Tuesday, March 19, 2013

NGSS and Standards-Based Grading

I have a hard time thinking about anything curriculum-wise anymore without thinking about how assessment and reporting will be done.  I have been trying to have at least a peripheral understanding of the NGSS as they have been developed over the last few years.  Currently, as a 7th grade department, we are discussing curriculum and how what we teach matches up with the essential questions we have come up with for our class.  There has been a lot of argument and discussion throughout this development.  In addition, as a district, there is some very early talk about coming up with a Standards-Based Report Card as Wisconsin implements a new Student Information System.

So, how would I change my "standards" in my SBG system?  As I look at the NGSS Framework and draft standards, there are some clear categories.  But, as in all standards documents, it may not be useful to simply dump all of the standards in.  What is the best way to group things?

This is where SBG people and mammalogist meet. Some folks are "groupers" and some are "splitters."  Who is correct?  The problem I run into is what degree of precision is useful to me as a teacher, to the students as learners, to parents, and to future teachers?  A lot to consider, indeed!

I decided to look into the Framework as well as the most recent draft standards, just to get my mind going.  There are two extremes.  Someone could have only 3 "standards" if they wish: Science and Engineering Practices, Cross-Cutting Concepts, and Disciplinary Core Ideas.  If I was to have data on students in these categories, I don't think that is enough precision to make any decisions that are worthwhile.

On the other extreme, I think you could have upwards of 29 "standards" just for the "Life Science" strands.  That would be 8 practices, 7 cross-cutting concepts, and 14 separate core ideas.  Again, as I look through these, what sort of data would be useful?  Are there places we can obviously group things together?  How well can these groupings be defended?  How much would they change with upcoming drafts?

My current thinking is this:

  • Use 7 of the Science and Engineering Practices.  Eliminate the "Using mathematics and computational thinking."  I don't see a direct connection to life science there at the middle level in a way that is worth reporting out above and beyond what math class already does.  Moot point.  8 standards would be OK too.
  • Use all 7 of the Cross-Cutting Concepts.
  • For Life Science, in its current structure, use the 4 core ideas from Life Science.
This would make 18 "standards" to assess and report on. (or 19 if we did the math computation one)

This idea could be used throughout a student's K12 experience.  As data was added from classroom level assessments during the normal grading process, a pretty robust picture could be painted of a students understanding and growth.

A lot of the "work" is done for us.  The standards are laid out.  The performance expectations are there.  The work could really focus on coming up with assessments and experiences to work towards those expectations.

Are 18-19 standards too many?

Thoughts on this?


  1. Hi Scott,

    Is there a reason you don't want to use the actual Next Gen. Science Standards themselves? There are a lot of them for MS Life Science (I counted 34 in the latest NGSS draft) but I would think ultimately that would best line up with the "writer's intentions" and whatever larger-scale assessments might be used.

    Since the idea seems to be to integrate practices, cross-cutting concepts, and core ideas together, I wonder if assessing mastery of these separately would necessarily imply a student could successfully integrate the three?

    On the other hand, integrating the three together makes it tricky to determine exactly what piece of the standard the student is struggling with... you'd want to do something very different for a student who can't struggles with modeling compared to a student who doesn't understand how available resources impact a population.

    Thanks for posing some interesting questions!

    1. Hi Adam,

      Thanks for the comment!

      I have thought about this, and I wonder about the use-fullness of all of that data. I often think of the car dashboard as a metaphor for SBG. There isn't a *correct* number of gauges. Nowadays, we have sensors all over the car. In terms of most of driving the car, we can really get by with information on just a couple of things. Imagine a dashboard that had data on all 6 cylinders, tire pressure on all 4 tires, readings on all sensors. The data is important enough for the computer to collect, but how much needs reporting. At what point does this metaphor fall apart though?

      I just read the report from Kentucky going to SBG with a statewide report card: https://kyp20nxgla.wikispaces.com/file/view/Grades+That+Mean+Something.pdf

      They said that parents found over 6 standards would "overwhelm them with information." I'm having trouble balancing this one out. Can we merge the different ideas into 6 standards? Should parents come out of their comfort zone a bit? How far?

    2. Interesting, I think I understand where you're coming from better now. It almost seems like there's a need for different "dashboards"- one for teachers and students that includes the actual standards in the grading period, so they can make sure they are meeting the standards that will be assessed, and then maybe one for parents and administrators that's closer to the "6 standard" ideal. In that case, maybe it's "Science/Engineering Practices" all lumped together, plus "Cross-Cutting Concepts" all lumped together, plus each core idea in life science?

    3. I have wondered that too, a different lens so to speak. I can do that now to some level with ActiveGrade, as the standards can be grouped together under tags. I think in the end, I will end up doing some lumping, at least in the practices and core ideas. I don't know if I can reach the magic 6 number though.

  2. Any further thoughts on SBG and the NGSS now that the final version has been out a while? I'm looking for resources on this subject, but I'm not finding much... I don't like the idea of just using the performance expectations as the standards on a report card. I don't think they're student or family friendly in that format. I do think that at the middle and high school levels teachers could develop 24 statements about science learning based on the DCIs, practices and CCCs, and each quarter use 6 in the report card. There might be some statements that would repeat. At the elementary level, I think 24 is too many for the year. I would narrow down the practices and CCCs to about 6 statements and the content to about 6 statements, then stagger these through the year. The emphasis on the CCCs could be spread to grade bands instead of having them all at one grade level.

    A few report card statements I've been playing with...
    Students will develop scientific models of real-world phenomena and revise them based on lab and literature-gained understanding.
    Students will successfully design an experiment and evaluate their claims using evidence from the experiment.
    Students will understand the nature of science by assessing the extent their work resembles the actual work of scientists.

  3. Hoping to bumb this topic and bring it back to life. As we prepare to implement NGSS next year we are struggling with how to report them.

    Is anyone using SBG or Evidence Based Reporting for the NGSS?