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Montana Adopts Science Benchmarks Similar to Next Generation Standards

The Montana board of education voted last week to adopt a new set of K-12 science standards.

The new standards closely resemble the Next Generation Science Standards, which 18 states and the District of Columbia have adoptedMontana's previous set of science standards had been in place since 2006.

Many of the new standards contain the exact same wording as the performance expectations in the NGSS. For example, both sets of standards ask kindergartners to "use observations to describe patterns of what plants and animals, including humans, need to survive."

Like the NGSS, the Montana standards also integrate seven cross-cutting concepts, or ideas that help students make connections across science disciplines (i.e., "patterns" and "cause and effect"), and science and engineering practices, which describe how to inquire like a scientist. 

Notably, this video about the new standards put out by the Montana Office of Public Instruction doesn't mention the Next Generation Science Standards at all. As a Billings Gazette article noted, officials have been emphasizing the Montana standards' "local roots" since the Next Generation standards began to meet with some controversy.

For example, in West Virginia and Wyoming, there was pushback regarding the NGSS language on global warming. The Montana standards maintain the wording of some of the more controversial standards, including one that says students will "ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century."

The Montana standards differ from the NGSS in that they incorporate information about American Indians, with an emphasis on Montanan Indians, as a part of the state's Indian Education for All initiative. "Students will understand that American Indians' use of scientific knowledge and practices are interdisciplinary and are a valid way to learn about the natural world," the standards document states.

Cindy Workosky, a spokeswoman for the National Science Teachers Association, which helped develop the Next Generation Science Standards, wrote in an email of the recent adoption, "Montana's new science education standards are a great improvement over the previous ones. We are pleased that NGSS has had a major influence on the new standards and that Montana science teachers were involved in the process of developing them."

The new standards will go into effect in July 2017.

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