Ramon Lopez, professor of physics, has been honored nationally for his role in elevating science education. So, it's a natural that he would be involved in the Next Generation Science Standards, an ongoing effort to create a new set of standards for science education for the United States.
In 2010, Lopez was asked to serve on the leadership team that would guide the work of a 41-member writing team composed of educators from numerous states. The process began with the development of "A Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas," a document that was produced by a committee of the National Research Council, the operating arm of the National Academy of Sciences. The writing team's first public draft of the Standards based on the Framework was released in late May.
"Our goal is to provide educators with a roadmap for achieving the ambitious objectives of the Framework for K-12 Education, which outlines what the National Academies think is important for all students to know in science and engineering," Lopez said. "The NGSS will flesh out the Framework and provide educators with a vision of what students who meet the goals of the Framework can do, and how the practices, cross-cutting concepts, and core ideas weave together."
Lopez is a fellow of the American Physical Society and he also is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, or AAAS, a worldwide organization and publisher of the journal Science. Here, he answers some questions about the Next Generation Science Standards:
Q. Why is there a need for a new set of standards?
A. The last time that national scientific organizations produced science standards was in the 1980s and 1990s when the American Association for the Advancement of Science published Benchmarks for Science Literacy and the National Research Council published the National Science Education Standards. It is not a bad idea to redo such documents periodically so that they reflect our most modern understanding of what big ideas of science we believe that all students should learn.
One of the new things NGSS is trying to capture is the practice of science, like understanding what is a scientifically testable question or being able to plan and conduct an investigation. These practices are an essential part of science and engineering. Another new element in the Framework is the explicit inclusion of crosscutting concepts - like energy or cause and effect - that weave their way through all of the scientific disciplines, along with engineering as a discipline distinct from science.
Q. Doesn't Texas already have its own standards for K-12 education?