Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
In 2010, the National Academy of Sciences, Achieve, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the National Science Teachers Association embarked on a two-step process to develop the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).
The first step of the process was led by The National Academies of Science, a non-governmental organization commissioned in 1863 to advise the nation on scientific and engineering issues. On July 19, 2011, the National Research Council (NRC), the functional staffing arm of the National Academy of Sciences, released the Framework for K–12 Science Education. The Framework was a critical first step because it is grounded in the most current research on science and scientific learning, and it identifies the science all K–12 students should know.
The second step in the process was the development of standards grounded in the NRC Framework. A group of 26 lead states (including Oregon) and 40 writers, in a process managed by Achieve, worked on developing these K-12 Next Generation Science Standards. The standards underwent numerous state reviews as well as two public comment periods. In April of 2013, the NGSS were released for states to consider adoption.
On Thursday, March 6, 2014, the Oregon State Board of Education voted unanimously to adopt the NGSS as the new Oregon Science Standards. The adoption included the grade level middle school science standards sequence unanimously recommended by the Oregon Science Content and Assessment Panel that was developed under the leadership of the California Science Experts Panel.
In June 2014, Hillsboro School District convened a Science Study Team to begin working on the District's conversion to NGSS. The conversion was intended to unfold over the course of four school years, with full implementation at all levels occurring in the 2017-18 school year (the first in which the Oregon Assessment of Knowledge and Skills [OAKS] testing would be replaced with a new assessment aligned with NGSS).
The first step of the Curriculum Review and Core Instructional Materials Adoption Cycle was to conduct a program evaluation by analyzing data relating to the District's K-12 science programs. The team reviewed 2013-14 science achievement data measured by OAKS, high school science achievement data measured by American College Testing (ACT), and advanced high school course enrollment.
A couple of their key findings at the high school level were that there is inequitable representation and achievement with regard to diverse learners, and that very few students are actually taking the three-course series of biology, chemistry and physics, which is a key component of college and career readiness.
After researching and studying various models, and following a vote of high school teachers and administrators, the team recommended changing the typical high school science course sequence of biology-chemistry-physics to one of physics-chemistry-biology. This "physics first" model is currently in use in many districts, including nearby Beaverton and Forest Grove. Beaverton is now in its fourth year of implementation of the model and has found that it is leading not only to students taking more science courses, but also to an increase in their math skills.
The reason for this is that an introductory physics class utilizes Algebra I skills, which is the math class most freshman take. Physics is also an easier science to make concrete for students than biology, which relies more heavily on Algebra II skills and abstract thinking (e.g. the study of molecules).
The switch to a physics first model will take place over the 2016-17 and 2017-18 school years. Liberty and Glencoe High Schools will implement in 2016-17, and Century and Hilhi will implement in 2017-18. That means parents of current 8th graders at Poynter and Evergreen Middle Schools will see their students forecasting for physics in the coming weeks.