Saturday, June 25, 2016

Reflections On An NGSS Field Test

My first field test with NGSS based curriculum has concluded.  By the numbers, I had fifty-six classroom teachers and around 1100 students participate (demographic breakdown below).  This represents five percent of the total K-2 population. It included students in behavioral programs, severely disabled students, and approximately 40%  FaRMS.  

  So, what do I know now:

  1. Teachers need to understand the performance expectations.  Without the "why" they focused on the "what".  See my previous post on unpacking the standards down to learning goals and success criteria.  
  2. Creating videos of teachers implementing the curriculum is time consuming, but highly valued.  Being able to watch another teacher do what you are about to do builds confidence.  I need to work on quality control, but it is a start.  
  3. Online assessments don't work very well when students are just learning to use computers.  While every student in the field test had a computer, it took them three months to get agile with it.  There are also significant technical challenges that need to be overcome before these assessments are truly viable.  
  4. Performance assessments get the most "bang for the buck".  They are also a great way to keep students engaged in learning when they know they get to apply what they have learned to solving a real-world, local problem.
  5. Don't expect teachers to be comfortable with NGSS based curriculum the first time they teach it.  It will have to grow on you.

 What do the kids think?  I took a risk this year and created a survey to allow students to comment back about their experiences in the curriculum.  Keep in mind that these were K-2 students.  The majority of responses came from grade 2.  I copied the text based responses into Wordcloud .

What do you want to change? 

Note: The word "nothing" was removed as it overshadowed the other words

What did you like? 

The words beach, wall, and flower are referencing the three units for grade 2.  You can get a full overview of all the K-2 units in my previous post.

What's next?  

The field test for grades 3-5 is next.  I just wrapped up the professional development for that on Thursday.  Great group of teachers hung out with me in a rather sultry and odoriferous elementary school. We covered the big parts to the first two units.  This included a large amount of time discussing scientific argument using the CER model and the KLEWS strategy.  We used the spandex model of the universe as our scientific phenomena.  That's right I introduced General Relativity to elementary teachers and it is part of our grade 5 unit on space.  I blame the folks who developed the NGSS.  They are the ones who put gravity in with the motion of objects in the universe.  I had to find a way to connect the two to maintain a good storyline.  I encourage you to build this model for yourself.  It is awesome!  

A subsequent professional development will occur in December for the last two.  I will have roughly equivalent numbers of teachers participating this year but with a lot more students.  In grades 3-5, almost all the teachers departmentalize.   

Next, I move forward with K-2 for the entire system.  Our board of education saw fit to approve the purchase of materials for all K-2 teachers.  That will be the largest purchase order I have ever signed. My thanks to them for their support.  

In July, a small group of K-2 field test teachers will update the curriculum based on feedback from this year.  That will be a very interesting two-week process.
Lastly, I will also be conducting professional development en masse in August.  1200 teachers in one day.  I provided an outline of the plan in a previous post.  The reality of PD at this scale is just now setting in.  


  1. I love the gravity well, and used it when I taught 8th grade astronomy!