Task Force: Next Generation Science Standards or Iowa Core?

The task force held their second meeting last Wednesday to discuss whether to replace the Iowa Core Science Standards with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).  The task force is comprised of 28 members

The task force is being asked to come to consensus at the Oct. 16th meeting and choose between the existing science standards and NGSS. Note that NGSS is basically Common Core for science.  It just has a different name and has not been adopted yet in Iowa. I attended the Sept. 18th meeting to observe as a concerned parent and taxpayer.

The purpose of this second meeting was to educate the task force members on Iowa Core Science Standards.  A variety of experts gave information on Iowa Core and I actually thought at first that they were selling Iowa Core to the task force members or at least were just presenting facts.  However, the tide turned when Shannon C’de Baca, one of the writers of the Iowa Core Science Standards said, "NGSS has everything I wish I had in the Iowa Core."  The overall tone of the day was that Iowa Core is good but NGSS is better.  The task force members appeared to take their jobs seriously however I was confused as to why the obvious issue was hardly discussed.  How does the content vary between the two options on the table.  Unfortunately, content was barely mentioned all day.  It seemed to be a non-issue in the presentations.  I was given the impression by presenters that the content differences between the Iowa Core Science Standards and NGSS are negligible.  I plan to dig into that deeper myself so I can make a more informed decision. Content matters to me.

During the meeting, task force members were reminded by Iowa Department of Education Science Consultant, Yvette McCulley, to not crosswalk between the standards. Crosswalking is education-speak for comparing.  The Iowa Department of Education does not want the task force to compare the two sets of standards when determining which one is better? Why? I have a feeling that this task force is smarter than that.  These are professionals who appear to be looking at all the facts and want to do what is best for Iowa students. They see through these attempts to direct the task force toward the Iowa DOE’s desired consensus.  I heard a few points for or against Iowa Core however nothing about content, effectiveness or cost.  I have a feeling these discussions did come up at the tables however I was not able to hear the table discussions and those issues did not make their way into the large group.

So my next concern on this issue is cost to taxpayers. Will districts who have recently bought textbooks to align with Iowa Core now need to buy new textbooks and materials to align with Next Generation Science Standards if adopted?  Is there an additional cost for NGSS assessments?   As a taxpayer, I’d like to know the cost difference between the two options and I hope the task force members will have access to that information before making a decision.  If NGSS will cost more, we all know that will come out of our pockets whether it is local, state or federal funds.

Another odd thing about this process is that we are just now getting data on Iowa Core and before reviewing that data, we are ready to move on to the next set of standards. How were students doing with Iowa Core?  We don’t know. The data hasn’t been released yet.

A survey is available for the public to complete regarding NGSS. Consider what you say to these essay questions first because the only place you can voice your opinion on the content, the lack of data on NGSS costs or the lack of data on Iowa Core Science Standards assessments would in an essay question in the survey: #6 – "What are the strengths of the Next Generation Standards?" and #7: "What are the weakness of the Next Generation Standards."   Also if you go into the survey and do not complete it at that time, you will not be able to go back later to complete it. I hope that glitch can be fixed. The deadline for the survey is October 11th and the results will be shared at the October 16th task force meeting. Note that the task force is being encouraged to come to a consensus at the October 16th meeting on the same day they receive the survey results. In any case, in the interest of transparency, I would like to see the results of the survey published on the Iowa DOE website including all the answers to the essay questions – not just a summary of the answers.


The October 16th meeting begins at 10 a.m. (this is a change from the original 9 a.m. start time).  It is at the Science Center of Iowa in Des Moines.  It is open to the public however the public is not allowed to participate the discussions.  I encourage you to attend.  It is a small room with not a lot of extra seating so get there early if possible to ensure they can make room for everyone.

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