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Worrying about the science standards? Relax, we have you covered

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

In order to prepare for full implementation of Iowa’s Science Standards by the end of 2019, this summer would be a great time for science/district leadership team to review progress toward full implementation.

The new standards were adopted in 2015 to ensure students are scientifically literate, global people who are prepared for college and career success. Since then, many resources have been made available.

First, use the District Implementation Analysis Tool to review and reflect on progress made toward the Iowa Science Standards Implementation Plan. As a reminder, this plan describes what students, teachers, administrators/instructional coaches should be doing in the classroom and what teachers, coaches, districts, Area Education Agencies, and the statewide science leadership team need to do behind the scenes in order to support what is happening in the classroom.

Based on the identified needs, below are several resources leaders may find helpful in sustaining implementation efforts.

  • The Iowa Core website lists each standard and a supplemental document provides a list of the standards and associated evidence statements for each standard. In addition, after selecting an individual standard and then clicking on "More Information" users are directed to the full standards page from Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and the standards supporting materials from NGSS@NSTA.
  • Iowa Core Educator Resources-Science includes sections on understanding the standards and conceptual shifts, developing classroom assessments, analyzing instructional materials using EQuIP, the NGSS lesson screener and the PEEC tool, links to lesson plans, and links to resources supporting best practices in science teaching, learning, and assessment.
  • The Iowa Science Standards are grade-specific for kindergarten through grade 8. However, high school standards are described in a 9-12 grade band. This provides districts with considerable flexibility in meeting their unique needs and priorities. As districts consider how the standards will be incorporated into high school science courses/pathways, leaders may find it helpful to review the information and associated resources.
  • Innovation Configuration Map was developed by the statewide science leadership team. This map describes This IC Map is intended for classroom teachers to utilize as a self-reflection to assist in determination of the level of implementation of the Iowa Science Standards and the Five Innovations of NGSS (phenomena/problems, 3D learning, coherence, integration, equity) as described in the PEEC for NGSS Instructional Materials Design. The equity innovation (i.e. student voice, cultural/individual relevance, scaffolding for all learners) is built into the other four criteria to ensure it is the focus of all instruction. The IC map is available as both IC map pdf and IC map fillable google form. Look for future articles describing how this tool can be used to develop individual professional growth plans.
  • The Iowa Science Standards: An Overview for Principals document describes what principals should be observing more of and less of in science classrooms as a result of science standards implementation and describes steps principals can take to support implementation. An expanded toolkit and professional learning for building administrators will be available this summer.
  • Over the past three years, the Statewide Science Leadership Team has developed three modules to support effective implementation of the science standards through the use of best practices in science education. We recommend that educators complete all of the modules and sustain their learning in their district/building. Each of the modules is described below and district leaders are encouraged to contact their AEA science consultants to develop a plan for ensuring all teachers have access to these professional learning opportunities.
    • The overview module describes the new vision for science education and three-dimensional learning, analyzes the three-dimensional structure of standards, explores the conceptual shifts involved in implementing the standards, and reviews local and national resources that have been designed for the standards.
    • The classroom instruction module focuses on designing and implementing phenomenon-based science instruction, analyzing three-dimensional learning experiences using tools such as EQuIP rubric-science or the NGSS lesson screener, unpacking and bundling standards and designing coherent, standards-aligned instructional units.
    • The classroom assessment module focuses on analyzing various assessments that were designed for particular standards to determine if they provide acceptable evidence of student learning in a standard and on modifying or designing assessments that were designed to gather evidence of student learning toward the standards.
    • By the middle of this fall, the statewide science leadership will have the module "Better Together: Enhancing the Science & Engineering Practices through Disciplinary Literacy.” There will be a K-5 and a 6-12 module that both focus on promoting student engagement in the science and engineering practices through effective integration of literacy skills/standards.
  • Recognizing districts are especially interested in locating instructional materials that are designed for the new standards, Iowa is involved in field testing middle school (6-8) instructional units that are designed for the standards. The full OpenSciEd 6-8 curriculum should be available as an open educational resource by 2019. Approximately 40 Iowa educators will be involved in the pilot project. Questions about the pilot should be directed to Tami Plein at

Although we focus on implementing standards, it is important to remember that Iowa's Science Standards are a vehicle for realizing Iowa's vision. Indeed, it will take considerable time to realize Iowa's vision for science education: "All Iowa students graduate with the understanding of scientific concepts and practices to make sense of scientific phenomena in order to critically and creatively respond to local and global issues, make informed, evidence-based decisions, and actively participate in civic and cultural affairs (Based on the National Research Council's Vision for Education in the Sciences and Engineering).” Therefore, as we near full implementation of the standards, it is important to remember that implementation of a vision is a journey, not an endpoint. As leaders make decisions regarding science instruction, curriculum, assessment, it is essential to ask "Does this move the educators and students in my district closer to realizing the vision?" In answering this essential question, leaders should also consider these sub-questions:

  1. Knowing that science understanding develops over time, does your district have a coherent K-12 science plan?
  2. Since science skills develop over time, do students have multiple opportunities to use literacy skills to develop as scientists from kindergarten through high school?
  3. Since children are born investigators, how are you ensuring pre-K and elementary students have adequate opportunity to engage in standards-based three-dimensional learning experiences?
  4. Are units and lessons designed so students are building toward the standard?
  5. Are instructional units coherent? Can students articulate the coherence by describing the purpose of what they are learning and investigating?
  6. Are teachers using best practices that are aligned with the vision?
  7. Is learning three-dimensional? Are students engaged in using science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts together to explain phenomena and/or to develop solutions to problems?
  8. Is assessment three-dimensional? Does student work provide evidence that students are engaged in using science and engineering practices, disciplinary core ideas, and crosscutting concepts together to explain phenomena and/or to develop solutions to problems?
  9. Does learning focus on a set of core concepts and skills to explain scientific phenomena?
  10. Does learning connect to students' interests and experiences?
  11. Are students interested in what they are learning because it is relevant to them personally or to their community?
  12. Do students take responsibility for their learning?
  13. Do students explain phenomena and solve problems individually and collaboratively?
  14. Do all students have equitable opportunities to actively engage with all standards?
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Printed from the Iowa Department of Education website on September 26, 2020 at 1:55pm.