The Effect of Next Generation Science Standards

Atira Nair, Staff Writer

This year, there has been a nationwide push to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards, or NGSS, in middle and high school science curriculums, including at Irvington High School. NGSS requires students to take Earth Sciences (equivalent to Biology) during freshman year and Chemistry during sophomore year.

Many parents and students have been raising concerns about what this course map might mean for students who want to take on more challenging courses such as honors or AP classes, and many are against implementing NGSS simply because students won’t have the opportunity to fill their course loads with AP classes. However, that concern is misguided. NGSS itself does not take away a student’s choice to take more challenging courses and actually has a more hands-on and comprehensive method of teaching.

NGSS is a science standard, applying to both honors and standard classes, that revolves around labs, experiments, and more hands-on ways of learning the course material. These classes focus less on rote memorization or lectures, but rather on teaching reasoning, logic, and why processes occur to make students understand the concept more clearly. The effectiveness of this method has yet to be seen, however if put into effect correctly, could be a much more useful way of teaching science.

“NGSS is supposed to be a more hands-on method, like making students do the activity and use what they know, so it’s more involved,” chemistry teacher Alex Lee said. “When it’s implemented well, it can be very beneficial.”

Some students have concerns regarding whether or not these science standards will take away their ability to take AP or honors courses until senior year. In reality, the course map provided by NGSS is flexible and allows schools to decide whether or not to apply AP or honors classes to the course map.

Irvington’s current course map requires students to take either standard or honors biology and chemistry during freshman and sophomore year respectively. However, during junior year, students can opt for any science class, including standard and honors NGSS Physics and AP science courses. This is much better than the previous method, because with this method, students who are not ready for AP courses but want to challenge themselves can take honors classes in chemistry and physics, which were not previously offered.

Although honors is an options for those who wish to go at a faster pace, students do not have to take honors classes to continue on to AP courses and can still go into AP science classes after completing standard courses. Furthermore, the concern that only seniors can take AP classes was debunked by Mrs. Barrious, who says that students may take AP courses as juniors. This is currently because there are not enough physics teachers in the school, but this is liable to change depending on district pathways. However, it is most likely that this will be the case at least for the coming years.

Though some argue that it is not fair to students to not allow them to take AP science courses until junior year, it is actually beneficial to students to take both chemistry and biology before taking AP courses, as this allows them to much easier understand the material. Many AP science courses recommend a background in chemistry and biology.

Many also fear that the new standard or honors are not as effective or broad as the previous standards or are not challenging enough. To tackle these misgivings, NGSS released a statement claiming that they have extensively compared the NGSS curriculum to AP curriculum to make sure they have covered all necessary core concepts and are challenging to students.

In their Advanced Model Course Pathways, a guidebook that explains the courses under NGSS, the organization wrote, “The content in the NGSS was compared to the content in the AP science course guides to identify areas of conceptual similarity. AP courses were used as an example of upper-level science courses for his comparison because they are used widely throughout the country and have a consistent course structure.”

The course pathway based on NGSS that the school has adopted is much more beneficial than our traditional course pathway, allowing students to have more options than before.