Nashua teacher: Student engagement due to NGSS approach is amazing

Sanborn High School


Lisa Janosik, a peer curriculum coach in Nashua, defended the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) after the Nashua Board of Education proposed delaying their implementation for one year, reported the Nashua Telegraph. Board member David Murotake proposed the hold on the standards because of changes in state and federal policy and leadership. But Janosik says that the move is political and wouldn’t benefit students:

“The motion comes from a political point of view, which as a teacher, I don’t understand,” Janosik said Friday. “We look at what is best for our students, and to put a political roadblock up just isn’t in the best interest of students.”

Janosik said she and a group of Nashua teachers plan to attend the Board of Education meeting on Monday to comment on the motion.

“Teachers want to learn more about the Next Generation Science Standards,” she said. “They haven’t been able to because of political roadblocks.”

The standards have been available since 2013, and 99 of 102 districts in the state have already adopted it, Janosik said.

The standards were developed by nonpolitical entities such as the National Research Council, which is the “working arm” of the Academy of Sciences, she said.

“It’s certainly nonpolitical, nonprofit, everything about it,” Janosik said. “These are the experts, and they used research on how students learn science, and that’s what they put out there in the Next Generation Science Standards.”

If implementation is delayed, it throws a wrench into how teachers may update classroom material, she said.

“The problem is, if they do not support the standards, my middle school teachers can’t begin looking at new resources for their classes because it’s all written for the Next Generation Science Standards,” Janosik said.

It can take hours of committee work over a period of years to approve and buy textbooks for the classroom, she said.

“It takes three years to purchase new books, and we’re just looking now,” Janosik said. “To delay us another year is wrong.”

Some of the textbooks currently in use are more than 10 years old and have significant wear and tear, and outdated science facts such as the classification of Pluto as a planet.

“The future represented in this book is from 2004,” she said of one text, printed in 2005. “So here you are talking about the future and innovations, and the future here is 2004.”

Ancillary textbook resources, such as teacher resources, come on CD-ROMs, which are not supported by modern operating systems, she said.

At the March 27 meeting, Murotake suggested the district could “cherry-pick” items from the standards they prefer to use. However, Janosik said that isn’t recommended.

“The state of New Hampshire took two years to learn more about the standards and they were encouraged by the National and New Hampshire Science Association to adopt it unadulterated,” she said.

“I can see them say we need to write our own standards. I don’t want to pull a teacher out of class and say, ‘We’re going to rewrite what professionals have already done, and what has already gotten results.”

If the motion is about local control, Janosik said school leaders can help teachers, parents and students understand the standards.

“I want the students of our district to be able to compete with other students in the state and country,” she said. “It’s a global economy, and the Next Generation Science Standards are benchmarked against other countries that are successful in the sciences. We’re preparing our students for the future.”

Much of the content is the same between the old and new standards, but the approach is new.

“From what I’ve heard from teachers trying some of the strategies, the student engagement is amazing, and it’s not that same group of students, it’s students who weren’t there with you, who weren’t participating or invested in the class,” Janosik said.

That gets to the heart of the standards: Making science accessible, she said.

“The National Research Council wanted to make science approachable to all students, and they did the research on how students learn,” Janosik said. “It’s about good teaching practice.”

NGSS presents science education as more than “just a list of fact,” she said, noting the approach fosters critical thinking skills.

“The idea behind the standards is about three-dimensional learning; getting inquiry in there,” she said.

“Full implementation of the standards would take three to five years,” Janosik said.

“It’s a journey, but it’s a journey I’m willing to take with parents, students and teachers,” she said.

Read the full article here.