Ann Putney from Biddeford Middle School (BMS) reflects on the conversations that the BMS science professional learning community (plc) had while providing feedback on the NGSS.
As we launched into our review, questions immediately arose about the language of the PEs. “How will the kids understand this?” was Tammy Lavigne’s first question. At BMS, the PE that is currently being worked on in a classroom is required to be posted in the room and discussed with students as the unit progresses. One of Tammy’s great strengths is her knowledge of and focus on 12-and 13-year olds, and how to best match her curriculum to them. The way in which we will communicate Performance Expectations to our charges in more student-friendly language is a question for us in the future. And… we have to remember… this IS still a draft.
“Our kids could never do that,” was a second comment. We reminded ourselves that we were looking at grade-span endpoints. Maybe the PEs are difficult to achieve at right now at BMS, we agreed, but what if we looked at the NGSS continuum from Kindergarten onward? We began with the Kindergarten standard “Structure and Properties of Matter,” to see what was introduced there. We discovered continuity in the practices, in particular and the cross-cutting concepts that built confidence among our group that a “culture of Science education” would be achieved in a comprehensive implementation of NGSS. This was a key realization for several of us in two ways: 1) that NGSS must be implemented throughout the grades, beginning in Kindergarten, and 2) that the Frameworks vision “that students, over multiple years of school, actively engage in science and engineering practices and apply crosscutting concepts to deepen their understanding of each field’s disciplinary core ideas” could be fulfilled by implementing NGSS. In other words, if the “culture” exists, yes our students will be able to do this. (A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Cross Cutting Concepts, and Core Ideas. National Academies Press, Washington, D.C. page 2)
The NGSS review process has truly been participatory. Biddeford Middle School’s teacher comments are being reviewed along with all comments from ALL states across the nation in order to ensure that the NGSS may be as workable as possible for all stakeholders, including classroom teachers in a small city in Maine.
Many thanks to my colleagues: Chelsea Brittain, Barbara Burgess, Ethan Davis, Lori Hickey and Tammy Lavigne and to BMS Principal Charles Lomonte for providing us with time to complete our review.