Skip to main content
Understanding and Implementing the Science Standards

Understanding and Unpacking the Standards

The Standards
The Iowa Science Standards for each grade level as well as links to corresponding resources can be found at the Iowa Core Science webpage

Iowa’s science standards are the performance expectations of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS). Next Gen Science is the official site for the NGSS standards and related resources. 

NGSS@NSTA provides a link to individual standards with corresponding lessons and resources and also provides links to each of the three dimensions and curriculum planning documents. 

Understanding The Standards
Iowa Science Standards Fact Sheet for Teachers 

The Iowa Science Standards: An Overview for Principals document describes what principals should be observing more of and less of in science classrooms as a result of science standards implementation and describes steps principals can take to support implementation. 

What is Three-Dimensional Learning?

How to Read the Iowa Science Standards – print

How to Read the Iowa Science Standards - video

Conceptual Shifts in the Iowa Science Standards 

Unpacking The Standards
Foundations of the Iowa Science Standards: The Clarification Statements, Assessment Boundaries, and Foundation Boxes that are associated with each Iowa Science Standard should be used to help educators unpack and deeply understand the standards. Before using the standards to make instructional decisions or to develop curriculum, it is important that educators have carefully studied these foundational components. 

Achieve has developed a set of Evidence Statements that are associated with each standard. These evidence statements describe potential ways students could demonstrate proficiency on the standard. These evidence statements are examples and are not mandated as the only way students can demonstrate proficiency on a standard. 

The Iowa Science Standards as well as the NGSS are based on A Framework for K-12 Science Education that was developed by a committee of the National Research Council. This framework “...articulates a broad set of expectations for students in science (Framework, p. 1). The Framework along with the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) together describe a new vision for science learning and teaching.

Introducing the NRC Framework/NGSS to teachers provides a “playlist” or series of teaching briefs and tools teachers can use individually or in PLCs to discover the vision behind and best practices to support the new Iowa Science Standards. 

NextGenStorylines has developed a Storyline Design Toolkit that provides a process for unpacking standards and developing a storyline based on the unpacked standards. 

This video from Mississippi Bend AEA describes a process and provides a template (PDF in folder) for unwrapping/unpacking the science standards. 

You Tube series unpacks NGSS Science educator Paul Andersen introduces his video series on the Next Generation Science Standards. He discusses the knowledge and skills covered in the K–12 science framework and the real-world applications that illustrate the 8 science and engineering practices, 7 crosscutting concepts, and 44 disciplinary core ideas in the new science standards.

Curriculum Mapping and Aligning Curricular Materials to the Standards

Course Mapping and Standard Bundling
Accelerated Pathways Model Offers guidance to schools and districts seeking to organize NGSS performance expectations into a compressed time frame. The Accelerated Model Course Pathways are designed for high-achieving students who want or need to pursue advanced level science courses earlier in high school, and at a more rapid pace.

The NGSS example bundles provide grade-level examples K-5 and grade-band examples 6-12 of coherent instructional units. These examples are provided as a starting point for discussion.  Bundling involves grouping elements or concepts from multiple PEs in lessons, units, and/or assessments that students can develop and use together to build toward proficiency on a set of PEs in a coherent manner.

Curriculum Planning at NSTA provide ideas and resources to support all levels of the curriculum planning process.

The Institute for Science + Math Education at the University of Washington developed a curriculum adaptation toolkit to provide the tools and processing for adapting current curricular materials to effectively  implement the new vision for science education and Iowa Science Standards. 

Example Frameworks/Courses  
Arkansas Frameworks - scroll down to 9-12 science standards

New Jersey Framework

California Framework

Next Generation Science Standards Appendix K provides sample middle school and high school course maps.

Tools for Determining Standards Alignment 
While there are many resources that claim to be “NGSS aligned,” it is important for individual teachers and districts to be critical consumers. This section includes information on tools that can be used to evaluate full curricular materials. Tools for lessons and unit plans can be found in the planning, aligning and teaching section of the educator resources.

The Primary Evaluation of Essential Criteria (PEEC) tool was designed to help educators who are reviewing curricular materials for potential adoption in determining how well those materials are designed to meet the NGSS. This site has a link to the tool and additional information on how to effectively use the tool.

Oregon Department of Education (Modified EQuIP) utilized the EQuIP to create an evaluation tool that was used to evaluate curricular materials for their state adoption. This tool has evaluation criteria identified at the K-5, 6-8, and 9-12 levels.

Communication Resources

Communication Resources
Helping Parents and Community Members Understand the Iowa Science Standards

Iowa Science Standards Frequently Asked Questions

Iowa Core Parent Guides in English and Spanish provide grade specific information for students in grades K-8 and High School for all core areas (Mathematics, Science, Social Studies, English-Language Arts, and 21st Century Skills)

K-12 Parent Guide for the Iowa Science Standards provides examples of what parents should expect their children to learn in science K-12 and ideas for how to help their children at home.