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A New Vision For Science Education

Posted: March 24th, 2017

HCPSS Students Fully Engaged in “Next-Generation Science Classroom” from Pre-K through Grade 12

Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) has adopted a new model for science education, aligned to the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), to develop scientifically literate citizens who are well prepared to pursue college and careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. HCPSS presented an overview of its vision for science education from prekindergarten to Grade 12 at the March 23, 2017, Board of Education meeting.

“Science and technology knowledge is continually expanding, and we are preparing students for careers that will be very different in the future,” said HCPSS Superintendent Renee A. Foose. “The new HCPSS science program gives students the essential knowledge and critical thinking skills to analyze information and solve problems throughout their lives, whether they pursue a career in STEM or any other field.”

In 2013, Maryland adopted the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as the Maryland Science Standards for pre-K–12 science education. The NGSS were developed by a group of 26 lead states, including Maryland, and included input from professional scientists, college/university educators, policy-makers, and pre-K–12 educators to identify the knowledge and skills all students need to become science literate.

Aligned to the new state standards, the HCPSS science curriculum combines and emphasizes the practices of real scientists and engineers; core Ideas from the three major scientific disciplines: earth/space, life and physical science, as well as engineering; and crosscutting concepts that share broad importance across scientific disciplines. The program is designed to give every student in pre-K–12 a broad and robust science education, teaching the fundamental knowledge and skills that are key to understanding more complex topics.

HCPSS science classes are active learning environments where students learn by doing what professional scientists do in the laboratory and in the field, through inquiry and discovery. In the process, they gain a deep understanding of basic science concepts while learning to apply scientific and technical information systematically and rationally.

HCPSS has already completed its transition to the NGSS-aligned curriculum in elementary (pre-K–5) and middle (Grades 6–8) school, and its new high school curriculum will be completely aligned by the 2018–19 school year. Under the new program of study, all high school students will take core courses across the three major science disciplines to gain broad, deep science literacy and the core knowledge needed for ongoing science learning. The new program provides greater flexibility to meet students’ individual interests and goals, and gives every student the opportunity to pursue advanced-level (GT or AP) science coursework.

The Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE) has adopted a new standardized test, the Maryland Integrated Science Assessment (MISA), which is aligned to the NGSS and replaces the MSA Science and HSA Biology tests. MISA is being phased in this school year with field testing in Grades 5 and 8, and will be introduced at the high school level during 2018–19. MISA participation will become a high school graduation requirement for the Class of 2020 (current ninth-graders), with the exception of those participating in the Biology HSA, which will be implemented for the final time this year. A MISA pass score, which will be determined by MSDE, will be a graduation requirement beginning with the Class of 2021.

The full Board report and presentation are available online. More information about the HCPSS NGSS-aligned science education program and a video overview of how NGSS is transforming HCPSS science instruction can be viewed online.