In 2014, Illinois adopted a new set of science standards, based on the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). School districts have been implementing the standards since then, and all schools must use the standards beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. Here are X things that families need to know about these new standards.
- The standards emphasize a more engaged, hands-on approach to science. Students are not asked to just memorize facts; they are expected to apply them, to analyze them, to interpret them, to compare them, and to use them to make models. The aim is to give students a deeper understanding of core science and engineering concepts and to have them apply those concepts to real-world skills.
- The standards focus on performance Each standard, such as the fifth-grade physical sciences standard for Energy below, states what students are expected to be able to do at the top (the standard). Each standard has associated Science and Engineering Practices, Disciplinary Core Ideas (DCI), and Crosscutting Concepts. The standards also show connections to other DCIs at the current and other grade levels as well as links to Common Core State Standards in English/Language Arts and Math.
- The standards reflect the interconnected nature of science. Science is not just a collection of facts, but an interconnected network of ideas and concepts. The standards incorporate this by linking standards within a grade level and across grade levels.
- The standards are not curriculum. The standards spell out what students need to know and be able to do at the end of the school year. How teachers teach students to meet those standards is where curriculum comes in, and it will be up to each school district to select the curriculum materials that they believe will provide the best instruction for students to meet those standards.
- The standards incorporate engineering and design. Each standard has associated science and engineering practices associated with it. Engineering design was included in the standards to provide the core ideas of engineering and technology the same status as those in other major science disciplines. There are two reasons why engineering and technology were included in the standards. First, from a practical standpoint, engineering and technology provide opportunities for students to deepen their understanding of science by applying their scientific knowledge to practical problems. Second, the connection of scientific knowledge to real world applications can motivate students to continue their science and engineering education longer into their schooling, a critical component for our country producing enough scientists and engineers to address the major challenges facing the world in the coming years.
- The standards are designed to prepare students for college, career, and citizenship. Our world is becoming increasingly complex, and science and technology are critical for understanding that world. Whether it is making informed decisions about healthcare, choosing and using technology, or understanding current events, understanding science is key. In addition, critical science and engineering skills such as communication, collaboration, critical thinking, and creative problem solving prepare students for success in all careers, not just those in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
- Illinois will administer the Illinois Science Assessment (ISA) this spring. The new Illinois Science Assessment (ISA) will be given to students in grades 5 and 8 and once at the high school level this May (although April may be a possibility). The high school assessment will be given to students in Biology I. The new assessment is aligned with the new Illinois science standards. It was developed in collaboration with the District of Columbia schools, which administered an NGSS-aligned assessment in 2015.