Principals as Leaders With Science Standards

New guide helps principals understand fundamental shifts in science instruction and get up to speed on implementing new science standards.

June 2016, Volume 39, Issue 10

According to the National Research Council’s (NRC) Framework for K-12 Science Education, “Science, engineering, and technology permeate nearly every facet of modern life, and they also hold the key to meeting many of humanity’s most pressing current and future challenges. Yet too few U.S. workers have strong backgrounds in these fields, and many people lack even fundamental knowledge of them. This national trend has created a widespread call for a new approach to K-12 science education in the United States.”

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) are based upon the NRC’s new vision for K-12 science education. The standards reflect a comprehensive set of expectations for what students should know and be able to do by the time they graduate from high school. Moreover, the NGSS emphasize that science is not just a series of isolated facts, and this awareness enables students to view science more as an interrelated world of inquiry and phenomena rather than a static set of disciplines.

The NGSS represent a fundamental shift and require a different approach to instruction than has been used in the past. As these new standards transition from a policy position to classroom practice, education leaders must ensure that states, districts, and schools thoughtfully coordinate their implementation efforts. While many classroom teachers remain at the forefront of existing implementation activities, it is well known that principals have an equally important role to play as the school building’s instructional leader.

Achieve recently released a new resource, the NGSS Overview for Principals. This easy-to-use two-pager was developed in consultation with states, districts, and principals and helps them better envision the full range of instructional supports that students and teachers need. A key feature of this document includes embedded links to the NRC’s Guide to Implementing the Next Generation Science Standards, which provides principals with additional information to consider for their professional development.

Looking ahead, the 2016-217 school year will be an important and exciting time for many NGSS-adopted states and districts. As educators and vendors speedily work to develop aligned instructional materials and assessments, it is imperative that principals get up to speed and develop coherent plans of action for their buildings. For example, principals in NGSS states and districts can:

  • Build a long-term plan that focuses on the school’s collective vision for science education;
  • Elevate NGSS teacher leaders and support them as they help their colleagues better understand the standards; and
  • Be critical consumers of any new curricula or assessments to ensure alignment with the NGSS.

In addition to learning more about the science standards and seeking professional learning, principals can increase their awareness about some common pitfalls that undermine successful NGSS implementation. These include but are not limited to:

  • Expecting science instruction to change overnight;
  • Expecting teachers to navigate the process alone; and
  • Failing to communicate with parents, students, and teachers about the shift to new standards and why this shift is important.

Achieve’s new NGSS Overview for Principals makes the standards very accessible for principals — whether they are just discovering the standards or deep into their building’s implementation process. As school leaders embrace the vision of the NGSS and the practical guidance and strategies offered in this resource, they will become better equipped to help classroom teachers create opportunities for students to demonstrate their thinking and learning.

For more information about the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) please visit

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