As science educators look at the Next Generation Science Standards, some experts and fellow teachers have a piece of advice: Don’t forget to read—and reread—the National Research Council framework.
While the standards are often described as a “technical document,” the framework, published in 2011, is an accessible narrative that not only served as a blueprint for the standards, but also explains the ideas behind them, makes the case for why they are needed, and says what they aim to accomplish.
“Teachers need to have their hands on that framework because it is very helpful,” said Denise M. Truver, a 3rd grade teacher at Walter E. Ranger Elementary School in Tiverton, R.I., who has been engaged in professional development to better understand the new standards.
“The framework has kind of been our bible during this work,” she said. “I think it’s an amazing text.” She added: “It gives me a ton of background content knowledge, while it also gives me what students should know at the end of each grade span.”
The congressionally chartered NRC assembled an 18-member panel of experts in science and science education to craft the framework, led by Helen R. Quinn, a professor emeritus of physics at Stanford University.
“The standards themselves are best understood in the context of the framework, so those two documents should be traveling the world together,” said Philip Bell, a professor of the learning sciences at the University of Washington in Seattle, who served on the NRC panel.
The document isn’t billed just as a guide for the standards, but also as an aid for curriculum designers, assessment developers, state and district administrators, leaders in science teacher education, and science educators in “informal settings.”
Its 13 chapters cover a lot of terrain, from guiding assumptions to a careful explanation of the three dimensions of the standards: science and engineering practices, cross-cutting concepts, and disciplinary core ideas. It also devotes a chapter to implementation issues.
“Standards provide a vision for teaching and learning, but the vision cannot be realized unless the standards permeate the education system and guide curriculum, instruction, teacher preparation and professional development, and student assessment,” it says.
Coverage of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education is supported by a grant from the Noyce Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.
A version of this article appeared in the May 22, 2013 edition of Education Week as NRC Framework Seen as Valued Resource for Educators