School & District Management

Next Generation Science Standards Get Mixed Reviews From Genetics Experts

By Liana Loewus — August 04, 2015 2 min read
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The Next Generation Science Standards do a better job overall of covering genetics than most previous state standards, but are missing some key content, according to a new study by science education specialists at the American Society of Human Genetics.

Nearly 100 genetics experts rated how well the new science standards covered core genetics concepts, as identified by the American Society of Human Genetics. The study, which was published last week in PLOS ONE, found that the NGSS adequately address 10 of the 19 core genetics concepts. That represents a significant improvement over previous state standards, which on average adequately address only five of the 19 core genetics concepts, according to the study.

But the NGSS also left out some key concepts altogether, the study says. In particular, there are gaps related to patterns of inheritance, it says, both Mendelian and complex. (Some reviewers looked at just the NGSS performance expectations, while others looked at the “disciplinary core ideas,” or DCIs, as well. This finding refers to the reviewers who looked at both components.) Patterns of inheritance were well-addressed on average by state standards.

“This omission is important because deciphering inheritance patterns is one of the central aims of genetic science, and understanding these patterns is an important first step to grasping more complex ideas,” Katherine S. Lontok, the study’s lead author, said in a press release.

Better Than Some States, Worse Than Others

In comparison to states’ science standards, the NGSS cover genetics better than 15 states, equal to 28 states, and worse than seven states, according to the authors.

So far, 14 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the common science standards. Delaware, Illinois, Kansas, and Washington are among the NGSS adopters—and also among the states that the report says have standards that are superior to the NGSS in terms of genetics content.

The report’s authors also note that there was a lot of variability in the experts’ reviews, which they say could mean the standards “may be inconsistently interpreted.”

Chad Colby, a spokesman for Achieve, the nonprofit that oversaw the development of the Next Generation Science Standards, called the study “myopic.”

“The NGSS is not a curriculum and the [performance expectations] don’t themselves convey all of the underlying content students will need to be able to use to accomplish the [performance expectation],” he wrote in an email. "[T]he report still credits NGSS [for] maintaining or increasing genetics core concepts over the vast majority of other states’ standards.”

Image: From “Assessing the Genetics Content in the Next Generation Science Standards,” published July 29 in PLOS ONE

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Curriculum Matters blog.