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Principals, NGSS, and STEM

By Christine Mason.  Today I have been focused on STEM and considering the implications of the best STEM classrooms for 21st century learning.   As the day has progressed, I have reflected on the similarities between the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) and high academic standards such as the Common Core State Standards (CCSS).  Of course there are many interesting parallels — both in the design and also in the implementation of the standards.

What have we learned about principals and the CCSS? Over the past few years I have worked with NAESP to help understand the role of principals in implementing high academic standards.  NAESP’s research tells us that principals, while they are supportive of the broad intent and implications of the high standards such as CCSS, are concerned about all the practicalities involved in implementing the standards in schools. Many principals have felt under prepared for their specific role of leading teachers through a process to implement the CCSS. They have also felt that their schools need additional resources right at the building level for both professional development and also for technologies and other materials.

Principals and NGSS. As I review the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS), some of the questions I had about principal preparation for the CCSS come to mind.  How have principals been involved in determining the new science standards? How are they being trained to help be instructional leaders with the NGSS and how are they guiding the evolution of NGSS implementation in schools?

Principals with a strong math/science background will most likely be better prepared to implement NGSS than other principals. Principals who have special STEM grants and funding will also have more resources available to support student learning with STEM subjects.  What is your state or district doing to assist principals without a strong math/science background or without additional STEM support or funding?  What else is needed and what else could be done?

NGSS at Your School. Here are a few questions, to help you reflect on the STEM/NGSS progress to date in your school:

  1. As your school is implementing the NGSS, are you sensitive to giving students experiences that involve two types of problem solving — problem solving through 1) investigation (science) and 2) design (engineering)?

  2. How comfortable are your teachers with each (investigation and design)?

  3. As instructional leaders, have you identified the teachers who are leading the NGSS implementation in your school?  What skills are these teachers using that other teachers could employ?

  4. Have you formed a NGSS PLC or another way for teachers to share knowledge and plan for STEM?

  5. Do you have relationships with engineers or other community leaders who could help with STEM implementation in your school?

  6. Have you conducted a STEM/NGSS audit?

  7. Are you implementing your STEM efforts primarily as an afterschool activity? If so, what advances have been made, and how are students who are not engaged in afterschool programs advancing?

  8. Traditionally non-white males and females have been under-represented in STEM professions. What are you doing in your school to interest under-represented groups in STEM?


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