Vernier Science Education - June  2024


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Next Generation Science Standards

Unpacking Performance Expectations

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Kelly Goodpaster Kelly Goodpaster 630 Points

I have been part of a district-wide implementation of PLC training and our task today was to take a 'standard' and break it down into four categories; academic vocabulary, student friendly learning targets, what student proficiency looks like, and student tasks. I was advised to use the Performance Expectation as the standard, but am having a really hard time reformatting it into these 4 categories. Isn't the PE itself what proficiency looks like? Additionally, the PE includes the suggested task. Am I correct in thinking that this 'unpacking the standard' activity is different than other subject areas? Does anyone have advice on how to unpack a PE? Thank you

Peter Ower Peter Ower 140 Points

Hi Kelly,

In addition to being a science teacher, I'm an assessment designer. When designing assessments for NGSS alignment we unpack the PEs. In short we look at what it would take for a student to meet the PE: what ideas do they need to understand, what vocab may come up, what proficiency would look like, and how the 3-dimensions play into the PE. Essentialy, almost everything you just stated!

A big help for this is using the evidence statements included with the standards. For example, if you visit the NGSS site and look at any standard, you'll see the evidence statement on the right side of the page: When you click on this, it will take you to a detailed break down of the standard and what is needed for a student to demonstrate they meet the PE.

However, it goes beyond this. There is also unpacking each of the dimensions of the standard. For this we need to think about what we need from the SEPs, DCIs, and CCCs. The appendices include this breakdown and progression. For example, here is the appendix for the SEP progression. This shows what I would need to focus on, or continue developing, for the students to meet the included SEP for a PE.

I agree that it is different than unpacking other standards. But, this process gives us a better insight into what it takes for a student to meet the PE. It's a lot! But I find it to be a very helpful process in narrowing the scope of a unit. You can always go beyond this, but the unpacking shows the minimum needed for students to demonstrate proficiency in the PE.

PS: Should also note that I'm not stating that all we're doing is teaching toward the PE. I know you're not saying that either. But some people get really fired up about it.

Kelly Goodpaster Kelly Goodpaster 630 Points

Thank you, Peter!

 I really appreciate the time you took to clarify this. The evidence statements help tremendously. After reviewing these, I see they are a critical resource to use when planning a unit. Also, even though my district says it's not all about test scores, it's kinda all about test scores right now. Since the science portion of ACT aspire is not content based, using the SEPs to guide vertical alignment is a strategy that I feel has a lot of potential. Thank you kindly for all your input.


Victoria Mayer Victoria Mayer 760 Points

Hi Peter, 

Thank you for explaining how to unpack the Next Generation Science Standards and Performance Expectations. This was very helpful as a student studying to become an elementary school teacher. It can be very overwhelming looking at all the standards and PEs, so knowing how the assessments are made, and in turn, knowing what students are required to understand and know can help make looking at the standards less intimidating. In the future, I will remember to look at the PEs to gain better insight into what the standards are asking us to teach. 

Herry James Herry James 40 Points

Unpacking a performance expectation is one way to ensure that all teachers understand what the standards are and how they should be addressed in the classroom. The best way to do this is to break down each component of the PE into the four categories you listed.

For academic vocabulary, look for any keywords or phrases in the PE that students should be familiar with. You can then create a list of vocabulary words that students should learn in order to understand PE.

For student-friendly learning targets, break the PE down into 'I can' statements that students can easily understand. This will help them to understand the expectations of the PE in a more concrete way.

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