Sunday, May 18, 2014

NGSS is a Renaissance, not an Upheaval for Physics Teachers

Your use of the word upheaval is overly sensational. According to Webster's, upheaval means: "a major change or period of change that causes a lot of conflict, confusion, anger, etc.". This characterization would only apply to AP Physics B teachers, a small subset of high school physics teachers (and now a null set!). As for NGSS, I would use something like "freedom", "autonomy", or even "Renaissance". Unlike previous top-down efforts to shackle professionals to a checklist of factoids, this set of standards is more about the process of teaching students how to think and use information to understand the world they live in. There is a large degree of freedom given to teachers to determine how they want to approach achieving the NGSS. NGSS is very similar to the approach outlined in decades-old documents like the Project 2061 "Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy" and the 1991 California Science Framework. It is the pendulum swinging back to a better time in physics teaching. If you rely on your professional judgement as to what constitutes good physics teaching practices, you will not have to worry very much about adapting to NGSS.

Even if you are a teacher that is experiencing "a lot of conflict, confusion, anger, etc." regarding NGSS, I say relax and enjoy the next 2 school years without worrying about preparing your students for state-mandated tests. The earliest these could return would be the 2015/16 school year and the people I work with that are more involved in this process expect them later than that. This is from the FAQ page on NGSS for California:

"When will there be new assessments for the NGSS?
The earliest new science assessments might be available is the 2014–2015 school year. However, due to the short timeline, new science assessments will most likely not be available until the following school year.

Will Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) have science assessments for NGSS?
At this time, new science assessments will likely be developed much like the assessments of SBAC . However, it is still too early to know exactly how and when new science assessments will be administered.

In SSPI Torlakson’s report Recommendations for Transitioning California to a Future Assessment System, Recommendation 4 encourages the development of new state science assessments consistent with the newly adopted NGSS for California, that include item types consistent with the SBAC assessments (e.g., short and extended constructed-response items and performance tasks)."

The full list or FAQs can be found here:

I suggest they dig up the old Golden State Exams for Physics and complete this retro cycle!

Dan Burns
Los Gatos High School

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