NexGen science standards to start next year

Now that everyone is in the swing of things and gets the way classes work here at CHS, they are in for a big surprise: all science classes will be changed, and students will be taught a different kind of science.

Starting next fall, Next Generation Science Standards or “Next Gen Science” will be grouped into different topics such as physical science, life science, earth and space sciences, and engineering, while middle school science courses will be the same as high school, but covering different topics in each category.

Joe Mello, the chair of the science department, says that the main goals of the new standards are two-fold: to change how teachers teach science with more emphasis on process (called the Science and Engineering Practices) and to emphasize earth science and human impacts that were lacking in most high school programs over the last several decades.

“We refer to them as performance expectations because they say what students should be able to do as opposed to remember or restate,” Mello says.

The current science classes are biology, an earth science; physics, a physical science; and chemistry, a physical science. CHS will most likely be reorganizing the course offerings to reflect these changes.

According to, 54 percent of 2012 high school graduates did not meet the ACT’s college readiness benchmark levels in math, and 69 percent of graduates failed to meet the readiness benchmark levels in science. Also, more than a third of eighth-graders scored below basic on the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress science assessment.

Mello and fellow science teachers Tom Dooner and Jason Maas-Baldwin say that they are excited about these changes and only see good things coming from the changes that they have been and will continue to work on.

“I, personally, am thrilled with the new standards,” Maas-Baldwin says. “The change is daunting to say the least, but I firmly believe it is an enormous step to a country with more scientifically literate citizens.”

Next Gen Science standards are federal standards. They are basically the same thing as Common Core, where they mix together all of the classes that exist now. Students will be tested on these standards starting in 2018.

Carmel High may go to integrated science courses, like those in math with Integrated I, II and III, although nothing becomes official until the school board approves it. It is definitely going to take a while.

“The teachers have gone to conferences and workshops to learn about Next Gen Science,” Principal Rick Lopez says. “It’s fun because not all of the teachers agree on what they talk about.”

–Kim Burns