Is this REALLY NGSS? 3 Key Tools for Evaluating NGSS Curriculum

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Have you  been looking for high-quality instructional materials that support student instruction toward the goals of the NGSS? 

All sorts of products and programs have filled the science instructional materials marketplace, claiming  they support the NGSS, but do they really?

Beware of  buzzwords such as:

 “Students will learn with inquiry-based instruction.” 


“The lessons are based on three-dimensional teaching and learning.”

Look out for association claims like- a product prominently using NGSS colors on promotional materials or with labels proclaiming, “This product helps teachers transition to the NGSS.”

Be skeptical of  statements such as, “Our product is aligned to the NGSS.” or “This program covers all three dimensions.”

 “This product fulfills 100% of the NGSS.”

 “This product meets the NGSS innovations.”

Just because a claim is made, it doesn’t mean it’s true.  

With this, it’s essential to evaluate the evidence behind the claims, as well as the overall NGSS design of instructional materials.

Fortunately, there are tools we can use as educators to assess such claims, and make sure that the instructional materials chosen for classrooms will support the goals of the NGSS.


1. The EQuIP Rubric for Science

The EQuIP Rubric for Science provides criteria by which to measure how well lessons and units are designed for the NGSS. 

The purpose of the rubric and review process is to: 

  • review existing lessons and units to determine what revisions are needed.
  • provide constructive criterion-based feedback and suggestions for improvement.
  • identify examples or models for teachers’ use within and across states.
  • to inform the development of new lessons, units, and other instructional materials.

The three categories in the rubric are: NGSS 3D Design, NGSS Instructional Supports, and Monitoring NGSS Student Progress.  

While it is possible for the rubric to be applied by an individual, the quality review process works best with a team of reviewers, with individuals recording their thoughts and then discussing with other team members before finalizing their feedback and suggestions for improvement. 

To effectively apply this rubric, an understanding of the National Research Council’s A Framework for K–12 Science Education and the Next Generation Science Standards, including the NGSS shifts (Appendix A of the NGSS), is needed. 

In order to apply the rubric with reliability and with fidelity to its intent, it is recommended that those applying the rubric to lessons and units be supported to attend EQuIP professional learning based on the EQuIP Facilitator’s Guide. 


2. The Science Task Prescreen

The Science Task Prescreen and the following Science Task Screener builds on Category III of the EQuIP Rubric for Science. 

The Screener is more thorough, while the Prescreen represents a quicker initial analysis.

Both task tools can be used for formative and summative assessment tasks within instructional materials, but they are not intended to evaluate an entire lesson or unit.

If  you don’t have a lot of experience with the Framework or NGSS, the Screener and EQuIP are overwhelming. So start with the Science Task Prescreen.

The purpose of the Science Task Prescreen is to conduct a quick review of assessment tasks to determine whether they might be designed for standards based on the Framework for K-12 Science Education, like the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS).

While it is possible for the Prescreen to be applied by an individual, it is more powerful when used as part of a collaborative review process.

Use the Prescreen to:

  • Quickly screen a large set of tasksand assessments to decide which just need tweaking and which need tossing.
  • Support professional learning for teachers or administrators who need a less complex introduction to effective three-dimensional performance. 


3. The Science Task Screener

The Science Task Screener is a more thorough evaluation than the pre-screen. 

The real power of the Task Screener lies in the meaningful conversations it can drive among a team of reviewers as part of a collaborative process. This a powerful tool for teacher meetings.

Use the Screener to:

  • Evaluate tasks that have gone through the Prescreen with few red flags.
  • Determine whether classroom assessment tasks within instructional materials are eliciting evidence of three-dimensional thinking and performance from students.
  • Evaluate large scale assessment tasks for the degree to which they are designed for three-dimensional standards.
  • Design and evaluate locally-developed assessments, including final exams and local task libraries.
  • Provide professional learning for teachers or administrators who need a rigorous understanding of three-dimensional assessments.  



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