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NGSS vs. Common Core Science Standards: What's the Difference?

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“Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity, and is the torch which illuminates the world. Science is the highest personification of the nation because that nation will remain the first which carries the furthest the works of thought and intelligence.” ~ Louis Pasteur

Science is one of the most important topics students can learn because it embodies the process of discovery. It shows young minds the necessity of asking questions and taking a methodical approach to finding the answers to those questions.

At Alludo, we believe that science instruction is essential to students’ education. We strive to curate a professional learning catalog that provides teachers with the tools they need to enlighten their students, and that includes courses related to NGSS and Common Core standards. In this post, we’ll explain what NGSS is and how these standards intersect with Common Core standards for math. We’ll also explore what school districts can do to successfully implement NGSS and CC standards.

Table of Contents

  1. What Are NGSS and Why Are They Important?
  2. Key Components of NGSS
    1. K-12 Science Content Standards
    2. Three-Dimensional Learning
  3. What States Have Adopted NGSS?
    1. States That Have Adopted NGSS
    2. States That Have Developed Standards Based on NRC Research
  4. How Does NGSS Connect to Common Core?
    1. Reasoning Skills
    2. Key Intersections Between NGSS and Common Core Math
  5. How Does Knowledge of NGSS Benefit Teachers?
  6. Alludo's Take

What Are NGSS and Why Are They Important?

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are standards developed by 26 states in partnership with the National Science Teachers Association, the National Research Council, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, and Achieve, which is a nonprofit organization that develops resources to prepare students for college and careers.

Development began with the creation of a Framework for K-12 Science Education, which was prepared by the National Research Council, the staff arm of the NAS (the National Academy of Sciences). The framework’s purpose was to identify the science that all students should learn and was based on the most recent scientific research available at the time of its development.

After the new standards were developed and evaluated, the public was invited to provide feedback. A final draft of the NGSS was released in April of 2013.

Key Components of NGSS

Here are some of the key components of NGSS.

K-12 Science Content Standards

NGSS was created to provide consistent science content standards for K-12 students in the United States. The committee that created the standards included two Nobel laureates as well as science standards and policy experts, science education researchers, and cognitive scientists. They used up-to-date research to create the academic standards that would be used.

Three-Dimensional Learning

The second key aspect of NGSS is that it’s a system that incorporates three-dimensional learning in three core areas:

  • Crosscutting Concepts. There are connections across various domains of science, including Earth and Space Science, Engineering Design, Life Science, and Physical Science. The standards were developed to help students explore these connections to develop a science-based world view.
  • Science & Engineering Practices. Students learn about the practices and methods scientists use to investigate the natural world as well as what engineers do to design systems and build them. As they learn these practices, students come to understand what scientific inquiry is and the practices required to make meaningful inquiries.
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas. The key ideas in science that are most important across various engineering and scientific disciplines are DCIs, core ideas that build upon each other as students deepen their knowledge of scientific principles. DCIs apply even when students focus on a single scientific discipline such as Physical Science or Life Science.

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The development of NGSS required collaboration among a broad spectrum of people interested in quality education, including states, school districts, schools, educators, and students.

What States Have Adopted NGSS?

As we noted above, a slim majority of states, 26 in total, participated in creating Next Generation Science Standards. You might be wondering how many states have adopted NGSS.

States That Have Adopted NGSS

Let’s start with the states that have fully adopted NGSS for science instruction in school districts. 20 states plus the District of Columbia have adopted NGSS. These states represent 36% of K-12 students in the United States. 

The 20 states that have adopted NGSS include large states such as California and Washington and small states such as Rhode Island and Hawaii.

States That Have Developed Standards Based on NRC Research

If only 20 states have adopted NGSS for science instruction, you might wonder what’s happening with the other 30 states. The answer is that most of those have used the same NRC research that was used in the development of NGSS to develop their own set of standards for science education.

A total of 24 states, representing 35% of K-12 students, have chosen to use NRC research in this manner. Some of the states that have done so include Arizona, Louisiana, Massachusetts, and New York.

The remaining six states (Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Virginia) have not adopted any form of NGSS or NRC-based standards for science education.

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How Does NGSS Connect to Common Core?

While important, NGSS is not the only set of standards that states and school districts have adopted. For mathematics and English language arts (ELA), many school districts use Common Core standards in classrooms. Common Core standards provide teachers with consistent benchmarks and expectations for students, as well as setting key goals.

Common Core standards were sponsored by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. 41 states have adopted Common Core standards, so as you might expect, there is some connection between NGSS and Common Core.

Reasoning Skills

One aspect of Common Core standards and curricula is that they are designed to help students learn critical reasoning skills. It’s no surprise that these skills have applications in science education as well.

NGSS incorporates “reasoning skills used in language arts and mathematics to help students improve mastery and understanding.” These skills are taught as part of Common Core instruction in math and ELA and students who learn them in a school district that has adopted NGSS will learn how to apply these skills in science classrooms.

Key Intersections Between NGSS and Common Core Math

Now, let’s look at some of the key interactions between Common Core math standards and NGSS:

  • Analyzing data. Data analysis is key to understanding math and science. The analysis methods that students learn in Common Core math feed into what they learn in their NGSS-based science classes. As students become more comfortable and fluent with data analysis, they can build on what they learn and undertake more sophisticated problems and experiments.
  • Modeling concepts. Like data analysis, modeling of concepts is essential to the study of math and science. In both Common Core math and NGSS science, students learn the basics of concept modeling and build on their skills with each subsequent lesson.
  • Strategic use of tools. Both math and science education involve teaching students how to use tools from the simple to the complex. In either subject, it’s essential for students to learn how and when to use these tools, including strategizing their uses for problem-solving and scientific experimentation.

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NGSS was designed to incorporate Common Core math standards by “focusing on how math practices line up with what you need to know to perform work in each scientific discipline.” In other words, NGSS and Common Core math work together to help students gain proficiency in STEM disciplines by providing them with instruction that intersects and builds capabilities and knowledge.

How Does Knowledge of NGSS Benefit Teachers?

Whether teachers are in a state that has adopted NGSS or used NRC research to develop science standards, they can benefit from learning about and understanding NGSS. Here are some of the ways it can help them:

  • Teaching NGSS while learning it can be a daunting task. Teachers who are expected to use NGSS in the classroom need to learn about the standards ahead of time to be their most effective. NGSS instruction can help teachers go into the classroom prepared and ready to help their students learn.
  • It provides teachers with NGSS-aligned instructional materials and curricula. Science teachers who study NGSS will get access to high-quality materials to help them incorporate cross-cutting concepts into their classroom activities and discussions. NGSS professional development will help them understand concepts from the learner’s perspective and gain confidence with cross-cutting concepts to produce meaningful and enriching classroom experiences for their students.
  • It provides familiarity with NGSS instructional strategies and the skills to implement them. Any school district using NGSS for science instruction needs teachers who are familiar with NGSS instructional strategies. The right professional development will guarantee that teachers understand NGSS and have the skills they need to implement NGSS strategies in the classroom and to the benefit of their students.

The bottom line is that providing tailored professional learning opportunities around NGSS will help school districts be confident that teachers understand what’s required of them and implement what they learn in the classroom to help their students learn and deliver the best possible outcomes.

Alludo’s Take

The Alludo LEMUR learning model is designed to help school districts and teachers by providing a dynamic online learning environment that drives teacher engagement:

  • Learner-Centered
  • Engaging
  • Measurable
  • Understanding
  • Responsive

Learner-Centered PD

We provide a wide array of topics in our content catalog, including NGSS science instruction and Common Core topics. School districts can help teachers implement NGSS and Common Core and understand the connections between the two by partnering with Alludo.

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Our curated content and microlearning activities help teachers prepare to teach for NGSS and CC standards while also providing them with a voice and a choice in what they learn. We combine learning with gamification, something that drives engagement and enthusiasm in the school districts that use our model.

Equipping Teachers to Teach NGSS and Common Core Standards

School districts that want students to learn about science in a way that builds enthusiasm and critical thinking skills may choose to do so with a combination of NGSS and Common Core standards. The key is providing teachers with the professional development they need to understand and adopt these standards to drive student engagement and learning for the best possible student outcomes.

Do you need help equipping teachers to teach NGSS and Common Core standards in your district? The Alludo platform is the solution you need! Click here to schedule your demo now.