Three+ Signs It’s NOT NGSS

How can you tell if a resource is truly aligned to the NGSS or not? This post outlines three RED FLAGS when it comes to choosing resources.NGSS-washing. Seriously, it’s a thing. And it’s a problem.

Have you heard of “greenwashing”? It’s a thing companies do to take advantage of consumers who want to eat healthy. If you go to the grocery store, you’ll see labels like “all-natural,” “healthy,” “real,” and so on all over boxes of processed food. Unfortunately, a lot of the time that food is just about as bad as any other processed food — full of fats, sugars, and chemical preservatives. But a lot of people don’t look past that big shiny label.

Why am I talking about this? Because I see “greenwashing” happening in science education. Curriculum and resource creators are obviously not labeling resources and curriculum “all-natural” and “healthy,” but they ARE applying labels like “NGSS-Aligned!” and “The 5E Model!” to their materials. And just like those “greenwashed” foods, the materials don’t live up to that shiny label.

I’m seeing this happening more and more at one of my favorite places to find resources — TeachersPayTeachers. Some of the biggest names in science education are slapping labels on their products without making the necessary revisions to TRULY align their materials to the Next Generation Science Standards or match the true intent of the 5E Model.

So what can you do?

I went live on Facebook last month to outline 3 (plus 1) ways to identify whether or not a resource is aligned to the NGSS. You can check out the 5-minute video below, or read the quick version here.

It is not grade (or grade band) specific.

The NGSS disciplinary core ideas are designed to build in complexity across K-12.  Content was allocated based on the development of students within each grade or grade band.  Likewise, the complexity of the science and engineering practices and understanding of the crosscutting concepts increase and deepen over the years. A resource cannot be appropriate for both third and fifth grade,  or for 3-5 and 6-8.  A resource cannot even be appropriate for 6-8 and 9-12.  The standards build but they do not overlap.  If a resource designed to teach content is claiming it is appropriate across grade levels or grade bands (again, middle school standards are simply banded 6-8, while high school are banded 9-12), it is very likely NOT NGSS-aligned.


The primary mode of instruction is PowerPoint and notes.

I’m sorry if this offends anyone, but the days of note-driven direct instruction are over.  Unless you are projecting some instructions or maybe some question prompts, you should really question your use of PowerPoint in your NGSS-aligned classroom.  For that reason, any resource that provides PowerPoints as the primary mode of instruction is NOT NGSS-aligned.

In an NGSS-aligned classroom, students are learning through doing, and that does NOT include taking notes while you teach them concepts.


The primary mode of assessment is a traditional exam.

Traditional exams — you know, multiple choice, true/false, short answer, so on — are typically designed to test only content knowledge, and they are knowledge based.  This means students spit back what they have learned.  These assessments cannot truly address the three dimensional nature of the NGSS.  NGSS-aligned assessments are ALWAYS three dimensional.  If the resource provides as the primary mode of assessment a traditional exam, it is NOT NGSS-aligned.

You can learn more about Creating Three Dimensional Assessments in the NGSS Your Science Class course available at the Science Teacher Tribe.


BONUS: The resource was not DESIGNED FOR the NGSS.

If a resource was not designed for the NGSS, it’s probably not going to align to the NGSS.  That means resources and resource models created prior to the NGSS or designed to meet the standards of states who have not adopted the NGSS are for the most part NOT going to do the job you want.  If you’re looking for truly aligned material, pass those ones over.

The Next Generation Science Standards are so different than previous standards that they require a new set of materials, a new set of instructional practices, and a new set of assessments. Yes, they may SAY they have aligned it to the NGSS. They may even have attached a standard.  Unfortunately, just because your topic of “topographic maps” connects somewhere in the standards doesn’t mean the activities, assessments, or even grade levels are appropriate.

The worst example of this I’ve seen so far is the inclusion of a topographic map lesson in a middle school curriculum with the FOURTH GRADE standard attached.  Last I checked, fourth grade was NOT a part of middle school.  The resource, despite its efforts to NGSS-wash itself, is NOT truly aligned.

Ok, rant over.


Thanks for tuning in!