in the wake of NGSS, less is known about how states are treating science assessment. New Meridian’s latest whitepaper, The Current State of Next Generation Science Assessment, attempts to answer that very question based on research, studies, and interviews with almost a dozen top experts in science education nationwide.
“The progress made on Next Generation Science Standards in the last 10 years is remarkable,” said Lazzaro. “A group of states, acting without federal provocation, introduced standards that completely changed the way science is taught. However, there is still much to address, especially when it comes to assessment. Our work is not done yet.”
Roadmap for Science Assessment ‘Still Emerging’
A look at state science testing nationwide reveals a patchwork of approaches that often fail to connect assessment with classroom learning. The difficulty of implementing NGSS-aligned science assessments, along with high costs and a lack of expertise, all remain major barriers. Even quality data on how states are approaching science assessment and how they are faring is in relatively short supply.
While many states claim to have assessments that are aligned to next-generation standards, survey results contained in a Carnegie Corporation report last year that studied NGSS implementation indicate otherwise. Less than 40% of educators said their state assessment supports Framework-aligned instruction. Almost two-thirds say their state assessment needs to change to better align to the Framework and, among those who say change is needed, two-thirds say that change has not yet begun or is only now starting.
There is also much in motion. States are rethinking assessment systems in the wake of the pandemic’s disruption. Advocacy organizations are pushing states to make science assessment part of their accountability systems. And education companies—including New Meridian—are providing states with new and innovative assessment options.
Some well-known benchmarks are also changing. Pending an approval later this year, the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP), known as “the nation’s report card,” will align to the Framework for K-12 Science Education starting in 2028, introducing a better measure of how students are performing in science as taught under the new standards.
Perhaps most important, states and districts are likely to continue to embrace the idea that science is a necessary life skill, just like reading, writing and math. As they do so, the need to properly measure student learning will become ever more apparent.
To learn more about how science assessment is faring nationwide, download New Meridian’s white paper, The Current State of Next Generation Science Assessment.