4- How You Know It’s Not NGSS

April 4, 2022

There are a LOT of resources claiming to be NGSS-aligned science curricula. But, many of these activities were developed pre-NGSS. Just because the label is there, that doesn’t mean it is truly aligned. So, how do you know if it is really NGSS? In this episode, Nicole and Erin give you key things to look for.

NGSS Washing: Re-labeling Old materials that aren’t NGSS Aligned Science Curriculum

You may have heard the term “green-washing” before. The term “green” is used often in marketing to imply that some products are healthier than other alternatives. However, the term green isn’t regulated and therefore doesn’t really mean anything.

Unfortunately, this happens with NGSS materials as well. Many products and activities have the NGSS label, but this label also isn’t regulated. This is how Nicole came up with the term “NGSS-washing”.

Where do we see NGSS-washing?

NGSS washing is rampant. From small TPT sellers who are likely doing it unintentionally to major publishers. If you’ve reviewed materials recently, you likely know what we are talking about

What causes NGSS-washing?

Some of this is done unintentionally. Often, small sellers don’t understand the instructional shifts that come with the NGSS. As you know, these shifts are far more complicated than they initially appear.

However, this is often done in an attempt to get products to market quickly. Rather than re-writing materials to align specifically to the NGSS, old materials are simply relabeled.

What to look for: How to tell that its not an NGSS aligned Science Curriculum

There are many signs to look for. These are things you can watch out for at all levels. From TPT sellers to major publishers, here are some common mistakes that we have seen.

Sign #1: It’s not grade specific.

Products that are NGSS aligned will be grade specific. For elementary, the standards align to a specific grade level. For middle or high school, the standards can be associated with any grade level within a band.

So, if you see a product that says it’s for multiple grade levels, it probably isn’t aligned to NGSS. For example, a product that says it’s for 5th through 8th grade probably isn’t aligned because it spans two different grade bands.

What You Should See Instead

Elementary materials must be aligned to a SPECIFIC grade level. Middle School materials and high school materials will likely state they are for the entire grade band or for a specific first.

Still, there are some exceptions. For example, the Crosscutting Concepts and Science and Engineering Practices are the same in a given grade band. So, Erin has created resources to help teachers incorporate these pieces into their repertoire. You can see those here and here. These resources are usable anywhere within a grade band.

Sign #2: It’s lecture-based.

If a product is made primarily of presentations, it’s likely not aligned to the NGSS. One of the major instructional shifts that come from the NGSS is using a discovery-based learning approach. To learn more about discovery-based practices, check out this episode.

This doesn’t mean that you will never lecture in an NGSS-aligned classroom. However, you should not lecture before students have an opportunity to investigate the content. Also, you won’t lecture as much in an NGSS-aligned classroom.

What You Should See Instead

Ideally, students get the chance to explore before the teacher explains anything. This makes NGSS-aligned lesson sequences a bit more complex. They are well-thought-out instructional sequences that guide students through the discovery of the content.

Sign #3: It’s missing the Crosscutting Concept or the Science and Engineering Practices.

Resources that are NGSS-washed are likely to align with the Disciplinary Core Ideas. This is because the DCI aligns most closely with the older versions of the standards.

However, the emphasis on the Crosscutting Concepts (CCCs) and the Science and Engineering Practices (SEPs) are unique to the NGSS. If these pieces are missing from a resource, it’s likely not aligned to the NGSS.

What You Should See Instead

NGSS-aligned science curriculum is three-dimensional. This means that all three components of the NGSS are addressed in a lesson sequence. So, students use the practices to make sense of content and communicate their ideas. And, they use the Crosscutting Concepts to connect the content to bigger ideas in science.

Sign #4: It uses traditional assessments.

The NGSS are three-dimensional standards. Therefore, the standards also need to be three-dimensional.

If the assessments aren’t three-dimensional, you know it’s not NGSS. Often, we see traditional multiple-choice assessments used in curricula that claim to be NGSS aligned. However, students need the chance to explore new phenomena within an assessment and show they can apply their knowledge.

What You Should See Instead

An NGSS-aligned assessment presents students with a novel phenomenon. Students will use the practices to explain, describe or figure out this new phenomenon. Often, students use the CCCs to explain a larger science concept.

To learn more about NGSS-aligned assessments, check out this episode.

Sign #5 It wasn’t designed for NGSS.

Often, we see resources written for multiple sets of standards. For example, the resources will claim to be aligned with NGSS and state-specific science standards. While some states have rewritten their standards to be similar to the NGSS, others have not. So, if the materials are aligned with multiple sets of standards, they likely aren’t NGSS.

Of course, some NGSS-aligned resources will also be aligned with Common Core Standards for the grade level. This is because NGSS itself is aligned with the Common core. However, materials shouldn’t be aligned with NGSS and state science standards that are not NGSS.

Also, older resources that have the NGSS label on them weren’t designed specifically for NGSS. Therefore they aren’t aligned.

What You Should See Instead

Look for newer resources that were specifically designed with the NGSS in mind. They should ONLY align to the NGSS.

Want to learn more about NGSS aligned science curriculum?

To learn more, check out these resources.