Okay, so first I am going to admit to double dipping on my homework. I am writing this post because I am participating in an online book study through my district on NGSS FOR ALL STUDENTS, edited by . With my new role being a mentor teacher to all secondary teachers regardless of their discipline I saw this one come up and thought I better take advantage incase I have some science teachers in my ranks. I actually don’t have any this year and until I opened the book was thinking it might not be the best use of my time especially as I am in a transitional year. I am really glad that I decided to stick with it and to participate anyway. I will also admit to drinking the NGSS kool aid so far, and I am only two chapters in.
I just read the Obligatory Back-to-School Science Blog Post by fellow teacher leader Douglas Ferguson. My comment was that I was pretty lost by his post and that I was hoping this book study would help me see my way through. He kindly responded to me with words of encouragement and mentioned that I would find many parallels to my own social studies discipline if I just looked a little further. I actually think after reading just nineteen pages that this correlation with social studies might have been an understatement. I would assert that perhaps the NGSS are for all teachers, at least the fundamental beliefs behind their development and the four foundational areas of capacity found within them.
My homework for the book study was to answer the following prompt:
What are some of your new insights about the vision and development of the NGSS?
It was a hard question to just sum up an answer to. I learned a lot in these two introductory chapters that have changed my view of the standards fundamentally. First of all I now understand that this not just a set of essential questions or learning targets. It’s not about the power standards or any of the other old way we used to describe the important focus areas of our disciplines. Its a new way of looking at opportunity for students, in this case especially in the study of science but it rings true in so many other aspects of our careers and educational system. The standards were developed by teams from twenty-six states. There was also a team selected called the Diversity and Equity Team. Based on the reality that science learning had been something for the privileged middle class white male students their work was focused on making sure that the standards were for ALL students. This team found the need to focus in on seven groups of students as they worked toward “equity of opportunity”. Those groups are, “economically disadvantaged students, students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, students with disabilities, English language learners, girls, alternative education students and gifted and talented students” (4). I think that often our educational system is undeserving these populations and that perhaps we all needed our own Diversity and Equity Teams for our subjects or grade levels. This fundamental belief that science is for all students is at the core of the NGSS and I feel as though we should encourage this mindset for any standards or learning opportunities in our system.
The second part of the standards that made me think this learning was for all teachers were the four fundamental capacities outlined in chapter two. These areas of development are seen in the NGSS to be critical for academic success. They are language, analysis and reasoning, representation and symbolism, and social and emotional capacity. Again this felt like something that could apply to any classroom at any time. As a social studies and ELA teacher these are areas of student learning that I was constantly working on and were hard wired to my courses and outcomes. If the science teachers are focussing on these areas of academic development too it can only make our students stronger across the board.
I began to read this book hoping that I could glean something from it to share with a new science teacher I may be assigned in the coming years, but I am finding that there are many ideas that should be applied to the craft of ALL teachers regardless of subject or grade level. On page twelve of the book it reads,
The science classroom that attends to developing these foundational capacities serves diverse students well, not just to further their science learning but to support their broader academic process. Fortunately, the classroom designed to achieve outcomes such as those called for by the NGSS is inherently well positioned to play this role.
I am in total agreement with this statement so far. Any classroom based on the ideas of equity of opportunity for the four fundamental capacities will serve our students well.
This was only the first week of our book study. I am wondering what I will learn next as the book continues to cover each group of underserved students and how to best address their needs. I will continue to post about my homework and to share my thinking about how the ideas behind the NGSS are for all teachers.